Towards the end of Saul Bellow’s Humboldt’s Gift (1975), at the poet Von Humboldt Fleisher’s funeral on an April day in Chicago, Menasha Klinger, one of three mourners, points to a spring flower and asks Charlie Citrine, the novel’s narrator, to identify it. ‘Search me,’ Citrine replies, ‘I’m a city boy myself. They must be crocuses.’ This exchange has stayed with me for some thirty-five years. I, too, am a city boy, and couldn’t identify a crocus if I saw one.
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by Roger McDonald
Vintage, $32.95 pb, 263 pp, 9781742759913
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