Monday, March 8, 2010

Five best novels of ideas

Rebecca Goldstein's new book is 36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction. For the Wall Street Journal she named a five best list of novels of ideas.

One book on the list:
by Saul Bellow
Viking, 1964

The hilarious tack that Saul Bellow takes in "Herzog" is to address immortal thinkers in grave earnestness, demanding of them relevance to his own very mortal predicament, to wit: his discovery that he is being cuckolded by his best friend. The book is veined by unsent missives, howling with outrage against reality and its learned mediators. "Dear Doktor Professor Heidegger, I should like to know what you mean by the expression 'the fall into the quotidian.' When did this fall occur? Where were we standing when it happened?" Herzog has been betrayed not only by his beautiful young neurotic of a wife but also by the entire Western canon, not to speak of God, to whom he also dashes off a few choice lines. The blend of high-mindedness and low farce yields a rare form of tragic comedy, "King Lear" as filtered through Milton Berle.
Read about the other books on Goldstein's list.

Herzog also appears on Eli Gottlieb's list of the top 10 literary scenes from the battle of the sexes and John Mullan's list of ten of the best bad lawyers in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue