Fading charmer, Tommy Wilhelm has reached his day of reckoning and is scared. In his forties, he still retains a boyish impetuousness that has ...Show synopsisFading charmer, Tommy Wilhelm has reached his day of reckoning and is scared. In his forties, he still retains a boyish impetuousness that has brought him to the brink of chaos: he is separated from his wife and children, at odds with his vain, successful father, failed in his acting career (a Hollywood agent once placed him as the type that loses the girl') and in a financial mess. In the course of one climactic day, he reviews his past mistakes and spiritual malaise, until a mysterious, philosophizing con man grants him a glorious, illuminating moment of truth and understanding, and offers him one last hope.Hide synopsis
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Saul Bellow's Seize the Day is a Portrait of the Artist as a Young Schlemiel--or failed actor. It follows a day in the life of Tommy Wilhelm who teeters on the abyss, his marriage on the rocks, who is alienated from his father, out of work, and close to financial ruin. Bellow's prose is quirky and eccentric, and his tone tragicomic. Norman Mailer has called it unfairly the first of the "cancer novels," yet Wilhelm is a figure of such pathos that the novel doesn't fully rise to the level of tragedy. Leslie Fieldler has noted that Bellow's sense of the absurd is influenced by Nathanael West, author of Miss Lonelyhearts and Day of the Locust. Even after the awarding of the Nobel Prize, Bellow himself has seemed an equivocal figure in American letters, perhaps because his novels are refractions of a University of Chicago intellectual's perspective--and reaches a pitch of sourness and bile in Mr. Sammler's Planet--for whom questions of Jewish identity have been at times peripheral. This reader's appreciation of Bellow's work has been qualified at best, and I don't pretend to be an unabashed fan.
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