Ravelstein by Saul Bellow

Ravelstein (Penguin 233 pages) is based on intellectual and historian of ideas Allan Bloom, whose Closing of the American Mind stands as the meat to this ultimately gossipy, but not unrevealing, portrait of the man (closet gay, incorrigibly sloppy, resolutely positive, a big cigarette-smoking pizza-eating exquisite furniture-buying Saint Bernard of a man who plays Platonic soulmate matchmaker for his students, and gives his Chinese helpmate a car when he finally makes it big). Bellow apparently urged Bloom to write the book (which despite its reputation as a narrow conservative tract is actually a brilliant example of applied Platonism) which became a huge best seller, and for which the novelist wrote the introduction. Continue reading

The House of Meetings by Martin Amis

The House of Meetings (Knopf, 256 pages) is a narrative delivered as a long letter from an unnamed narrator, an 86-year-old Russian man, to his step-daughter Venus, living in Chicago. He is in the midst of traveling back home after many years in the U.S. The point of his journey is to revisit a work camp in the Artic where he had been held prisoner and slave laborer in the 40s and 50s. Particularly, he wants to visit the “house of meetings,” where, late in the labor camp era, the Soviets had begun allowing some prisoners to meet briefly with their wives. The narrator’s brother, Lev, Continue reading