Study Guide

Herzog Writing Style

By Saul Bellow

Writing Style

Poetic and Intellectual

There's a reason why critics in 1964 hailed Saul Bellow as one of the best fiction writers in America. It's because the guy knows how to put together a sentence or two and create an atmosphere. Just check out this line about Herzog walking in New York:

It was the normal hour for bats swooping raggedly (Ludeyville), or pieces of paper (New York) to remind Herzog of bats. An escaped balloon was fleeing like a sperm, black and quick into the orange dust of the west. (5.145)

How's that for vivid writing? Can't you just hear those fluttering papers and see that balloon floating off into the evening sky? Can't you just feel Herzog's sense of the absurdity of existence (and his horniness, sure) when he compares the balloon to a disappearing sperm?

But for all the novel's poetry, Bellow doesn't hold back on being an intellectual either. He expects quite a bit from his readers, which is why one New York Times book reviewer wrote,

After Herzog no writer need pretend in his fiction that his education stopped in the eighth grade. (Source)

This critic is tired of writers dumbing down their language to make readers more comfortable. And Bellow's language is dumb like a fox: Bellow does not skimp on the SAT vocabulary, dense philosophical contemplation, or allusions to famous dead dudes.

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