From the bestselling author of The Sixteen Pleasures comes an unforgettable novel about a man's search for meaning, in the tradition of Louis Begley's About Schmidt and Evan Connell's Mr. Bridge.
Rudy Harrington has spent half his life in a rambling Chicago house, raising three daughters with his independent-minded wife. But his wife has died, his daughters have moved away, and Rudy is restless. In what he interprets as a moment of transcendent vision, he puts the family home up for sale and buys an avocado grove in Texas. While adapting to his new vocation, new home, and new friends, Rudy takes up a book--Philosophy Made Simple--and begins to struggle with Plato and Aristotle, Hume and Schopenhauer. His newly acquired wisdom is put to the test when he enlists the neighborhood elephant to preside over his daughter's Hindu wedding and falls in love with the groom's mother.
Hellenga brings back characters from his bestselling The Sixteen Pleasures and introduces many compelling new ones--including the elephant, who paints--in a novel that illuminates our deepest concerns: love and death, marriage and family, and the mysterious tug of beauty on the human heart.
Allegory of the Cave
Rudy took up philosophy late in life. He wanted some answers, an explanation, or at least a chance to ponder the great mysteries, before it was too late - love and death, the meaning and purpose of human existence, moments of vision, the voice of God, the manifest indifference of the material universe to injustice and suffering, the insanity of war, the mysterious tug of beauty on the human heart. What did he know about these things? Not a lot. But something. He'd never had a college education. He'd turned down a basketball scholarship at Michigan State University in order to go to work for Harry Becker up in Chicago. But he hadn't peddled avocados for thirty years on the South Water Street Market without learning a thing or two about life, and Helen, his wife, had practiced all her lectures on him when she'd started teaching art history at Edgar Lee Masters, dropping her slides one at a time into the projector on the dining room table, the front ...
It's a quietly funny story set in the late 1960s, and very well observed. If you read and enjoyed books such as The Poet of Tolstoy Park or The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency series, then Robert Hellenga's latest is a shoe-in for you.
(Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
Full Review (469 words).
This is Hellenga's fourth novel following The Sixteen Pleasures (1994),
The Fall of a Sparrow (1998), and Blues Lessons (2002). Set
in the late 1960s, Philosophy Made Simple shares many of the same
characters as The Sixteen Pleasures, but it is certainly not necessary to
have read the earlier book to enjoy the latter. Having said that, if you're interested to know what came before, below is a brief summary of The Sixteen Pleasures.
About The Sixteen Pleasures
Margot (one of Rudy's daughters) gave up her place at Harvard to care for her ailing mother. Now, at 29, this librarian and book conservator answers the call for volunteers to help Florence save its art treasures from the rapidly flooding Arno River (1966). While ...
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