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Abe Ravelstein is a brilliant professor at a prominent Midwestern university and a man who glories in training the movers-and-shakers of the political world. He has lived grandly and ferociously -- and well beyond his means. His close friend Chick, a writer, has suggested that he pen a book encapsulating his ideas, and much to Ravelstein's surprise he and becomes a bestselling millionaire. Ravelstein suggests in turn that Chick write a biography of him, and during the course of a celebratory trip to Paris, Chick plays Boswell to Ravelstein's Johnson, narrating their life stories as the two share thoughts on mortality, philosophy and history, old loves, old suits, and old jokes. The mood turns more somber once they have returned to the midwest and Ravelstein succumbs to AIDS, yet this affectionate portrait of friendship remains by turn deeply insightful and always moving, as Chick himself faces his own brush with death.
Saul Bellow's new novel is a journey through memory and friendship. It is brave, dark and bleakly funny: an elegy to friendship and to lives well lived.