Seize the Day

Seize the Day

3.53 (11,529 ratings by Goodreads)
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3.53 (11,529 ratings by Goodreads)
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Fading 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 ...
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Product details

  • Paperback | 128 pages
  • 129 x 198 x 7mm | 100g
  • Penguin Classics
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 9780141184852
  • 53,704

Review Text

A profoundly true image of human existence . . . This is the intense world of the ordinary, about to burst forth into the radiance of consciousness
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Review quote

A profoundly true image of human existence . . . This is the intense world of the ordinary, about to burst forth into the radiance of consciousness * The New York Times * What makes all of this so remarkable is not merely Bellow's eye and ear for vital detail. Nor is it his talent for exposing the innards of character in a paragraph, a sentence, a phrase. It is Bellow's vision, his uncanny ability to seize the moment and to see beyond it * Chicago Times * A small masterpiece...I enjoy Saul Bellow in his spreading carnivals and wonder at his energy -- V.S. Pritchett Bellow's pre-eminence rests not on sales figures and honorary degrees, not on rosettes and sashes, but on incontestable legitimacy. To hold otherwise is to waste your breath. Bellow sees more than we see - sees, hears, smells, tastes, touches... Bellow will emerge as the supreme American novelist. The only American who gives Bellow any serious trouble is Henry James -- Martin Amis Saul Bellow was a brilliant man, a master of English prose and supreme chronicler of modernity and its torments. -- Ian McEwan It is the special distinction of Mr. Bellow as a novelist that he is able to give us, step by step, the world we really live each day -- and in the same movement to show us that the real suffering of not understanding, the deprivation of light. It is this double gift that explains the unusual contribution he is making to our fiction * The New York Times * Saul Bellow was the American writer supreme . . . our most exuberant and melodious postwar novelist -- John Updike
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About Saul Bellow

Saul Bellow's dazzling career as a novelist was celebrated during his lifetime with an unprecedented array of literary prizes and awards, including the Pulitzer Prize, three National Book Awards, and the Gold Medal for the Novel. In 1976 he was awarded a Nobel Prize 'for the human understanding and subtle analysis of contemporary culture that are combined in his work'.

Bellow's death in 2005 was met with tribute from writers and critics around the world, including James Wood, who praised 'the beauty of this writing, its music, its high lyricism, its firm but luxurious pleasure in language itself'.
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Rating details

11,529 ratings
3.53 out of 5 stars
5 16% (1,878)
4 36% (4,192)
3 34% (3,931)
2 11% (1,237)
1 3% (291)

Our customer reviews

I've never been a fan of the Big Men of postwar American letters - Mailer/Roth/Updike, and for some reason I had put Bellow in the same basket, unread. Eventually some awareness of his cultural importance trickled down to me, and when the blurb on the back of Seize The Day screamed at me: One of the finest short novels in the language, I could resist no longer, and at 120 pages had nothing to lose. Tommy Wilhelm is the prototype of a kind of pathetic male character, infuriatingly impotent, and at whom we laugh uncomfortably, that is near-ubiquitous in modern literature, from Paul Auster to Martin Amis. He inhabits an insular milieu of upper-west Manhattan in the 50s, which I found strange and fascinating - amongst people who live in hotels and spend their days speculating on commodities. Trapped, as he sees it, between an uncaring father and a cruel ex-wife (no-one has ever understood poor Tommy), we witness him being systematically fleeced of his last savings by a metaphysically-inclined grifter, whilst getting a potted biography via his alternately self-pitying and self-loathing interior monologue. Apart from a few city vignettes, some half-baked philosophising, and lots of drinking and pill-popping, this is all we get, but it is enough. Bellow's writing has a visceral quality - of the sweaty pores and dirty sheets variety - that is a pleasing counterpoint to the gentility of his characters and setting. The pithiness of the narrative, it's tone of almost-satire, and concern with the basic pathology of the male psyche, reminded me a lot of Day of the Locust. The con-man's didactic monologues have a tacked-on feel, but overall the narrative is well-controlled and thus makes a powerful impression. So it is funny, timeless, canonical and brief - read more
by Sholto Spradbury
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