Saturday, November 23, 2013

Seize the Day by Saul Bellow

Seize the Day by Saul Bellow is on The Well-Educated Mind list, and normally I would post my answers to three really big questions about the book; however, today I am just going to wrap it up with a grammar stage review.

Seize the Day covers one day in the life of Tommy Wilhelm who is experiencing more than just a bad day; he's having a bad life.  He is a failed actor, unemployed and broke, estranged from his wife (who refuses to give him a divorce and always demands more money), feels unloved by his aging father, and knows he is being lied to by an associate who loses Wilhelm's money in a financial scheme.  Wilhelm makes one bad decision after another, even when his conscience tells him otherwise. He has a bleak picture of himself and often focuses on his own suffering.

Throughout the story he has periods of internal conflict: he emotionally and verbally berates himself; he feels completely secluded from the world and frets that no one understands or cares about him; and he is conflicted about how he should appear to the world.  

This is his day of reckoning, and at the very end of the story, he succumbs to his pity and has a meltdown, sobbing over his discovery. 

Will he forever be depressed, continue to make his mistakes, and just suffer through life feeling sorry for himself? Or will he turn over a new leaf and get a life finally?  
I cannot say.

Sorry to be so harsh, but I find it difficult to accept a grown man trying to find himself. Mistakes are a part of life, but they should not prevent us from living responsibly.  And adults should not have to worry so much about how others perceive them.  It is too bad that "Wilky" needed to spend half his life figuring that out.  

Saul Bellow
Aside from the story, the most important aspect about Seize the Day is Saul Bellow's masterful ability to weave metaphors and symbols throughout the story. I cannot tell what they all mean, but they are frequent and obvious. If you are working toward becoming a great writer, Bellow's works should be included in your studies. 

Bellow also uses a lot of psychology and philosophy, and I admit, this little novel was over my head and beyond my  comprehension. But unlike "Wilky," I am not going to throw a tantrum over my lack of understanding.  I probably will just do some research and get over it.

Overall, I liked this little book, and I'll probably keep it in the back of my mind for a while to consider the author's arguments.  I may even want to reread it someday.   As small as it is, it offers a lot to think about.


Cleo said...

Sorry to be so harsh, but I find it difficult to accept a grown man trying to find himself. Mistakes are a part of life, but they should not prevent us from living responsibly.

I had to laugh at your first sentence :-D, but your second one is so true. I felt the same way after reading The Catcher in the Rye. I wanted to say, "Good grief ……. put on your big-boy pants and grow up."

It's difficult reading a book where the main character, whom you as a reader are supposed to invest effort and time getting to know, keeps making mistake after mistake, does not develop one bit and does not respond to any internal or external correction. You certainly have my sympathy!

I will get around to this book one day, however, when I begin to make my way through the WEM list!

Ruth said...

Well, you said it better: "put on those big-boy pants..."

I enjoyed Bellow's writing style, but why his main character was so child-like is what I did not understand.

Great - Catcher in the Rye is on my TBR list, and I keep seeing it everywhere.

Unknown said...

Surely Robert Stone is one of the best writers of individual scenes in all of our literature – think of the scene in A Flag for Sunrise where Tabor shoots his dogs, or in Children of Light where members of a film crew mistake the phrase “Bosch’s Garden” for “Butch’s Garden”, which they speculate is an S&M joint in Los Angeles.