47-year-old cultural scholar Moses Herzog has been kicked out of his house by his second wife, the beautiful and heartless Madeleine, and is now going through his version of a nervous breakdown--jobless (he'd abandoned his university position so Madeleine could relocate them to go back to school), friendless (Madeleine is now living with his ex-best friend, with whom she and his ex-shrink and ex-lawyer conspired to get her sole custody of his daughter), in a fantastic amount of debt (Madeleine continues to send her credit card bills to him, and he's sunk all his inheritance into the crumbling Berkshires cottage she made him buy), Herzog reconciles himself with his life by writing letters he'll never send to friends, acquaintances, strangers, celebrities, even dead philosophers.
Herzog was first published in 1964, and, from what I've heard and read, seems to be the peak product of Saul Bellow's literary career. Through the (I'm guessing) autobiographical gaze of the cerebral and emotional middle-aged Herzog, Saul Bellow really lets all his opinions about humanity, life, death, relationships, and meaningful pursuits unleash themselves on his reader, packing them into an extraordinarily thought-provoking novel. Although the plot is fairly minimal, there is rather more of a narrative drive than in some of his other books, making Herzog a little a more accessible.
If you haven't read Bellow before, I would say that his style is either for you or it's not. I can't go gallivanting through his novels; I really have to take my time, and often get frustrating with the characters, who are deeply (and self-indulgently) reflective and often extremely flawed. I've found, however, that my take-home feeling from his books is always very positive--I feel like my brain is sharper, and like I've learned something (or a lot of things) about human nature. Herzog has been, so far, my favorite (out of Henderson the Rain King, More Die of Heartbreak, and Ravelstein. I still have The Adventures of Augie March on my Gaps list, and I suspect I'll continue to read his books (maybe staggering them by a couple years or so, as I do!) so I'd be interested to hear if anyone else has read any others, and what your thoughts are.