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Seize the Day - Saul Bellow

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Genre: Fiction

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      20.08.2010 13:37
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      One of the twentieth century's truly great novellas from an important prose stylist.

      Seize The Day

      Enjoyed this recently. Good book. I like the way the main character knows he's in the company of a confidence trickster but chooses to believe in him anyway. Because he needs money to pay his wife. Because he needs a surrogate for his father. He scrutinizes the deception every step of the way but still gets taken in. That's why the conman picks him as a mark and knows what to tell him. And there's a metaphor too for the act of reading a book. I believe this bit. I don't believe that. But overall the author carries you for the ride and even encourages your scepticism to win your faith in the pay off.

      It's a compact book but the ideas are well chosen and extremely complimentary. For example, the guy is part financial investor, part psychiatrist. It's intimated that he's able to excel in these fields because he's free from having any personal investment in the lives of those he assists. Without minding the consequences it's possible to seize the day. There's an irony that if the money handed over to this guy was in exchange for all the psychological insight he divulges, instead of an investment with an expected return, then maybe it would be a fair bargain. Two conflicting notions of growth and interest. At times it's unclear what the conman's role is and indeed he switches between them. Yet there's some struggle within him too, which comes to light in his poem which he reads. There's a self-contradicting awareness that to really seize the day is not to free oneself of consequences of past and future but to let them have unity with the self in the moment at all times and to be in possession of oneself. Another irony that the main character then collapses into grief at a funeral of a man he does not know and as such looks perfectly the part despite not being invested in the consequences at all. Strange too his disdainful commentary on social obsessions with money whilst being utterly obsessed with making money himself. Though of course this in turn is a subterfuge for his relationship with his father and his wife. Freedom, money, these are things he cannot seize until the day he stops grasping so hard. And by then all that's left for him to seize is grief.

      A very well worked set of motifs though I feel I must read the book again sometime to uncover all of it. I first picked it up the morning after a friend's wedding party two years ago but only had time for a few pages. Bought a copy in a charity shop earlier this year and read it on Sunday. Bellow writes exquisite prose and uses some interesting stylistic shifts to good effect. He doesn't overstate his themes and lets them rise naturally to the reader's attention. I only paused a couple of times to note down some story ideas of my own which occurred to me part in thanks to the structure of what the author was doing. Thoroughly enjoyable 120 page book that I read relatively slowly.

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        08.09.2003 04:03
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        This review is about a book called "The Victim" (1947) by Saul Bellow. I wrote a dissertation on this book and so thought that I would share my thoughts and opinions with others. The book costs £7.99 and is published by Penguin. I would like to start by saying that if you like a plot that changes rapidly and get easily bored by a novel that has a continuing scene, or dislike a book where all the chapters have a similar feel or setting, then this novel is not for you. Indeed, some students in my class complained that "this book was not about anything". However, in my opinion, this book is rich with action, is humourous and is a worthwhile read. The protaganist in the novel (Asa Leventhal) is a rather lonely and physically distinctive Jew residing in America. His life becomes almost humourously entangled with the life of a White Anglo Saxon Protestant (a WASP), by the name of Kirby Allbee. Allbee "appears" in Leventhal's flat and makes him feel as if he is responisble and guilty for his (Allbee's) downfall in life. Although some people regard this book as not having a plot, I feel that the lack of plot should force us into focusing on the relationship bewteen the Allbee and Leventhal. This relationship prompts us to question and recognise the perculiar, frightening and lonely life that some Jews lead in the post war era in America. Bellow teaches us of this dystopian world by his use of subtle and oblique humour. We laugh at the nonsensical way in which the Jew is heckled and bought down by the presence of "an other", in the case, the character of Allbee. The book also teaches us of the problems associated with constantly trying to confom to some sort of ideal norm. In actuality, Bellow shows us that there is no norm and by constantly letting our life be ruled by some sort of "other", the more endangered and vulnerbale we become. So take a read of this book with an open mind
        . Recognise the characters as being symbols for something in American society, and look beyond the actual happenings in the novel to realise that the author is trying to make some important and valuable comments. Bellow won the Nobel Prize for literature. An author who wins this is surely worth a read. To all those who think his book was about nothing, would he really win this prize if it were?

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      • Product Details

        Fading charmer Tommy Wilhelm has reached his day of reckoning and is scared. In his 40s, he still retains a boyish impetuousness that has brought him to the brink of havoc. In the course of one climatic day, he he reviews his past mistakes and spiritual malaise.