Henderson the Rain King

Henderson the Rain King by Saul Bellow (1956). Bellow’s characters often stumble along comic paths toward equilibrium, and none of the Nobel laureate’s creations is more rollicking than Eugene Henderson. A multimillionaire cut loose in Africa, Henderson is a portrait of human striving, with his battle cry: “I want, I want, I want.” We follow him off the beaten tourist path, watching him blow up a cistern filled with frogs, make friends with a lioness, and be crowned the Rain King after he seems to end a long drought. As always with Bellow, comedy is the handmaiden of an ultimate optimism. “I am a true adorer of life,” Henderson says, “and if I can’t reach as high as the face of it, I plant my kiss somewhere lower down.”

Total Points: 5 (EC 5)