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Goshen Public Library and Historical Society

Across the Reference Desk

by Janet Hamill

October 25, 2000


New to Goshen Public Library and Historical Society is Ravelstein, Saul Bellow's thinly veild fictional memoir of Alan Bloom. Bellow and Bloo met when Bloom joined the faculty of the University of Chicago in the early seventies. Bellow, the senior of the two, was already a famous novelist when he befriended the brilliant professor of philosophy. A man of great intellectual integrity with a profound gift for teaching, Blook would be known only to academia until the publication of The Closing of the American Mind. According to Chick/Bellow, the narrator of Ravelstein, it was he who suggested to Ravelstein/Bloom that he write a book of his convictions about the ideas that sustain humankind and their dissembling in the university, the media, and public discourse. Much to everyone's surprise, The Closing of the American Mind was a runaway best seller and Bloom became a millionaire. It's a t this point that Ravelstein really begins. With his newfound wealth, Abe Ravelstein is able to indulge his exquisite tastes for the first time. He sets off for Paris to be suited by the finest tailors and dine at the finest restuarants. He asks Chick to join him and in the course of their celebratory trip the two share toughts on mortality, philosophy, history, love and basketball. Upon their return to Chicago, the mood turns somber, Ravelstein succumbs to AIDS and Chick himself nearly dies. Depply insightful, funny and entertaining, thought often digressively self-absorbed, Saul Bellow's Ravelstein is above all a moving elegy to friendship.

On the shelves of current nonfiction at the library is South Mountain Round, a beautifully written memoir b Hesper Anderson, the daughter of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Maxwell Anderson (Key Largo, The Bad Seed, Winterset, What Price Glory?). In 1953, Hesper Anderson was away at college when she received the phone call informing her that her beautiful, enigmatic mother had committed suicide. With the passing of Mab, a dominant yet alienating figure, Hesper knew her life had changed forever. What she didn't realize was the degree to which the death would set off a chain of discovery of family lies and deceptions. When Hesper Anderson returns to rural Rockland County, New York for her mother's funeral she begins a daughter's journey of discovery. In this wonderfully conceived story of a young girl's coming of age, Hesper Anderson brings to life the extraordinary artistic community that surrounded Maxwell Anderson, on South Mountain Road, in the shadow of High Tor. Shocking secrets, painful truths, and a broken heart are played out against a background of celebrated family, friends, and neighbors, including Kurt Weill, Lotte Lenya, and Alan Jay Lerner.