Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Herzog by Saul Bellow — Nov 14, 2014

Herzog Viking, NY, 1964. First Edition

Heroes in the ancient mould do not figure in modern novels. In this famous novel, Herzog, by one of America’s best-known modern authors, Saul Bellow, the protagonist struggles from the early pages after being thrown out of his own house by a scheming wife of great allure, who declares she never loved him and then makes off with her husband’s house and friend.

Talitha

We see Herzog picking up the pieces and going on with a life given to much philosophical rambling thought on everything under the sun; most important of all – how to live the good life using every wise guide from Spinoza to Nietzsche. His students in class find his lectures growing more strange and his looks more distant and self-absorbed. Is he going crazy? Is he the paranoid, depressive victim, or are his enemies doing him in?

KumKum and son, Reuben (visiting)

Fortunately for him, two endearing women take turns to bless him with their solicitous affection, and as the novel ends he is considering whether he will be third-time lucky if he marries.

Thommo, Gopa, Talitha, & Pamela

Here are the readers at the end of the session:

Zakia, Talitha, Priya, Thommo, KumKum, Shahnaz, Gopa, Joe, Pamela, Ankush, Vijay

More pictures here:






Click below to read the full record of the reading.

Full Record of the session on Nov 14, 2014
Herzog, by Saul Bellow

Saul Bellow laughing with a copy of his collected letters

Present: Gopa, Vijay, Thommo, Joe, Priya, KumKum, Pamela, Talitha, Ankush, Zakia
Absent: Sreelatha (not prepared), Sujatha (not prepared), Sunil & Mathew (attending another meeting), Preeti (unexplained)
Guests: Reuben (KumKum & Joe’s son), Shahnaz (Zakia’s sister)

The next session on Poetry is fixed for Tuesday, Dec 9 by common agreement; and the novel for reading on Jan 23 in the new year is Huckleberry Finn. The annual lunch for readers and their SOs will take place at KumKum and Joe’s home on Jan 26, 2015 at 12 noon.

Novels chosen for 2015 season are as follows:
JanHuckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
MarLight in August by William Faulkner
MayThe Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith
Sep – Edgar Allan Poe – five short detective stories (The Murders in the Rue Morgue)
NovMy Antonia by Willa Cather

The novel for July is to be announced:
Talitha, Pamela, & Zakia  – July

Joe gave a brief introduction to the novel as he was the selector. Herzog, Joe said, has charm and a certain innocence, but realises he has made mistakes, chief among which are his two marriages, first to Daisy, and then to Mady. Mady has made a fool of him, cuckolding him with his friend and protégé, Valentine Gersbach. He’s slowly driven crazy by the servitude Mady has imposed, robbing him and then going off with his precious daughter, Junie.

Two women in the novel, Sono Oguki and Ramona  Donsell, have discerned the charm of this fey, helpless man who theorises, writes letters to all and sundry, including Vinobha Bhave and Nehru, and is trapped by the never-ending hum of free-association thoughts that invade his mind. Sono and Ramona are content with his company and they afford him the happiness missing from his life, because they make no elaborate demands of him, particularly for money. Though Herzog’s intellectual scholarship is considerable, he is mostly living on past glory attained by a single published volume on Romanticism and Christianity.  He considers himself a failure. Readers are given an insight into a man going crazy, slowly, but held together by some of his lovers and a bit of high thinking and commentary. He often sounds like Woody Allen.


Bellow has a fine touch in composing the stuff that typically occupies an academic philosopher’s mind. He embeds them in the Yiddish-Jewish context of his parents being recent immigrants from Europe, not yet at home among WASPs (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants) who have been running things in America.  The novel perhaps draws from Bellow’s own experiences. He writes:
“It was made clear to me when I studied literature in the university that as a Jew and the son of Russian Jews I would never have the right feeling for Anglo-Saxon traditions, for English words.” 
Nevertheless, he won the Nobel prize for Literature in 1976. The citation reads, "for the human understanding and subtle analysis of contemporary culture that are combined in his work."

For a recent biography of Saul Bellow see
http://news.nationalpost.com/arts/books/new-biography-reveals-saul-bellows-hidden-depths

Zachary Leader’s revealing new biography, The Life of Saul Bellow: To Fame and Fortune, 1915–1964 (Knopf) brings out many of the author's biographical connections to the characters in Herzog.


1. KumKum 
KumKum, Shahnaz, & Zakia

KumKum read the passage where Herzog returns to Chicago and makes a detour to his aunt Tante Taube’s house, ostensibly to pick up some harmless old relics of his father, but in reality to get the pistol he left behind, in order to go and shoot his annoying wife Madeleine. He is quite matlabi with his aunt, making out he has come to visit her, when he is really on a mission of picking up the vital shooter which he hides in a wad of old ruble notes he discovers in the writing desk, while his aunt is in the kitchen making tea for him. The aunt didn’t know what he took when he left by the back door, but she tells him with a trace of premonition: "You got a lot of trouble? Don't make it worser, Moshe."

This incident of the pistol (the same one his father had threatened to use on him in his youth) lays out the unraveling of Herzog’s plans. It is the item that gets him arrested by the police after a fender-bender of a car crash and then a call brings brother Willie to see him in his Berkshires house and then Ramona Donsell, his admirer, comes to the rescue.


2. Zakia 
KumKum, Shahnaz, & Zakia

Early in the novel Herzog is thrown out of his house by Mady, his wife. She has prepared a speech and made herself look formidable and lovely. She says theatrically she has never loved him. Over his protestations of love for her, she forthrightly ejects him from the house, his house. For a moment he thinks of beating her up, but better sense prevails.


3. Priya
Priya

Madeleine and Gersbach used to lecture Herzog on sundry things including the right way to perform the conjugal act. And after having deserted Herzog for his protégé and friend Gersbach, Madeleine claims she treats Gersbach on a non-physical plane. Why? Because his shit smells bad. With these kind of specious answers she puts off Herzog when he asks why Gersbach appeared at his apartment to carry off her diaphragm. There is, of course, a forced humour in the situation, as Herzog watches himself being cuckolded. But Ramona soothes Herzog as he narrates his rough handling at the hands of Mady, his wife.


4. Thommo 
Thommo

Herzog is in one of his moods reflecting about the universe, and constructing letters to people dead or alive. Vinobha Bhave figures in his thoughts, and he considers bequeathing his house in the Berkshire hills of W. Massachusetts to the bhoodan movement.

Vinobha Bhave

Mady’s delusion that Herzog has appointed a detective to follow her is the subject of the second passage. But when he narrates this to his shrink, he finds himself being declared as paranoid, not his wife. Dr Edvig has switched sides to Mady. Poor Herzog!

Among the trivia Thommo dug up from wiki are the following:
·        In the Kingsley Amis novel Stanley and the Women (1984), Stanley's son Steve reads a copy of Herzog and abruptly tears it up.
·        Ian McEwan begins his 2005 novel Saturday with an extended epigraph from Herzog.
·        The narrator/protagonist of J. M. Coetzee's The Vietnam Project in Dusklands has in his possession before being committed to an asylum a copy of Herzog.
·        Moses Herzog is the name of a Dublin merchant in chapter 12 of James Joyce's Ulysses.

Gopa said Herzog was a good teacher, although early in the novel his students find him gradually going out of touch with the material and getting lost in thought, and becoming almost incoherent in class.


5. Gopa  
Gopa

In the chosen passage Herzog undertakes another extended bout of self-examination and concludes he must be narcissistic, masochistic and depressive. He would have been more of a success had he been ambitious, but as matters stand he has to confess to being a failure as an academic – after a brilliant start. We are reminded of Socrates’ maxim that the life unexamined is not worth living. Although Mady and Gersbach get the better of him, yet the reader sympathises with Herzog for at least not having delusions about himself. Ankush pointed to the self-deprecation in the passage, but alleged it was also filled with self-pity. KumKum said in spite of everything, Herzog always gets women! In this connection there’s a Saul Bellow quote – ‘all  a writer has to do to get a woman is to say he is a writer – it's an aphrodisiac.’ He should know, he had five wives.



6. Talitha 

Talitha

Saul Bellow treats us to another of Herzog’s mental divagations as he thinks by free association about all and sundry. As his discourse continues, he says to himself, ‘Come to the point. But what was the point?’ The point is that there are people who can destroy life (this was the height of the Cold War and American nervousness over atomic extinction).  Voltaire, Marx, and de Tocqueville all make an entrance, but Bellow treats the high culture of Herzog’s thoughts as a source of humour, which the reader can enjoy. Talitha said the juxtaposition of various words is itself capable of bringing smiles to the faces of the readers. It was no wonder that laughter punctuated her reading.


7. Pamela 
Ramona

Ramona knows how to treat gentlemen with all the sympathy and TLC they need and deserve, especially a ‘piece of human capital badly invested’ in two women, one of whom treated him badly, and the other is out to do him in. Herzog is totally charmed and becomes carefree and dances in Ramona's flat and is treated to the sort of tender concern that would bring out the best in any man, including Herzog  failed academic, failed husband twice over, and failed father, also twice over. In the novel we begin to believe that any man can become a success and live life to its full potential – but it takes the right woman. The conversation between Ramona and Herzog is silly, but affords much humour for that very reason.


8. Joe 
Sono Oguki, like Ramona, knows how to transform a man. She is even more compliant to the whimsicality of Herzog and considers him half-jokingly as ‘un philosophe.’ The French in which Herzog is forced to conduct the affair, thanks to her sojourn in Paris during the war,  and his own studies in France, becomes the vehicle of a fabulous narration of how the petite Sono overcame the grabbing hands of a big black ‘leddy’ who tried to wrench an apron out of her hands in the bargain basement of a store. 

Sono Oguki takes care of Moses Herzog after bathing him

Joe said her ways are like those of a geisha in Japan, trained to please – speaking as if he knew from his own experience. The readers were willing to grant him that knowledge!  A chance remark of Sono, ‘T'es mélancolique — c'est très beau!’ is the trigger for Herzog to recall Milton’s L’Allegro ‘Hence, loathèd melancholy! …’


9. Vijay  
Vijay

Herzog, the tireless writer to various people of letters, never mailed, is now attracted enough to Ramona Donsell to consider making her his third wife. He finds her sexually a masterpiece, and her independent status as businesswoman makes him less suspicious of her having designs on him. In his self-questioning manner he asks: when did he take an interest in social questions? But it is all a piece of drollery, this mental stream of consciousness that he spouts on the paper, allegedly throws light on his mental makeup, but it’s more like an elaborate Woody Allen joke on the listener. And in truth, a good many laughs issued from the reading of the text by Govind.

Herzog writes letters but does not mail them



10. Ankush 
Ankush

Ankush picked up on the interminable scribbling of letters, which Herzog himself considers ridiculous. Three of the chosen passages illustrate this. The final passage is about songs he has heard coursing through his mind. We are left to wonder whether the entire novel is an attempt to delve into Herzog’s unconscious, as a psychiatrist might do, but not through an analysis of his dreams, but by an examination of the deeper meaning of his letters. I myself am not inclined to take Herzog’s meanderings of the mind as proof of his profundity, rather as proof of his confused psychological state, out of which the author extracts some humour.

Saul Bellow (1915 - 2005)

Exercises for the Diligent Reader of Herzog
(send short answers to Joe by Dec 5, 2014, please - purely voluntary)

1. State reasons why the victim in Herzog and Mady’s marriage could be Mady.
2. Provide evidence for Herzog’s sanity? Ditto, for his going insane?
3. What is ‘Herzog’s folly’?

Answers:

Priya
1. State reasons why the victim in Herzog and Mady’s marriage could be Mady.
Herzog, though fair husband material - compassionate, patient, loving, faithful(?) - must be a difficult person to live with because of his eccentric mind. Mady is a woman of the modern world - greedy, self-centred and focussed - with the qualities required to carve a wholesome life for oneself in this age. If Mady was Ramona then her marriage would work for a longer period than it did; but because Mady is a perfectionist, finicky, right wing (narrow religious ideas) and dogmatic, she finds it difficult to live with Herzog. If she could, like Ramona rustle up a meal, play Turkish music and soothe him, give him a tub bath (a must), warm his bed, and behave like one who loves him for the sake of his muddled head then maybe her marriage would have lasted. 
2.Provide evidence for Herzog’s sanity? Ditto, for his going insane?
Herzog is lucid because he is aware when he crosses the border of ‘sanity’, like the times when he tries to behave in front of his brother, aware that one wrong move will taint his normalcy. He is insane in writing those pointless letters that reach no one and prove no point but the logic and the erudition in the letters is commendable.
3.What is ‘Herzog’s folly’?
His restlessness and his overworking mind. I think he thinks too much and lacks concentration. He is a good case of untreated ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), which when treated in children can prevent them from turning into reckless adults like Herzog.

KumKum
1.
The victim in their marriage is NOT Mady. It is Herzog. 
When his first marriage to Daisy was dissolved, there was only Marco, the son from this marriage, whom Herzog cared for. 
Herzog acknowledged Daisy "had good qualities, but a sense of humour was not among them" (p. 103). He was comfortable with Daisy taking care of Marco. Herzog did not consider Daisy any longer desirable. He could let Daisy go out of his life rather easily.

But with Madeleine things were quite different. Mady was beautiful, clever, manipulative, and ambitious. She was extremely desirable to Herzog, "on whom he doted"(p.71). He did everything to please her, to suit her impish behaviour.

Herzog loved June, their daughter, but not more or beyond Madeleine.

When Madeleine rejected Herzog in favour of Valentine Gersbach, he was hurt, felt insulted. Herzog could not comprehend how he could be less desirable to Mady than Valentine?! This thought, this incomprehension, drove Herzog to the edge.
Mady, on the other hand, could never be the victim of this marriage. She was the rider. She knew Herzog's weakness: his blind love for her.
She did exactly as she pleased, as long as she wanted it. Then, very easily discarded him for something new. 
Madeleine loved herself. Herzog observed: "The satisfaction she took in herself was positively plural-imperial. And she had told Moses during one of their crises that she had had a new look at herself nude before the bathroom mirror. "Still young," she said, taking inventory, "young, beautiful, full of life. Why should I waste it all on you." (p. 21).

2.
There is no doubt in my mind that Herzog did not lose his mind. Yes, he lost his wife to a "friend", as a result, he lost his equilibrium, too.
He showed signs of a distress, helplessness, vengefulness, may be also, loss of direction and proportion.
No, he did not become insane. His letters are quite cogent; reflecting his erudite sophistication.
All along, he remained a responsible father to his two children, whom he saw only occasionally.

3. 
Herzog is a tragic protagonist who is crushed under a misfortune. This misfortune befell him not by an accident, and not by any outside influence. It happened, because of his serious character flaw.

He loved beautiful, alluring Madeleine, initially, blindly. Later, though, he recognised his stupidity and Madeleine's insincerity, he was powerless to extricate himself from the unpleasant situation. By now "love" had evaporated from their relationship, Herzog mired himself in revenge and in a fanciful flight out of reality. 


Ankush
This is in regard to Herzog’s folly (Q 3):-
While I was reading Herzog for the fourth time, there was an odd idea which struck me. I started feeling that Herzog, as a character, was sketched very much on the lines of Hamlet. A modern day, Bellovian Hamlet.  Herzog’s folly, like Hamlet’s folly, was that he ‘thought too much.’ He deliberated too much on ideas. Even though he was the Professor, the academic, the one who deals with, and is a master of ideas, from a very objective standpoint, it may also be surmised that his ideas had mastered him, rather than the other way round. So much so, that even when he has brought himself to the brink of ‘acting out’ his pent-up frustrations against Madeline, his humanity, but more likely, his timidity (yes! There are still active schools of literary criticism which debate whether Hamlet {or in this context, Herzog} could really have been brave enough to commit murder!)

Maybe neither of them were, and this is how Bellow or in other words Herzog is a departure from Hamlet. Herzog, by refusing to play a part assigned to him by the ‘bitchiness of modern age’, preserves his humanity.

I think on a larger, moral plane, the final image of Herzog in the garden (or was it among some sort of shrubbery) is a life-affirming, elemental statement from Bellow, someone who has written expansively about the ways and means in which the Age we are living in has morally and existentially deformed us. There is a hint of such an ending in two other novels of Saul Bellow: Seize the Day, and even in More Die of Heartbreak. But Herzog is one of the only characters, among so many suffering Bellovian jokers, who is able to do justice to the question which pervades most of Bellow’s books i.e. ‘What is it to be human, and more importantly, to preserve one’s humanity, in the sort of time and age we are living in?’
That the character who was ‘okay to have lost his mind’, has over a span of 330 pages managed to find his ‘quantum of solace’ brings us, as readers, back to square one. But it also makes us realise that maybe, morally and otherwise, there was nothing really wrong with Herzog. If at all he had a folly, it was that he was sensitive, frequently intellectuliased about it, even basked in it (in the long tradition of the Romantics he taught and wrote about). If indeed he had a folly, it was that he was ‘Herzog’.   


Joe
1. On the face of things, Herzog seems to be the wronged man in the marriage to Mady. After all he loved her. Mady loved him too as Aunt Zelda says. But there were wrong turns in the marriage. Going and burying himself in a small town in W Massachusetts, Ludeyville, to write his second great work on Romanticism, made it impossible for his wife to have any society. She was an intelligent woman. Aunt Zelda says Mady fell out of love with him, as women do sometimes. Why? Because he had already become the victim (through absence from proper academic work and slacking off) of a folly of writing letters to dead people and forever analysing himself. 

Herzog didn’t do things with Mady; he thought it was enough to put her in a lonely house in the middle of nowhere after marrying her. Then again consider his stupidity in going to Chicago to help out his friend Gersbach, and leaving his wife in Gersbach’s company. He did love his daughter Junie by Mady, but did they all go out together to have family time? No. And was he seeing Sono Oguki or Ramona Donsell when he was married? It’s not clear, but there is a lingering doubt that when Ramona was in his class, he was making out with her on the side. 

Herzog was slowly going crazy, and Mady may have had nothing to do with it; it was his own craziness, of a kind that few women could long tolerate, certainly not one as attractive and ambitious as Mady. She left him, for she thought their marriage was going nowhere.

2. Herzog is a borderline case of mental stability. He is not a raving lunatic of course - for how could one make a novel centred around the thoughts and actions of a deranged person? But he is not entirely sane, either. In part of the novel it would appear he is reacting as any normal man would in his extreme circumstances - undergoing a divorce for the second time, his two children by two marriages taken away from a doting father, his academic work in the doldrums after a brilliant start, and cuckolded by his close friend. It’s the sort of taxing situation that would drive a sane person crazy. So let’s consider the pros and cons.
Sanity:
He thinks of survival strategies  - for example, getting back with a woman who cared for him, Ramona Donsell. He thinks of confronting Mady and Gersbach, to get the truth out, and get his revenge on a traitorous friend and a betraying wife. He goes to his lawyer to fix his divorce case - but finds the lawyer has switched sides to Mady. He goes to his psychiatrist to get well, but gets no comfort there either. Herzog is a man reaching out for wellness; toward the end he invokes his own sibling Willie who takes care of his arrest and financial situation, and when Ramona comes to rescue him from being holed up in his Ludeyville house, we sense he may be on the threshold of a real recovery.

Insanity:
The first line of the novel signals his condition thus: “If I am out of my mind, it's all right with me, thought Moses Herzog.”

The signs of a mind fading into obscurity and getting lost are there already from the time of the adult-education lectures in New York.  “…toward the end of the term there were long pauses in his lectures. He would stop, muttering ‘Excuse me,’ reaching inside his coat for his pen.” This is followed up by the fragmentary notes he makes: “Death - die - live again - die again - live.” In a lucid moment reflecting on this telegraphy of a mind that has lost its moorings, he thinks “it might be a symptom of disintegration.”

The prime example of his going round the bend is his constant writing of letters to people - never actually sent, but they form a fragmented collage of his wandering thoughts. Each fragment could be rational in itself (his basic thinking process had not deserted him) but taken together they signify a mental condition that is on the edge of insanity. The attempt to go and shoot Gersbach and Mady with a slyly extracted pistol, is a sign that he was going to pieces. He was not contemplating a crime passionel, but a premeditated murder by a man thwarted in life. Yet he reins himself in at the critical moment, his humanity re-asserting itself.

3. ‘Herzog’s folly’ was the house he bought and fixed up in a lonely part of W Massachusetts where he hoped to resurrect his academic fervour. He furnished it with all sorts of stuff and brought his wife to a place with no society. This house was his folly, as described in this passage:

The electricity of course was turned off but perhaps the old hand pump could be made to work. There was always cistern water to fall back on. He could cook in the fireplace; there were old hooks and trivets- and here (his heart trembled) the house rose out of weeds, vines, trees, and blossoms. Herzog's folly! Monument to his sincere and loving idiocy, to the unrecognized evils of his character, symbol of his Jewish struggle for a solid footing in White Anglo-Saxon Protestant America.



The Readings

1. KumKum 
p.244 Moshe visits Tanta Taube to pick up a pistol and some rubles his father left as legacy (1,034 words)
The house was dark, and anyone but Moses would have gone away, assuming there was no one at home. He, however, waited, knowing she would presently open. In his youth he had watched her take five minutes to open a bottle of soda ­­ an hour to spread the dough over the table when she baked. … At last he heard her at the door. Links of brass chain rose in the narrow opening. He saw old Taube's dark eyes, more somber now, and more extruded. … But, although she studied him like a stranger, she had already identified him. Her intellect was not slow, whatever else.
“Who is it?” “It's Moses....”
“I don't know you. I'm alone. Moses?”
“Tante Taube­­ Moses Herzog. Moshe.”
“Ah—Moshe.” Slow lame fingers released the catch. The door was shut to free the links from strain, and then opened, and—merciful God!­­­ what a face he saw, how grooved with woe and age, lined downward at the mouth! As he came in she raised feeble hands to embrace him.
“Moshe.... Come in I'll make a light. Shut the door, Moshe.” He found the switch and turned on the very dim bulb of the entry hall. It shed a pinkish color; the old-fashioned glass of the fixture reminded him of the ner tamid, the vigil light in the synagogue. He shut the door on the watered fragrance of lawns as he entered. The house was close and faintly sour with furniture polish. The remembered luster was there in the faint twilit parlor.­­ cabinets and tables, with inlaid tops, the brocaded sofa in its gleaming protective plastic, the Oriental rug the drapes perfect and rigid on the windows with laterally rigid venetian blinds. A lamp went on behind him. He discovered on the console phonograph a smiling picture of Marco as a little boy, bare­kneed, on a bench, a fresh face, and charming, dark hair combed forward. And next to it was he himself in a photo taken when he got his M.A., handsome but somewhat jowly. His younger face expressed the demands of ingenuous conceit.
...
Among the rest was a picture of Father Herzog in his last incarnation—an American citizen­­ handsome, smooth­shaven, with none of his troubled masculine defiance, his one­time impetuousness or passionate protest. Still, to see Father Herzog's face in his own house melted Moses. Tante Taube was coming up with slow steps. ....
“Should I make a cup of tea?” said Tante Taube.
“Yes, please, I'd like that if you feel up to it. And I also want to look in Papa's desk.”
“Pa's desk? It's locked. You want to look in the desk? Everything belongs to you children. You could take the desk when I die.”
“No, no!” he said, “I don't need the desk itself, but I was passing from the airport and thought I'd see how you were. And now that I'm here, I'd like to have a look in the desk. I know you don't mind.”
“You want something, Moshe? You took your Mama's silver coin case the last time.” He had given it to Madeleine.
“Is Papa's watch chain still in there?”
“I think Willie took it.” He frowned with concentration.
“Then what about the rubles?” he asked. “I'd like them for Marco.”
“Rubles?” “My grandfather Isaac bought Czarist rubles during the Revolution, and they've always been in the desk.”
“In the desk? I surely never seen them.”
“I'd like to look, while you make a cup of tea, Tante Taube. Give me the key.”
“The key...?”
Questioning him before, she had spoken more quickly, but now she receded again into slowness, raising a mountain of dilatory will in his way.
“Where do you keep it?”
“Where? Where did I put it? Is it in Pa's dresser? Or somewhere else? Let me remember. That's how I am now, It's hard to remember...”
“I know where it is”, he said, suddenly rising.
“You know where it is? So where is it?”
“In the music box, where you always used to keep it?”
… Moses knew he had guessed right. “don't bother, I'll get it,” he said. “If you’ll put the kettle on. I'm very thirsty. It's been a hot, long day.”
He helped her to rise, holding her flaccid arm. He was having his way­­­ a poor sort of victory and filled with dangerous consequences.
Old Taube in the dark outside the bedroom said, “Did you found it?”
He answered, “It's here,” and spoke in a low, mild voice, not to make matters worse. The house was hers, after all. It was rude to invade it. He was not ashamed of this, he only recognized with full objectivity that it was not right. But it had to be done.
“Do you want me to put the kettle on?”
“No, a cup of tea I can still make.”
He heard her slow steps in the passage. She was going to the kitchen. Herzog quickly made for the small sitting room. He opened the cherry­wood secretary, braced the wide leaf on its runners, drawing then out from either side. Then he went back and shut the door, first making sure Taube had reached the kitchen. In the drawers he recognized each article­­­ leather, paper, gold. Swift and tense, veins standing out on his head, and tendons on the hands, he groped, and found what he was looking for ­­­ Father Herzog's pistol. Now he began to search for those rubles. Those he found in a small compartment with old passports, ribbons sealed in wax, like gobs of dried blood. The rubles were in a large billfold ­­­ his playthings of forty years ago. … Herzog made a nest of these large bills in his pocket for the pistol. He thought it must be less conspicuous now.
“ You got what you want?” Taube asked him in the kitchen.
“Yes.” He put the key on the enamelled metal table.
“You got a lot of trouble? Don't make it worser, Moshe.”
“There is no trouble, Tante. I have business to take care of ... I don't think I can wait for tea, after all.” He left by the back door; it made departure simpler.

2. Zakia 
p.8 Mady gets rid of Herzog with an element of theater.
All this happened on a bright, keen fall day.
He had been in the back yard putting in the storm windows. The first frost
had already caught the tomatoes. The grass was dense and soft, with the peculiar beauty it gains when the cold days come and the gossamers lie on it in the morning; the dew is thick and lasting. The tomato vines had blackened and the red globes had burst.
He had seen Madeleine at the back window upstairs, putting June down for her nap, and heard the bath being run. Now she was calling from the kitchen door. A gust from the lake made the framed glass tremble in Herzog's arms. He propped it carefully against the porch and took off his canvas gloves but not his beret, as though he sensed that he would immediately go on a trip.
Madeleine hated her father violently, but it was not irrelevant that the old man was a famous impresario – sometimes called the American Stanislavsky. She had prepared the event with a certain theatrical genius of her own. She wore black stockings, high heels, a lavender dress with Indian brocade from Central America. She had on her opal earrings, her bracelets, and she was perfumed; her hair was combed with a new, clean part and her large eyelids shone with a bluish cosmetic.
Her eyes were blue but the depth of the color was curiously affected by the variable tinge of the whites.
Her nose, which descended in a straight elegant line from her brows, worked slightly when she was peculiarly stirred. To Herzog even this tic was precious. There was a flavor of subjugation in his love for Madeleine. Since she was domineering, and since he loved her, he had to accept the flavor that was given. In this confrontation in the untidy parlor, two kinds of egotism were present, and Herzog from his sofa in New York now contemplated them comhers in triumph (she had prepared a great moment, she was about to do what she longed most to do, strike a blow) and his egotism in abeyance, all converted into passivity. What he was about to suffer, he deserved; he had sinned long and hard; he had earned it. This was it.
In the window on glass shelves there stood an ornamental collection of small glass bottles, Venetian and Swedish. They came with the house. The sun now caught them. They were pierced with the light.
Herzog saw the waves, the threads of color, the spectral intersecting bars, and especially a great blot of flaming white on the center of the wall above Madeleine.
She was saying, "We can't live together any more."
Her speech continued for several minutes. Her sentences were well formed.
This speech had been rehearsed and it seemed also that he had been waiting for the performance to begin.
Theirs was not a marriage that could last. Madeleine had never loved him.
She was telling him that. "It's painful to have to say I never loved you. I never will love you, either," she said. "So there's no point in going on."
Herzog said, "I do love you, Madeleine."
Step by step, Madeleine rose in distinction, in brilliance, in insight. Her color grew very rich, and her brows, and that Byzantine nose of hers, rose, moved; her blue eyes gained by the flush that kept deepening, rising from her chest and her throat.
She was in an ecstasy of consciousness. It occurred to Herzog that she had beaten him so badly, her pride was so fully satisfied, that there was an overflow of strength into her intelligence. He realized that he was witnessing one of the very greatest moments of her life.
"You should hold on to that feeling," she said. "I believe it's true. You do love me. But I think you also understand what a humiliation it is to me to admit defeat in this marriage. I've put all I had into it. I'm crushed by this."
Crushed? She had never looked more glorious. There was an element of theater in those looks, but much more of passion.
And Herzog, a solid figure of a man, if pale and suffering, lying on his sofa in  the lengthening evening of a New York spring, in the background the trembling  energy of the city, a sense and flavor of river water, a stripe of beautifying and  dramatic filth contributed by New Jersey to the sunset, Herzog in the coop of  his privacy and still strong in the body (his health was really a sort of miracle;  he had done his best to be sick) pictured what might have happened if instead of  listening so intensely and thoughtfully he had hit Madeleine in the face. What if  he had knocked her down, clutched her hair, dragged her screaming and fighting  around the room, flogged her until her buttocks bled. What if he had! He  should have torn her clothes, ripped off her necklace, brought his fists down on  her head. He rejected this mental violence, sighing. He was afraid he was really  given in secret to this sort of brutality.
But suppose even that he had told her to leave the house. After all, it was his house. If she couldn't live with him, why didn't she leave? The scandal? There  was no need to be driven away by a little scandal. It would have been painful,  grotesque, but a scandal was after all a sort of service to the community. Only  it had never entered Herzog's mind, in that parlor of flashing bottles, to stand  his ground. He still thought perhaps that he could win by the appeal of passivity,  of personality, win on the ground of being, after all, Moses-Moses Elkanah  Herzog – a good man, and Madeleine's particular benefactor. He had done  everything for her – everything!


3. Priya
p.191 Madeleine and Gersbach lecture Herzog on sundry things including the right way to perform the conjugal act. Ramona soothes Herzog.
"When did you first notice?"
"When Mady began to stay away from Ludeyville.
A few times she holed up in Boston. She said she simply had to be alone and think things over. So she took the kid-just an infant. And I asked Valentine to go and reason with her."
"And this was when he began to give you those lectures?"
Herzog tried to smile away the quick-welling rancor whose source had been touched. He might not be able to control it. "They all lectured. Everyone lectured. People legislate continually by means of talk. I have Madeleine's letters from Boston. I have letters from Gersbach, too. All kinds of documents. I even have a bundle of letters written by Madeleine to her mother. They came in the mail."
"But what did Madeleine say?"
"She's quite a writer. She writes like Lady Hester Stanhope. First of all, she said I resembled her father in too many ways. That when we were in a room together I seemed to swallow and gulp up all the air and left nothing for her to breathe. I was overbearing, infantile, demanding, sardonic, and a psychosomatic bully."
"Psychosomatic?"
"I had pains in my belly to dominate her, and got my way by being sick. They all said that, all three of them. Madeleine had another lecture about the only basis for a marriage. A marriage was a tender relationship resulting from the overflow of feeling, and all the rest of that. She even had a lecture about the right way to perform the conjugal act."
"Incredible."
"She must have been describing what she had learned from Gersbach."
"You don't need to go into it," said Ramona. "I'm sure she made it as painful as possible."
"In the meantime, I was supposed to wind up this study of mine, and become the Lovejoy of my generation-that's the silly talk of scholarly people, Ramona, I didn't think of it that way. The more Madeleine and Gersbach lectured me, the more I thought that my only purpose was to lead a quiet, regular life. She said this quietness was more of my scheming. She accused me of being on "a meek kick," and said that I was now trying to keep her in line by a new tactic."
"How curious! What were you supposed to be doing?"
"She thought I had married her in order to be "saved," and now I wanted to kill her because she wasn't doing the job. She said she loved me, but couldn't do what I demanded, because this was so fantastic, and so she was going to Boston one more time to think it all through and find a way to save this marriage."
"I see."
"About a week later, Gersbach came to the house to pick up some of her things. She had phoned him from Boston. She needed her clothes. And money. He and I took a long walk in the woods. It was early autumn-sunny, dusty, marvelous ... melancholy. I helped him over the rough ground. He poles Ms way along, with that leg...."
"As you told me. Like a gondolier. And what did he say?"
"He said he didn't know how the fuck he would survive this terrible trouble between the two people he loved most in the world. He repeated that-the two people who meant more to him than wife and child. It was tearing him to pieces. His faith in things was going to be smashed."
Ramona laughed, and Herzog joined her.
"And then?"
"Then?" said Herzog. He remembered the tremor in Gersbach's dark-red powerful face which seemed at first brutal, the face of a butcher, until you came to understand the depth and subtlety of his feelings. "Then we went back to the house and Gersbach packed her things. And what he had mainly come for-her diaphragm."
"You don't mean it!"
"Of course I mean it."
"But you seem to accept it...."
"What I accept is that my idiocy inspired them, and sent them to greater heights of perversity."
"Didn't you ask her what this meant?"
"I did. She said I had lost my right to an answer. It was more of the same from me-pettiness. Then I asked her whether Valentine had become her lover."
"And what kind of answer did you get?"
Ramona's curiosity was greatly excited.
"That I didn't understand what Gersbach had given me – the kind of love, the kind of feeling. I said, "But he took the thing from the medicine chest." And she said, ‘Yes, and he stays overnight with June and me when he comes to Boston, but he's the brother I never had, and that's all." I hesitated to accept this, so she added, "Now don't be a fool, Moses. You know how coarse he is. He's not my type at all. Our intimacy is a different kind altogether. Why, when he uses the toilet in our little Boston apartment it fills up with his stink. I know the smell of his shit. Do you think I could give myself to a man whose shit smells like that!’ That was her answer."
"How frightful, Moses! Is that what she said?
What a strange woman. She's a strange, strange creature."

4. Thommo 
Herzog is in one of his moods reflecting about the universe, and constructing letters to people dead or alive. Vinobha Bhave figures in his thoughts. Then he has a moment when he tells his psychiatrist about Mady’s delusion that he has set a tail on her movments.
1.     p.48 Dr. Bhave
Dear Dr. Bhave, he began again, I read of your work in the Observer and at the time thought I'd like to join your movement.
I've always wanted very much to lead a moral, useful, and active life. I never knew where to begin. One can't become Utopian. It only makes it harder to discover where your duty really lies. Persuading the owners of large estates to give up some land to impoverished peasants, however ...
These dark men going on foot through India. In his vision Herzog saw their shining eyes, and the light of spirit within them. You must start with injustices that are obvious to everybody, not with big historical perspectives.
Recently, I saw Pather Panchali. I assume you know it, since the subject is rural India. Two things affected me greatly - the old crone scooping the mush with her fingers and later going into the weeds to die; and the death of the young girl in the rains.
Herzog, almost alone in the Fifth Avenue Playhouse, cried with the child's mother when the hysterical death music started. Some musician with a native brass horn, imitating sobs, playing a death noise. It was raining also in New York, as in rural India. His heart was aching. He too had a daughter, and his mother too had been a poor woman.
He had slept on sheets made of flour sacks.
The best type for the purpose was Ceresota. What he had vaguely in mind was to offer his house and property in Ludeyville to the Bhave movement.
But what could Bhave do with it? Send Hindus to the Berkshires? It wouldn't be fair to them. Anyway, there was a mortgage. A gift should be made in what they call "fee simple," and for that I'd have to raise another eight thousand bucks, and the Internal Revenue wouldn't give me a deduction on it.
Foreign charities probably don't count.
Bhave would be doing him a favor. That house was one of his biggest mistakes. It was bought in a dream of happiness, an old ruin of a place but with enormous possibilities-great old trees, formal gardens he could restore in his spare time. The place had been deserted for years. Duck hunters and lovers would break in and use it; and when Herzog posted the property the lovers and the hunters played jokes on him. Someone came in the night and left a used sanitary napkin in a covered dish on his desk, where he kept bundles of notes for his Romantic studies. That was his reception by the natives. A momentary light of self-humor passed over his face as the train flashed through meadows and sunny pines. Suppose I accepted the challenge. I could be Moses, the old Jew-man of Ludeyville, with a white beard, cutting the grass under the washline with my antique reel-mower.
Eating woodchucks.

2.     p.55
First, she accused Moses of hiring a private detective to spy on her. She began this accusation with the slightly British diction he had learned to recognize as a sure sign of trouble. "I should have thought," she said, "you'd have been far too clever to engage such an obvious type."
"Engage," said Herzog. "Whom have I engaged?"
"I mean that horrible man-that stinking, fat man in the sports coat."
Madeleine, absolutely sure of herself, flashed him one of her terrible looks. "I defy you to deny this. And it's simply beneath contempt."
Seeing how pale she had become, he cautioned himself to be careful and above all not to mention the British manner. "But, Mady, this is simply a mistake."
"It is no mistake. I never dreamed you might be capable of this."
"But I don't know what you're talking about."
Her voice began to rise and tremble. She said fiercely, "You sonofabitch! Don't give me this soft treatment. I know all your fucking tricks."
Then she shrieked, "This must stop! I will not have a dick tailing me!" Staring, those marvelous eyes grew red.
"But why would I have you followed, Mady? I don't understand. What could I find out?"
"Now that man dogged my steps around F-Field's, all afternoon." She often stammered when she was enraged. "I waited in the 1-a-ladies' room half an hour, and when I came out he was still there. Then in the I. c. tunnel... when I was buying f-f-flowers."
"Maybe it was only some fellow trying to pick you up. It's got nothing to do with me."
"That was a dick!" She clenched her fists. Her lips were frighteningly thin, and her whole body trembled. "He was sitting on the screen porch next door this afternoon when I got home."
Moses, pale, said, "You point him out, Mady.
I'll go right up to him.... Just show the man to me."
Edvig termed this a paranoid episode, and Herzog said, "Really?" He took this in for a moment and then exclaimed, with a burst of feeling, looking at the doctor with large eyes, "Do you really think this was a delusion? Do you mean to tell me she's disturbed?
Insane?"
Edvig said, conservatively, measuring his words, "One incident like this doesn't indicate insanity.
I meant precisely what I said, a paranoid episode."
"But it's she who's sick, sicker than I am."
Ah, poor girl! It was a clinical matter.
She was really unwell. Toward the sick, Moses was always especially compassionate.
He assured Edvig, "If she really is as you say, I'll have to watch my step. I must try to take care of her."


5. Gopa 
p2. Herzog undergoes a severe bout of self-examination and concludes he is narcissistic, masochistic and depressive.
At first there was no pattern to the notes he made.
They were fragments-nonsense syllables, exclamations, twisted proverbs and quotations or, in the Yiddish of his long-dead mother, Trepverter comretorts that came too late, when you were already on your way down the stairs.
He wrote, for instance,
Death - die - live again - die again - live.
No person, no death.
And,
On the knees of your soul? Might as well be useful. Scrub the floor.
Next,
Answer a fool according to his folly lest he be wise in his own conceit.
Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou be like unto him.
Choose one.
He noted also, I see by Walter Winchell that J. S. Bach put on black gloves to compose a requiem mass.
Herzog scarcely knew what to think of this scrawling.
He yielded to the excitement that inspired i suspected at times that it might be a symptom of disintegration. That did not frighten him. Lying on the sofa of the kitchenette apartment he had rented on 17th Street, he sometimes imagined he was an industry that manufactured personal history, and saw himself from birth to death. He conceded on a piece of paper, I cannot justify.
Considering his entire life, he realized that he had mismanaged everything, everything.
His life was, as the phrase goes, ruined. But since it had not been much to begin with, there was not much to grieve about. Thinking, on the malodorous sofa, of the centuries, the nineteenth, the sixteenth, the eighteenth, he turned up, from the last, a saying that he liked: Grief, Sir, is a species of idleness.
He went on taking stock, lying face down on the sofa. Was he a clever man or an idiot?
Well, he could not at this time claim to be clever.
He might once have had the makings of a clever character, but he had chosen to be dreamy instead, and the sharpies cleaned him out. What more? He was losing his hair.
He read the ads of the Thomas Scalp Specialists, with the exaggerated skepticism of a man whose craving to believe was deep, desperate.
Scalp experts! So... he was a formerly handsome man. His face revealed what a beating he had taken. But he had asked to be beaten too, and had lent his attackers strength. That brought him to consider his character. What sort of character was it? Well, in the modern vocabulary, it was narcissistic; it was masochistic; it was anachronistic. His clinical picture was depressive – not the severest type; not a manic depressive. There were worse cripples around. If you believed, as everyone nowadays apparently did, that man was the sick animal, then was he even spectacularly sick, exceptionally blind, extraordinarily degraded? No. Was he intelligent? His intellect would have been more effective if he had had an aggressive paranoid character, eager for power. He was jealous but not exceptionally competitive, not a true paranoiac. And what about his learning? – He was obliged to admit, now, that he was not much of a professor, either. Oh, he was earnest, he had a certain large, immature sincerity, but he might never succeed in becoming systematic. He had made a brilliant start in his Ph. D. thesis - The State of Nature in 17th and 18th Century English and French Political Philosophy.
He had to his credit also several articles and a book, Romanticism and Christianity.
But the rest of his ambitious projects had dried up, one after another. On the strength of his early successes he had never had difficulty in finding jobs and obtaining research grants. The Narragansett Corporation had paid him fifteen thousand dollars over a number of years to continue his studies in Romanticism. The results lay in the closet, in an old valise-eight hundred pages of chaotic argument which had never found its focus. It was painful to think of it.
On the floor beside him were pieces of paper, and he occasionally leaned down to write.
He now set down, Not that long disease, my life, but that long convalescence, my life. The liberal-bourgeois revision, the illusion of improvement, the poison of hope.
He thought awhile of Mithridates, whose system learned to thrive on poison. He cheated his assassins, who made the mistake of using small doses, and was pickled, not destroyed.
Tutto fa brodo. (Italian: Anything goes)
Resuming his self-examination, he admitted that he had been a bad husband twice.
Daisy, his first wife, he had treated miserably. Madeleine, his second, had tried to do him in. To his son and his daughter he was a loving but bad father.
To his own parents he had been an ungrateful child. To his country, an indifferent citizen. To his brothers and his sister, affectionate but remote. With his friends, an egotist.
With love, lazy. With brightness, dull. With power, passive. With his own soul, evasive.
Satisfied with his own severity, positively enjoying the hardness and factual rigor of his judgment, he lay on his sofa, his arms rising behind him, his legs extended without aim.
But how charming we remain, notwithstanding.


6. Talitha 
p.50 Another of Herzog’s mental exercises in thinking about the world, its anxieties and the trigger of writing letters to the editor, if not in prose, then in little poems.
Ours is a bourgeois civilization. I am not using this term in its Marxian sense.
Chicken!
In the vocabularies of modern art and religion it is bourgeois to consider that the universe was made for our safe use and to give us comfort, ease, and support. Light travels at a quarter of a million miles per second so that we can see to comb our hair or to read in the paper that ham hocks are cheaper than yesterday. De Tocqueville considered the impulse toward well-being as one of the strongest impulses of a democratic society. He can't be blamed for underestimating the destructive powers generated by this same impulse.
You must be out of your mind to write to the Times like this! There are millions of bitter Voltairean types whose souls are filled with angry satire and who keep looking for the keenest, most poisonous word. You could send in a poem instead, you nitwit. Why should you be more right out of sheer distraction than they are out of organization? You ride in their trains, don't you? Distraction didn't build the railroad. Go on, write a poem, and kill "em with bitterness.
They print little poems as fillers on the editorial page. But he continued his letter, nevertheless. Nietzsche, Whitehead, and John Dewey wrote on the question of Risk..,.
Dewey tells us that mankind distrusts its own nature and tries to find stability beyond or above, in religion or philosophy. To him the past often means the erroneous.
But Moses checked himself. Come to the point. But what was the point? The point was that there were people who could destroy mankind and that they were foolish and arrogant, crazy, and must be begged not to do it. Let the enemies of life step down. Let each man now examine his heart. Without a great change of heart, I would not trust myself in a position of authority. Do I love mankind? Enough to spare it, if I should be in a position to blow it to hell? Now let us all dress in our shrouds and walk on Washington and Moscow.
Let us lie down, men, women, and children, and cry, "Let life continue- we may not deserve it, but let it continue."
In every community there is a class of people profoundly dangerous to the rest. I don't mean the criminals.
For them we have punitive sanctions. I mean the leaders. Invariably the most dangerous people seek the power.
While in the parlors of indignation the right-thinking citizen brings his heart to a boil.
Mr. Editor, we are bound to be the slaves of those who have power to destroy us. I am not speaking of Strawforth any more. I knew him at school.
We played ping-pong at the Reynolds Club.
He had a white buttocky face with a few moles, and fat curling thumbs that put a cheating spin on the ball.
Clickety-clack over the green table. I don't believe his I. Q. was so terribly high, though maybe it was, but he worked hard at his math and chemistry. While I was fiddling in the fields. Like the grasshoppers in Junie's favorite song.
Grasshoppers three a-fiddling went. Hey-ho, never be still. They paid no money towards their rent But all day long with elbows bent They fiddled a song called Rillabyrillaby. They fiddled a song called Rillabyrill.
Delighted, Moses began to grin. His face wrinkled tenderly at the thought of his children. How well kids understand what love is! Marco was entering an age of silence and restraint with his father, but Junie was exactly as Marco had been. She stood on her father's lap to comb his hair. His thighs were trodden by her feet. He embraced her small bones with fatherly hunger while her breath on his face stirred his deepest feelings.
He had been wheeling the child's stroller on the Midway, saluting students and faculty with a touch to the brim of his green velours hat, a mossier green than the slopes and hollow lawns.
Under the tucks of her velvet bonnet, the little girl had very much her Papa's looks, so he thought.
He smiled at her with large creases, dark eyes, while reciting nursery rhymes:
"There was an old woman Who flew in a basket Seventeen times as high as the moon."
"Mole," the child said.
"And where she was going Nobody could tell you For under her arm she carried a broom."
"More, more."
The warm lake wind drove Moses westward, past the gray gothic buildings.
He had had the child at least, while mother and lover were undressing in a bedroom somewhere. And if, even in that embrace of lust and treason, they had life and nature on their side, he would quietly step aside. Yes, he would bow out.


7. Pamela 
p. 157 Ramona, the marvelously sympathetic woman with slightly curved white teeth, considers Herzog to be a piece of human capital badly invested thus far. She is going to switch his investment to her.
Ramona was highly experienced at entertaining gentlemen. The shrimp, wine, flowers, lights, perfumes, the rituals of undressing, the Egyptian music whining and clanging, bespoke practice, and he regretted that she'd had to live this way, but it flattered him, also. Ramona was astonished that any woman should find fault with Moses. He told her that he was often a flat failure with Madeleine. It might be the release of his angry feeling against Mady that improved his performance. At this Ramona looked severe.
"I don't know – it might be me – have you considered that?" she said. "Poor Moses – unless you're having a bad time with a woman you can't believe you're being serious."
Moses rinsed his face with pleasant witch hazel, a brimming handful, and blew upon his cheeks from the corners of his mouth. He tuned in Polish dance music on the small transistor radio on the glass shelf over the sink, and powdered his feet.
Then he gave in for a while to the impulse to dance and leap on the soiled tiles, some of which came free from the grout and had to be kicked under the tub. It was one of his oddities in solitude to break out in song and dance, to do queer things out of keeping with his customary earnestness. He danced out the number until the Polish commercial-"Ochyne-pynch-ochyne, Pynch Avenue, Flushing." He mimicked the announcer in the ivory yellow gloom of the tile bathroom-the water closet, as he anachronistically called it.
He was ready to go for another polka when he discovered, breathing hard, that the sweat was rolling down his sides, and that another dance would make a shower necessary. He didn't have the time or patience for that.
He couldn't bear the thought of drying himself-one of those killing chores he had always hated.
He put on clean drawers, socks. In stocking feet he trod the toes of his shoes to bring out a dull shine. Ramona did not like his taste in shoes. Before the window of the Bally shop on Madison Avenue she pointed at a pair of ankle-high Spanish boots and said, "That's what you need – those vicious looking black things." Smiling, she looked upward so that he was confronted by the brightness of her eyes. She had marvelous, slightly curved white teeth. Her lips would part and close over these significant teeth, and she had a short, curved, French nose, small and fine; hazel eyes; thick vivid black hair. The weight of her face was mainly in the lower part. A slight defect, in Herzog's view. Nothing serious.
"You want me to dress up like a flamenco dancer?" said Herzog.
"You ought to use a little imagination about clothes-encourage certain aspects of your character."
You would think – Herzog smiled broadly – he was a piece of human capital badly invested. To her surprise, perhaps, he agreed with her. Almost cheerfully, he agreed. Strength, intelligence, feeling, opportunity had been wasted on him. What he could not see, however, was that such Spanish shoes- which, by the way, greatly appealed to his childish taste-would improve his character. And we must improve. Must!

8. Joe 
p. 168 Sono Oguki and her geisha ways (818 words)
During the troubled time when he was being divorced from Daisy and he came to visit Sono in her West Side apartment, she would immediately run the little tub and fill it with Macy's bath salts. She unbuttoned Moses' shirt, took off his clothes, and when she had him settled ("Easy now, it's hot") in the swirling, foaming, perfumed water she let drop her petticoat and got in behind him, singing that vertical music of hers.
"Chin - chin
Je te lave le dos
Mon Mo-so."
As a young girl she had gone to live in Paris, and she was caught there by the War. She was down with pneumonia when the American troops entered and was still sick when she was repatriated via the Trans-Siberian Railroad. She no longer cared for Japan, she said; the West had spoiled her for life in Tokyo, and her rich father allowed her to study design in New York.
She told Herzog that she was not sure she believed in God, but that if he did she would also try to have faith. If on the other hand he was a Communist she was prepared to become one, too. Because "Les Japonaises sont tres fideles. Elles ne sont pas comme les Américaines. Bah!" Still, American women also amused her. She often entertained the Baptist ladies who were her sponsors with the Immigration Department. She prepared shrimp or raw fish for them or treated them to the tea ceremony. Moses sometimes sat waiting on the stoop of the brownstone opposite when the ladies were slow to leave. Sono with great enjoyment — she was greedy for intrigue (the abysses of female secrecy!) — would come to the window and give him the high sign, pretending to water her plants. She grew little ginkgo trees and cactuses in yoghurt containers.

On the West Side, she occupied three rooms with high ceilings; at the back there grew an ailanthus tree, and one of the front windows contained a giant air-conditioner; it must have weighed a ton. Fourteenth Street bargains filled the apartment — an overstuffed chesterfield, bronze screens, lamps, nylon drapes, masses of wax flowers, articles of wrought iron and twisted wire and glass. Here Sono went back and forth busily on bare feet, coming down on her heels sturdily. Her lovely body was covered unbecomingly in knee-length bargain negligées bought on the stands near Seventh Avenue. Every purchase involved her in a battle with the other bargain hunters. Excitedly holding her soft throat she would tell Herzog with sharp cries what had happened. "Chéri! J'avais déjà choisi mon tablier. Cette femme s'est foncée sur moi. Woo! Elle était noire! Moooan dieu! Et grande! Derriere immense. Immense poitrine. Et sans soutien-gorge. Tout à fait comme Niagara Fall. En chair noire." Sono puffed out her cheeks and crooked her arms as though suffocating with fat, thrusting out her belly, then displaying her rump. "Je disais, "No, no, leddy. I here first." Elle avait les bras comme ça – enflés. Et quelle gorge! Il y avait du monde au balcon. "No!" je disais. ‘No, no, leddy.’" Proudly Sono showed her nostrils, made her eyes heavy and dangerous. She set a hand on her hip. Herzog in the broken Morris chair from the Catholic Salvage said, "That's the stuff, Sono. They can't push the Samurai around on Fourteenth Street."

Abed, he had touched Sono's eyelids experimentally, as she lay smiling. Those strange, complex, soft, pale lids would keep the imprint of a touch for quite a while. To tell the truth, I never had it so good, he wrote. But I lacked the strength of character to bear such joy. That was hardly a joke. When a man's breast feels like a cage from which all the dark birds have flown — he is free, he is light. And he longs to have his vultures back again. He wants his customary struggles, his nameless, empty works, his anger, his afflictions and his sins. In this parlor of Oriental luxury, making a principled quest — principled, mind you — for life-giving pleasure, solving for Moses E. Herzog the puzzle of the body (curing himself of the fatal disorder of worldliness which rejects worldly happiness, this Western plague, this mental leprosy), he seemed to have found his object. But often he sat morose, depressed, in the Morris chair. Well, curse such sadness! But she liked even that. She saw me with the eyes of love, and she said, "Ah! T'es mélancolique — c'est très beau!" It may be that guilt and sadness made me look Oriental. A morose, angry eye, a long upper lip — what people used to call the Chinese Gleep. It was beau to her. And no wonder she thought I might be a Communist. The world should love lovers; but not theoreticians. Never theoreticians! Show them the door. Ladies, throw out these gloomy bastards! Hence, loathèd melancholy! In dark Cimmerian desart ever dwell.

9. Govind 
p.66  Herzog does not tire of writing letters in his imagination. Now he seriously considers making Ramona his third wife – for ‘She was understanding. Educated. Well situated in New York. Money. And sexually, a natural masterpiece.’
Dear Governor Stevenson, Herzog wrote, gripping his seat in the hurtling train, Just a word with you, friend. I supported you in 1952.
Like many others I thought this country might be ready for its great age in the world and intelligence at last assert itself in public affairs - a little more of Emerson's American Scholar, the intellectuals coming into their own. But the instinct of the people was to reject mentality and its images, ideas, perhaps mistrusting them as foreign. It preferred to put its trust in visible goods. So things go on as before with those who think a great deal and effect nothing, and those who think nothing evidently doing it all. You might as well be working for them, I suppose. I am sure the Coriolanus bit was painful, kissing the asses of the voters, especially in cold states like New Hampshire. Perhaps you did contribute something useful in the last decade, showing up the old-fashioned selfintensity of the "humanist," the look of the "intelligent man" grieving at the loss of his private life, sacrificed to public service. Bah! The general won because he expressed low-grade universal potato love.
Well, Herzog, what do you want? An angel from the skies? This train would run him over.
Dear Ramona, You mustn't think because I've taken a powder, briefly, that I don't care for you. I do! I feel you close about me, much of the time. And last week, at that party, when I saw you across the room in your hat with flowers, your hair crowded down close to your bright cheeks, I had a glimpse of what it might be like to love you.
He exclaimed mentally, Marry me! Be my wife! End my troubles!-and was staggered by his rashness, his weakness, and by the characteristic nature of such an outburst, for he saw how very neurotic and typical it was. We must be what we are. That is necessity. And what are we? Well, here he was trying to hold on to Ramona as he ran from her. And thinking that he was binding her, he bound himself, and the culmination of this clever goofiness might be to entrap himself. Self-development, self-realization, happiness-these were the titles under which these lunacies occurred. Ah, poor fellow!- and Herzog momentarily joined the objective world in looking down on himself. He too could smile at Herzog and despise him. But there still remained the fact. I am Herzog. I have to be that man. There is no one else to do it. After smiling, he must return to his own Self and see the thing through. But there was a brainstorm for you – the third Mrs. Herzog! This was what infantile fixations did to you, early traumata, which a man could not molt and leave empty on the bushes like a cicada. No true individual has existed yet, able to live, able to die. Only diseased, tragic, or dismal and ludicrous fools who sometimes hoped to achieve some ideal by fiat, by their great desire for it. But usually by bullying all mankind into believing them.
From many points of view, Ramona truly was a desirable wife. She was understanding. Educated.
Well situated in New York. Money. And sexually, a natural masterpiece. What breasts! Lovely ample shoulders. The belly deep. Legs brief and a little bowed but for that very reason especially attractive. It was all there. Only he was not through with love and hate elsewhere. Herzog had unfinished business. Dear Zinka, I dreamed about you last week. In my dream we were taking a walk in Ljubljana, and I had to get my ticket for Trieste. I was sorry to leave. But it was better for you that I should.
It was snowing. Actually, it did snow, not only in the dream. Even when I got to Venice. This year I covered half the world, and saw people in such numbers – it seems to me I saw everybody but the dead.
Whom perhaps I was looking for.
Dear Mr. Nehru, I think I have a most important thing to tell you. Dear Mr. King, The Negroes of Alabama filled me with admiration.
White America is in danger of being de-politicalized. Let us hope this example by Negroes will penetrate the hypnotic trance of the majority. The political question in modern democracies is one of the reality of public questions.
Should all of these become matters of fantasy the old political order is ended. I for one wish to go on record recognizing the moral dignity of your group. Not the Powells, who want to be as corrupt as white demagogues, nor the Muslims building on hate.
Dear Commissioner Wilson – I sat next to you at the Narcotics Conference last year –  Herzog, a stocky fellow, dark eyes, scar on his neck, grizzled, in an Ivy League suit (selected by his wife), a bad cut (far too youthful for my figure).
I wonder if you will allow me to make a few observations on your police force? It's not the fault of any single person that civil order can't be maintained in a community. But I am concerned. I have a small daughter who lives near Jackson Park, and you know as well as I do the parks are not properly policed. Gangs of hoodlums make it worth your life to go in.
Dear Mr. Alderman, Must the Army have its Nike missile site on the Point? Perfectly futile, I believe, obsolete, and taking up space.
Plenty of other sites in the city. Why not move this useless junk to some blighted area?
Quickly, quickly, more! The train rushed over the landscape. It swooped past New Haven. It ran with all its might toward Rhode Island. Herzog, now barely looking through the tinted, immovable, sealed window felt his eager, flying spirit streaming out, speaking, piercing, making clear judgments, uttering final explanations, necessary words only. He was in a whirling ecstasy. He felt at the same time that his judgments exposed the boundless, baseless bossiness and willfulness, the nagging embedded in his mental constitution. Dear Moses E. Herzog, Since when have you taken such an interest in social questions, in the external world? Until lately, you led a life of innocent sloth. But suddenly a Faustian spirit of discontent and universal reform descends on you.
Scolding. Invective.
Dear Sirs, The Information Service was kind enough to send a package from Belgrade containing articles of winter wear. I did not want to take my longjohns to Italy, the paradise of exiles, and regretted it. It was snowing when I got to Venice. I couldn't get into the vaporetto with my valise.


10. Ankush 
Three reflections on letter-writing followed by a recollection of old songs.
1. p.11
He knew his scribbling, his letter-writing, was ridiculous. It was involuntary.
His eccentricities had him in their power.
There is someone inside me. I am in his grip.
When I speak of him I feel him in my head, pounding for order. He will ruin me.
It has been reported, he wrote, that several teams of Russian Cosmonauts have been lost; disintegrated, we must assume. One was heard calling "SOS world SOS." Soviet confirmation has been withheld.
Dear Mama, As to why I haven't visited your grave in so long...
Dear Wanda, Dear Zinka, Dear Libbie, Dear Ramona, Dear Sono, I need help in the worst way. I am afraid of falling apart. Dear Edvig, the fact is that madness also has been denied me. I don't know why I should write to you at all. Dear Mr. President, Internal Revenue regulations will turn us into a nation of bookkeepers. The life of every citizen is becoming a business. This, it seems to me, is one of the worst interpretations of the meaning of human life history has ever seen. Man's life is not a business.
And how shall I sign this? thought Moses. Indignant citizen? Indignation is so wearing that one should reserve it for the main injustice.
Dear Daisy, he wrote to his first wife, I know it's my turn to visit Marco in camp on Parents' Day but this year I'm afraid my presence might disturb him. I have been writing to him, and keeping up with his activities.
2. p.66
Dear Sirs, The Information Service was kind enough to send a package from Belgrade containing articles of winter wear. I did not want to take my longjohns to Italy, the paradise of exiles, and regretted it. It was snowing when I got to Venice. I couldn't get into the vaporetto with my valise.
Dear Mr. Udall, A petroleum engineer I met recently in a Northwest (et told me our domestic oil reserves were almost used up and that plans had been completed for blasting the polar caps with hydrogen bombs to get at the oil beneath. What about that?
3. p.49
Dear Mr. President, 1 listened to your recent optimistic message on the radio and thought that in respect to taxes there was little to justify your optimism. The new legislation is highly discriminatory and many believe it will only aggravate unemployment problems by accelerating automation. This means that more adolescent gangs will dominate the under-policed streets of big cities.
Stresses of overpopulation, the race question ...
Dear Doktor Professor Heidegger, I should like to know what you mean by the expression "the fall of the quotidian." When did this fall occur? Where were we standing when it happened?
4.  p.174 He remembers some old songs
Ah, in the midst of such realizations, a man needs some comfort. Herzog once more set off on his visit to Ramona. As he stood at the door with the long metal shank of the police lock in his hand, his memory sought a certain song title. Was it "Just One More Kiss"? Not that. Nor "The Curse of an Aching Heart."
"Kiss Me Again." That was it. It struck him very funny, and laughter made him clumsy as he set up the complicated lock to protect his worldly goods. Three thousand million human beings exist, each with some possessions, each a microcosmos, each infinitely precious, each with a peculiar treasure. There is a distant garden where curious objects grow, and there, in a lovely dusk of green, the heart of Moses E. Herzog hangs like a peach.
I need this outing like a hole in the head, he thought as he turned the key. Still, he was going, wasn't he.
He was pocketing the key. And now ringing for the elevator. He listened to the sound of the power, the cables threshing. He went down alone, humming "Kiss Me," and trying to capture, as if it were an elusive fragile thread, the reason why these old songs were running through his head. Not the obvious reason. (he had an aching heart, was going forth to be kissed.) The recondite reason (if that was worth finding). He was glad to reach the open air, to breathe.
He dried the sweatband of the straw hat with his handkerchief-it was hot in the shaft. And who wore such a hat, such a blazer? Why, Lou Holtz, of course, the old vaudeville comic.
He sang, "I picked a lemon in the garden of love, where they say only peaches grow." Herzog's face again quickened with a smile. The old Oriental Theatre in Chicago. Three hours of entertainment for two bits.

1 comment:

Shipra said...

The Nov session, where we discussed Saul Bellow's Herzog, was one of the best sessions of the year 2014.
We read 6 great novels by remarkable authors in this year.
Thank you, dear members of KRG, for selecting these books. And, thank you Joe, for keeping a record of these sessions in your blog.
KumKum Cleetus