In this superb work of fiction, Nobel Laureate Saul Bellow writes comically and wisely about the tenacious claims of first love. Harry Trellman, an aging, astute businessman, has never belonged anywhere and is as awkward in his human attachments as he is gifted in observing the people around him. But Harry?s observational talents have not gone unnoticed by ?trillionaire? Sigmund Adletsky, who retains Harry as his advisor. Soon the old man discovers Harry?s intense forty-year passion for a twice-divorced interior designer, Amy Wustrin. At the exhumation and reburial of her husband, Harry is provided, thanks to Sigmund, perhaps the final means for disclosing feelings amassed over a lifetime. Written late in Bellow?s career, The Actual is a maestro?s dissection of the affairs of the heart.
Brilliant, until the last line
By firstname.lastname@example.org - March 27, 1998
While there is little disputing Saul Bellow's remarkable gifts at capturing reality and creating amazingly dense and believable characters, I find it a bit disheartening to believe that this truly gifted writer has grown trite in his old age. Without giving it away, the ending to this novella is simply devastating. All of the depth and beauty of this story is lost, for me, in one line. I find it equally dissappointing to discover the Saul Bellow suffers from, what I like to refer to as, the Fitzgerald syndrome. That is to say that the main characters in all his stories seem to be, roughly, the same person. Harry Tellman, in this story, seems to be Eugene Henderson (the Rain King) and Tommy Wilhelm ("Seize the Day") revisited. My recommendation, read the story, because it is quite good, just skip the last line.
An engaging book for the modern old-folk in us
By Eugene G. Barnes - April 2, 1998
A man moves back home to Chicago and into semi-retirement. We all have ghosts from our past, but Harry's ghosts, we come to understand, revolve around a lady he has known since junior high. As he reconciles himself to his past, and to these ghosts, Harry arrives gracefully, bravely, at the only logical conclusion there is for him. The journey there is pure poetry, and Bellow's work in the smaller novella form is a gift to us all. We need to cherish this book and learn its quiet, solid lessons. I read it twice straight through so I could savor its opening pages all the more.
Slow Start, But Stronger Finish
By J. Robinson - December 10, 2005
I am a Bellow fan and have read 12 of his 13 novels, and created an amazon guide: "A Guide to Reading Saul Bellow."
In case you are new to Bellow, his novels reflect his life, his writings, and his five marriages during his five active decades of writing. He hit his peak somewhere around the time of "Augie March" in 1953 and continued through to the Pulitzer novel "Humbolt's Gift" in 1973. He wrote from the early 1940s through to 2000. His novels are written in a narrative form, and the main character is a Jewish male, usually a writer but not always, and he is living in either in New York or Chicago. Bellow wrote approximately 13 novels plus other works. Bellow progressed a long way as a writer over the five decades. This story was written near the end of his career in 1997 and is nothing like the early novels "Dangling Man" or "The Victim" written 50 years earlier. Those were heavy slow reads. "Dangling Man" is often boring, and Bellow was in search of his writing style... read more
An impressive assembly of prose and poems from the first truly American poet. When Walt Whitman self-published Leaves of Grass in 1855 it was a slim volume of twelve poems and he was a journalist and ...