To start at the end, I now know that this book is refers to a real person and that the book has raised many controversial issues. But frankly, I don’t think the point of this book is to discuss an attack on liberal arts university education in the USA, the AIDS epidemic in the past and lifestyle choices or just to present a very unusual, larger than life character.
I think is a book about friendship.
It is about having a friend who has become an inseparable part of your life, and then having to deal with the empty space you are left with when that friend is gone.
It remind me of the book by Ann Patchett – “Truth and Beauty”.
In both books the friend in question is not an easy friend to have and actually complicates ones life. Yet not being a close friend of this person is unimaginable. In both books the friend passes away.
Saul Bellow’s book is a much slower read than Patchett’s and it’s constructed in a kind of circular fashion. You encounter some events more than once but with additional information. The style only becomes a direct chronological narrative of events after “the friend” passes away.
It took me time to get into this book (and figure out what it is about) but there’s something about the writing that made want to continue reading, though I can’t say what it was. It is a somewhat strange book but I’m glad I read it.