For all his easy invocation of life, death, love, fear, wisdom, and truth, Henderson never betrays the slightest symptom of knowing what he is talking about.
Years ago, I studied African ethnography with the late Professor Herskovits. Later he scolded me for writing a book like Henderson. He said the subject was much too serious for such fooling. I felt that my fooling was fairly serious. Literalism, factualism, will smother the imagination altogether.
Henderson the Rain King is a fantasia on the theme of Hemingway in Africa.
Were Henderson not such a bumblingly charming protagonist, Bellow’s philosophizing would have been nauseating. But tongue in cheek it’s hilarious, lovable and, of all things, thought-provoking.— Brian Flanagan