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Humboldt's Gift | [Saul Bellow]

Humboldt's Gift

For years, they were the best of friends: the grand, erratic Humboldt and the ambitious young Charlie. But now Humboldt has died a failure, and Charlie's success-ridden life has taken various turns for the worse. Then Humboldt acts from the grave to change Charlie's life: he has left Charlie something in his will.
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Publisher's Summary

For years, they were the best of friends: the grand, erratic Humboldt and the ambitious young Charlie. But now Humboldt has died a failure, and Charlie's success-ridden life has taken various turns for the worse. Then Humboldt acts from the grave to change Charlie's life: he has left Charlie something in his will.

©1973 Saul Bellow; (P)1992 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.6 (81 )
5 star
 (24)
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3 star
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2 star
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Overall
3.6 (28 )
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Story
4.0 (27 )
5 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Scott San Francisco, CA, USA 05-10-08
    Scott San Francisco, CA, USA 05-10-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
    13
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    "Great Book, Great Reader"

    This is a wonderful and compelling reading of a very good book: one that would be very easy to ruin with an unintelligent interpretation.

    No, there is not a lot of "plot" per se and it is highly discursive: welcome to Bellow's world! There's a passage of several pages where Charlie considers the subject of productive inactivity from every possible angle, which struck me as almost a manifesto for the technique of the novel itself. Events in the outside world mainly serve to prompt ruminating, reflecting, and reminiscing.

    But make no mistake: there is in fact a story, it features great, colorful characters, it's told in beautiful language, and it's very entertaining all the way through. It made me laugh out loud all the time. And finally, countless little plot threads that have meandered through the text for hours all get neatly tied up into a satisfying screwball ending.

    But the book is not really about the destination. It's about the journey. The book is drenched with warm-hearted nostalgia, and a comprehensive generosity of spirit that is hard to find anywhere in the world, at any time. Charlie Citrine makes the world a bigger and friendlier place to be.

    And again, this reader is probably the best possible reader they could have chosen for the part. I plan to give this book a second and third listen in the future. This definitely ranks up there with Ron Silver's reading of American Pastoral, George Guidall's reading of Zorba the Greek, and Donal Donelly's reading of Dubliners as one of the best audiobook performances I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing.

    13 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Richard San Francisco, CA, United States 03-31-08
    Richard San Francisco, CA, United States 03-31-08 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
    20
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    "Masterful language"

    Thickly spread with self-reflection, this story seems to move slowly, but each aside engrosses the reader and moves the story along. Filled with social commentary that will sparkle for decades.

    The reader is tireless and without error. He renders the first-person Charlie in a believable and consistent voice.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Pip Tauranga, New Zealand 02-11-13
    Pip Tauranga, New Zealand 02-11-13 Member Since 2012
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    REVIEWS
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    Story
    "That fellow Bellow"
    Where does Humboldt's Gift rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    In terms of the quality of the reader, very good, but the book is long winded and repetitive.


    What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

    An elegant conclusion left a feeling of satisfaction.


    What about Christopher Hurt’s performance did you like?

    He had a pleasant voice which suited the narrator.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    Navel gazing galore!


    Any additional comments?

    Bellow's hero is a mid twentieth century author not too dissimilar from himself. His quest for truth requires introspection rather than action, but a glorious list of writers and philosophers are bit players in the story.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    09-27-11
    09-27-11 Member Since 2009
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    "#1 Classic"

    Wait... you do know who wrote this right? This is Saul Bellow. There's no way you're not going to read this, even if it IS with your ears.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert Berkley, MI, USA 02-20-10
    Robert Berkley, MI, USA 02-20-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "The worst narrator, ever"

    The first audio book I've not been able to finish. The narration is so bad that I found myself struggling to understand what he says. He drops the ends of words, trails away at the ends sentences, and makes the listener work to parse out what he's saying. Listen to the sample - when I first heard this bit on my iPhone, I couldn't tell if he was talking about "the melancholy of affluence" or "the melancholy of Athens"! Too many instances like this make you too aware of the narrator and knock you out of the story. A shame.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    05-06-09
    05-06-09 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
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    4
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    "Humbolt's Gift, Saul Bellow"

    The pace of this book is pedestrian at best with the main character rather self absorbed and brooding. The relationships tend to be self serving and hedonistic. I found the reading experiance left me depressed and hollow. While the main character, Charlie, had many redeeming qualities he seemed to have no spiritual foundation or sense of where these moral imperatives came from. Even with all his introspective broodings he was clueless about why he acted the way he did or was offended by the actions of the other characters when they crossed certain moral boundries.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John Richmond, VA, USA 08-23-08
    John Richmond, VA, USA 08-23-08 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Not so great."

    This is one of the very few aduiobooks I haven't enjoyed. I nearly stopped partway through, because the story is so tedious. I'm surprised it's so highly regarded. I found it indulgent and pompous. The reader, as I recall -- it's been some time now since I read it -- was neither great nor terrible, just sort of okay. One recognizes the erudition of the author, but wishes he had reined it in some to develop characters we could care more about.

    1 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Douglas New Rochelle, NY, USA 03-07-08
    Douglas New Rochelle, NY, USA 03-07-08 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    39
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    "Not as good as Herzog"

    Too preachy and intellectual. Not a bad story, but quite long. I prefer Herzog, buy the same author.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Pamela J. Cope Lake Forest Park, WA United States 07-04-09
    Pamela J. Cope Lake Forest Park, WA United States 07-04-09 Member Since 2008

    I Love Olive

    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
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    "what is the gift???"

    I kept listening, waiting for something to happen. Nothng ever did. what a disappointing waste.

    1 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-9 of 9 results
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  • Mike
    Beckenham, Kent, United Kingdom
    3/20/08
    Overall
    "Worth the effort"

    On reflection, this was quite a remarkable book. At first, I really struggled to follow the narrative, as there were so many tangential strands of the story and I was in serious danger of giving up. However, I'm really glad I stayed with it and I would advise just relaxing and not worrying about trying to find the 'real' plot - just enjoy Bellow's flights of intellectual fancy and allow yourself to wallow in the sublime turns of phrase and the incredible descriptive depths he goes to. I think he won the Nobel prize for this book and you can understand why. It really does become utterly engrossing at times and, despite his oft atrocious over-intellectualising, Charlie Citrine (having to guess at spellings, is one downside of audible books!) becomes truly vivid and lifelike.
    I'm not well-up on my regional American accents, but the reader did a great job and seemed to bring a genuine Chicago-feel to the whole novel. Different characters were effortlessly portrayed with only the slightest of vocal changes and the intricacies of the fairly taxing philosophising were navigated as well as possible.
    All in all, I was genuinely saddened when the book came to its predictably unpredictable end. Beautiful.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Tom
    West Wickham, United Kingdom
    5/31/10
    Overall
    "A Great Novel"

    I remember struggling with Saul Bellow at school - Henderson the Rain King, I think it was. So I approached this book with some trepidation. But it is excellent - I love that sharp fluid prose of the best American writers. The novel itself is what you would call multi-layered. The story itself is quite interesting but what really makes the book is the clever way the author juxtaposes the storyline with the philosophical musings of the two main characters; at the beginning I could not believe that the author was being so serious, but by the end the subtlety of the presentation became more clear. The contrast between the main narrator's serious approach to matters intellectual and the seemingly luckless course if his life, and how the two are eventually reconciled is done with great generosity of heart. I loved it.

    The narration is beautifully paced and does a great deal to bring out what the book is about.

    Warmly recommended.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • S
    Southampton, United Kingdom
    7/7/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Eat my words"

    That’s what the narrator seems to like to do. Perhaps it’s just me, or that I listen to audiobooks on my headphones and am sensitive to the dynamic range I should subject my ears to, but he eats words up, rendering them inaudible. The prosodic contours that the narrator chooses to parse the cadences of Saul Bellow’s masterly writing plunges the trailing bits of nearly every unit of diction below my audible threshold. This is quite annoying as it makes me lose words that have been carefully chosen by the author, or crank up the volume, in which case his voice takes on a piercing rasp which is also a source of discomfort. I persisted with this for a while, taking it in in short stretches, but I am strongly inclined to return the audiobook and pick up the paperback instead. I have nothing negative to say about the novel, but then this is one of Bellow’s famous works....

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-3 of 3 results

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