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Additional info for AMERICAN WRITERS, Retrospective Supplement II
Bellow's second marriage, however, lasted only three years, during which time he juggled temporary teaching appointments at the University of Minnesota, Northwestern University, and the New School for Social Research in New York while working on an unlikely manuscript about a New England pig farmer who puts his life on hold to take a trip to the wilds of Africa. When Henderson, the Rain King first appeared in 1959, reviewers did not know what to make of it. It was unlike any book Bellow or WRITERS anyone else had ever written.
Herzog's desire to cope with conflicting ideologies drives him SAUL BELLOW / 27 to write a series of letters to politicians, philosophers, writers, professors, world leaders, and finally, God. Herzog never finds any concrete answers. At the end of the novel, he is exactly as confused, as alienated, and as burdened by his ideas as he is at the beginning. " For Herzog, as for Bellow, nihilism, relativism, and despair—three pillars of modern intellectual life—are cop-outs. They are easy formulations designed to relieve people of the moral responsibility to keep looking for meaning, even when it is not easy to see.
Tamkin, like all reality instructors, always has easy solutions to complex problems and preaches a gospel made up of tricks, maneuvers, and shortcuts. In presenting himself as both a psychologist and a "scientific" speculator, Tamkin pretends to have two things completely figured out: human nature and the Chicago commodities exchange. Tommy accepts his authority in these areas precisely because his opinions are so simple. Unfortunately, as Tommy must eventually learn, neither human beings nor pork bellies respond well to simplistic formulations.