Put simply, Bellow's new novel is about a distinguished botanist who in middle age is driven by his libido into making a bad marriage. Put thematically, it's about the pursuit of happiness, which all too frequently results only in the acceptance of unhappiness. As in all Bellow's novels since Herzog , philosophical speculation is as important as plot, if not more so. Here Bellow dwells on the cult of sex in contemporary culture, as well as such soul-diminishing demands as the drives for power, wealth, and prestige. For him this entails an ordeal of desire from which the West is suffering as surely as the East suffers from an ordeal of privation. Serious stuff, certainly, but it is Bellow's genius that he can present a provocative novel of ideas as a riotous comedy. Ample proof that Bellow remains one of our most significant writers, the comic sage of American letters.Charles Michaud, Turner Free Lib., Randolph, Mass.