Seize the Day

ISBN: 0142437611
ISBN 13: 9780142437612
By: Saul Bellow Cynthia Ozick

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About this book

Deftly interweaving humor and pathos, Saul Bellow evokes in the climactic events of one day the full drama of one man's search to affirm his own worth and humanity.

Reader's Thoughts


Though I wasn't sure what to think of it when I started it, by the end of the book I came to like it.It's not easy to decide wether you like the main character or you hate it - at least for me it wasn't. I had to thoroughly think about his qualities and his deffects in order to see him in his complexity. After all that, I made my decision - I would not make a decision. I thought it best to remain impartial, and not pronounce on the matter.I had many times heard that Saul Bellow was one of the biggest writers that America had given to the world, and I have to agree with that. He has a different pattern, an unique talent to portray people and places (but mainly people) by full description in few words. All in all, a good read which I recommend to everyone!


Bellow is an author I have been meaning to get to for a long time now. Known for attention to detail and his intense characterization using physical attributes he is certainly one of the most respected authors of the 20th Century. Seize the Day is about one man's epiphany while mired in a life that just isn't measuring up to his and other's expectations. A failed actor, failed business man, failed husband, failed son and failed father our protagonist has not met much success despite his being a well-meaning individual. With a protagonist facing up to so many problems, Bellow gives himself a chance to philosophize on a lot of what ails the modern man. He offers some poignant commentary on the self-imposed suffering that so many people are afflicted with, and the inability of people to get past their problems and make progress in their lives. As the book builds to it's emotional and rather cathartic climax I think Bellow does a splendid job of supplying a real in depth look at why so many of us are unhappy.


I liked this book. It is about a man in his 40s whose life is falling apart and who is facing failure, and his relationship with his successful father who is a proud, well-respected doctor consumed with the idea of death in his old age. The entire (though short) book takes place in one day. I thought the book was very well-written and that Bellow really got at the psychological depth of these two people and their relationship with his insane attention to the most telling but minute details of their interactions and thoughts. I can't say that it was a particularly memorable book or that it blew me away, but I really like Bellow's writing style and it makes me curious to read his other books.


A deeply psychological novel, Seize the Day follows the middle-aged man in the life of a single day in New York City. "Psychological"... "single day"... Bellow's ante into the pool of single-day novels, alongside Joyce's Ulysses and Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, is a much slimmer volume than its fellow one-day wonders, but carries perhaps no less of a whollop. The story follows Tommy Wilhelm, a middle-aged man, a failed actor, a failed salesman, a husband whose wife refuses him a divorce but takes his money all the same, and a son who - despite his proximity and frequency of visits with his father, remains philosophically and emotionally estranged. The story is loaded with irony, but in the ironical mass there are small nuggets of truth: strange and wonderful insights into what it means to be alive. According to Herzog: Unexpected intrusions of beauty. That is what life is. And Seize the Day is studded with unexpected intrusions of beauty.For a thorough and well-written discussion of the psychoanalytical edge of this very psychological novella, I defer to s.penkavich's great review of this book. Bellow is a highly psychological writer, in Herzog he re-invents the Hamlet dilemma of betrayal (Herzog's wife Madeline standing in for Gertrude, his friend Gersbach for Claudius), and in Seize the Day we see a textbook case of suppressed emotion (as spenk points out: a lack of 'orgastic' release). The novella opens with this supression: When it came to concealing his troubles, Tommy Wilhelm was not less capable than the next fellow. So at least he thought and there was a certain amount of evidence to back him up. He conceals his troubles, but his troubles build and boil, wrack and rage beneath the surface, tear him away from the core outward. Wilhelm has self-proclaimedly 'reached the end of his rope' - he is in dire financial straits: unable to pay his rent for the month or support his demanding wife, he is without current employment, having dropped out of school to pursue of pipedream in Hollywood, then quit his job at the Rojax Corporation, where he worked as a salesman, when they divided up his territory. He has failed time and time again, and is won over by glamorous, but meretricious, opportunities which he pursues full-heartedly and abandons wallet-emptied. What strikes me as the reader is Wilhelm's imaginative vigor for what is new. Like the lovably-stupid Bouvard and Pécuchet, he endlessly pursues "new starts" - the consequence being that he remains in every endeavor a disappointed novice. At each junction of failure he faces the choice to 'crawl back' or to free-fall and hope to catch at a new opportunity before he reaches the ever-rising bottom: he chooses the later. It is a strange failure of human pride which prods us toward our own unhappiness. Our pride eludes us except for grand successes: each success raising and raising the bar, but only a small slip is enough for our pride to drop away beneath us. For Wilhelm, he has never, or rarely, experienced success, and each failure causes him to retreat more and more into himself, to hide away his failures in the shallow recesses of his remaining dignity. His socio-economic pressure compounds his troubles: his free-falls become more and more worrisome as he has less and less financial padding to cushion his imminent ruin.The most interesting and perplexing character of the novella, however, is Dr. Tamkin: Wilhelm's dubious and mysterious savior. A man of many tall tales, exaggerations, and flat-out lies, Tamkin offers Wilhelm the opportunity to invest in futures with him, guaranteeing him exorbitant profits. He is apparently a psychologist, an expert in hypnosis, an inventive man, but ultimately a shady figure, and likely a crook. He proselytizes his "seize the day" perspective, which borders on ironically religious, to Wilhelm, and frequently psychoanalyzes him to Wilhelm's dismay. The theme of time-perspective is prevalent throughout the novella, and reminded me of this article in the Wall Street Journal which discussed how time-perspective affected our moods. According to the parlance of "time-perspective therapy" it would seem that Wilhelm has a strongly past-negative, and perhaps present-fatalist outlook on his life. He is very much mired with regrets of his past: of his choice to leave school to pursue acting, his choice to get married, his choice to leave his wife, his choice to leave his job, etc. He is constantly reminded of these failures throughout his day and lacks a healthy outlet for relieving his burden: his father will not discuss his son's failures or give him the sympathy which Wilhelm so badly desires, his wife will not talk to him, and he has little else in the way of human contacts. What is ironic in Tamkin's plea for Wilhelm to "seize the day" and live in the "here-and-now" is that the great failures of Wilhelm's life have been made under just that operating mentality. Despite his belabored decision processes, his choices are ultimately made in gut-reactions to opportunities. He follows his instantaneous feelings and momentous emotions, and they continually lead him to undesired paths which he fails to follow through on.The background of futures trading strikes a particular key in the time-perspective theme. Futures contracts, to be technical, are purchased agreements to exchange goods at a future date, at a predetermined price. When they say that they have purchased contracts for "December rye" they mean that they have purchased the right to sell some quantity of rye-commodity, at some date in December, at the fixed price of the contract (the price fluctuates over time before narrowing in on the exact value as the day of exchange approaches). Wilhelm, whose view of the future is wary if not pessimistic, is in a state of constant agitation throughout the day: he fears the movement in prices and feels impotent but attached to his remaining small savings. He feels that Tamkin is swindling him, but due to his own ignorance and his invested hope in the potential "easy-money" he does not withdraw his savings. Wilhelm is always looking for some easy escape from his condition; he feels that his life thus-far has been very difficult and that at some point he must receive some manna-like relief. Tamkin, he believes, could be that relief, though his hope and his skepticism are constantly at odds throughout the day as he is fed psychology, platitudes, and unbelievable stories.The final release of Wilhelm's pent-up emotions, at the funeral of an unknown young man (perhaps about the age of Wilhelm himself, hence the excess of emotion), is his ultimate emotional release, but leaves the reader wondering about his still-precarious position. His savings have been decimated, his father has cast him out and refused to help him, Tamkin has disappeared, and he remains jobless with the growing demands of his wife and children. He tells himself that he will return to Olive (his mistress) and invests in her his next "new start" - but a new start which does not renew him, does not renew the reader's faith that he will succeed or even get by. His position remains impossible. Seize the Day is not Bellow's greatest novel, but it is an excellent exercise in the novella format, which from the beginning introduces a tension and unease which pervades the 118 pages.


I adored this book. What vitality and insight!I think this book is basically a struggle between a father and a son. The son, Tommy Wilhelm, seems to be in the wrong (a slob who was irresponsibly narcissistic when he tried to be a movie star), yet because he is the protagonist, we identify with him and we are challenged to see how he could be in the right.I think the way he's right is that there is a part of each of us that wants to fail, that feels sad, that wants to be childish and get immediate gratification. And if we not only tame that part of ourselves but kill it in the way Tommy's father seems to have done--become all discipline, righteousness, and capitalist upward mobility (Tommy's father was a successful doctor whose body is neat and well-maintained, just the opposite of Tommy)--we are doing violence to ourselves.Bellow seems to be working with something like the collective unconscious--society is like a giant mind or personality, and each person is doing work for society by embodying one of its aspects or emotions.An amazing piece of work.


Astonishingly powerful novella structured around a day in the life of an actor manqué as he deals with a shrewish ex-wife, an untrustworthy "psychiatrist" who entangles him in the stock market, an icy father who (understandably) has grown tired of helping his middle-aged son out of financial binds, and with assorted feelings of acedia, alienation and desperation. In a brief number of pages, Bellow builds a very convincing miniature panorama of a single man adrift in an urban and emotional wasteland, with the protagonist's increasing distress becoming uncomfortably palpable as the day wears down. The book is not a total downer, though: there is snappy humor throughout, along with a sense of zestful wonder at the miracle of simply being alive (hey, don't roll your eyes!). The true knockout comes at the end: a conclusion that is as stirring and cathartic as any other that comes to mind.


This was one of those read-all-night situations...I remember the apartment, the color of the sky between the blinds of the living room, I remember it coming through like scalding hot water and incoherently babbling my impressions and associations to my baffled, bemused friends...

David Berry

I can’t decide if Bellow’s choice of title was sincere or ironic. Carpe diem, Horace writes, quam minimum credula postero. Seize the day, put little faith in tomorrow. For Tommy Wilhelm, Bellow’s protagonist, his guide to the future is an occasionally insightful, often deceptive psychologist, Dr. Tamakin. Together, Wilhelm and Tamakin speculate on agricultural futures. (The spiritual emptiness of this profession reminds me of Faulkner’s Jason Compson). But betting on the future brings only ruin. Surely, Bellow was sincere in his allusive title. Then again, Horace instructs his reader to limit his hopes to today. Enjoy wine and friends, not lofty pursuits. Bellow, in contrast, affirms a fundamentally spiritual longing: What does it mean to be a man?Seize the Day is plainly autobiographical in many ways. Like Bellow, Wilhelm grapples with a broken marriage, estranged children, and a financially successful father disappointed in his progeny. He struggles to maintain a Jewish identity in his old Hollywood days, even changing his name. Wilhelm has literary inklings, remembering lines of John Milton’s “Lycidas.” Yet Wilhelm is different enough from his creator to take on his own life. He is not incisive; he cannot quite articulate his own suffering. Only at the novel’s end, at a stranger’s funeral, does he at last find expression—tears so flowing that the other mourners wonder what close relation he had to the deceased. Wilhelm needs Bellow to make sense of his inchoate grief.Though the novel spans only a single day, Bellow’s prose proceeds with sharp pace. He restrains aesthetic flourish in favor of description and dialogue, but when the flourish does appear, it is sublime. Near the depth of his fall, Wilhelm walks out onto Broadway to find “it was still bright afternoon and the gassy air was almost motionless under the leaden spokes of sunlight.” Sunlight inspires more trite, tired descriptions than almost any other occurrence, but only a fine writer indeed sees that to the truly forlorn, it is as heavy as lead. In this moment, Wilhelm (or is it Bellow) updates Walt Whitman’s New York democratic euphoria with modern anxiety:And the great, great crowd, the inexhaustible millions of every race and kind pouring out, pressing round, of every age, of every genius, possessors of every human secret, antique and future, in every face the refinement of one particular motive or essence—I labor, I spend, I strive, I design, I love, I cling, I uphold, I give way, I envy, I long, I scorn, I die, I hide, I want. Faster, much faster than any man could make the tally.Bellow, tally maker of the untallied. His sensitive man Wilhelm is left over, alienated from a world with mindless energy, a world run by money. (More than any other novelist I’ve read, Bellow understands what money means to men). Out of the masses of humanity, Wilhelm finds his epiphany in a dead stranger. The sane if sad thing to do is to pause and consider what awaits.

Ali Nazifpour

I'm afraid I couldn't like this novel although I wanted to. Yes, the writing is fantastic, the humor is cutting, the psychology of the characters is perfect - however, what I'm missing here is the point, the plot, the actual novella. It seems like an opening rather than the complete work. OK, we know Tommy. His life sucks and he's a loser. Cool. So what? The novel never goes beyond a portrait of its protagonist and its supporting characters. And just when you expect the story to begin, for the novel to do SOMETHING with these characters, it ends. I think of many merits this novella has. But if I ask myself "what I would've missed if I never read it", I can't think of anything, so I won't consider it a good work of fiction.I also disagree with any existentialist reading of this novel. Wilhelm's problem, his father's problems, his wife's problems, and Tamkin's, are not the weight of being and such philosophical grand standings, it's that they are unlikable bags of dildos, that they are deplorable human beings with no real problems. It's the ultimate bourgeois whining novel, the fakest angst. It reminded me of the rich boys who cry over their overpriced coffee in cafes.My impression is that Bellow wanted this to be a satire, but it's not a successful one.

Fred Bubbers

Originally published in 1957, Saul Bellow’s Seize the Day is considered one of the twentieth century’s finest works of fiction. It chronicles a single day in the life of one Tommy Wilhelm, a failed middle-aged actor, living on a precipice. Out of work, nearly broke, and estranged from his wife and children, he is haunted by all of the setbacks in his life and is searching for salvation in the form of an easy financial win that will solve all of his problems. On the advice of a mysterious psychologist, Dr. Tamkin, he has invested the last of his savings in the commodities market. Dr. Tamkin’s advice extends beyond investing and he provides advice to Wilhelm on how he should shed the burdens of his failed past and live in the here-and-now, in other words, to “Seize the Day.”Tamkin’s council and Wilhelm’s inability to shed his burdens only serve to heighten Wilhelm’s sense of failure. Wherever he seeks sympathy, whether it be his estranged wife who continues to make financial demands on him while refusing to divorce him or his father, a comfortably retired doctor, finds nothing but reminders of his failures.Born Wilhelm Adler, he changes his name to Tommy Wilhelm to further his acting career. His career never takes off and so he fails in his attempt to actually become Tommy Wilhelm, a failure he is constantly reminded of by his father who insists on addressing him as “Wilky,” his childhood name.Seize the Day is a distinctly American story. Whereas British fiction from Daniel Defoe on up through today’s Ian McEwan is preoccupied by social and economic class distinctions, American society prides itself on being free from class. No matter what station we are born into, we believe that through hard work, perseverance, and strength of character we can succeed. If we do not succeed, it is obviously due to some flaw in our character. American fiction has always explored the chasm that exists between that Great American Ideal (and mythology) and the stark reality that the Universe has no concept of fairness. American literary characters, unlike their British counterparts, are therefore imbued with a greater sense of anomie. While British heroes and heroines may struggle to overcome the rigid class distinctions in their society, and usually fail, there is at least the idea that there is a sense of order in the Universe, no matter how harsh it may be. American literary figures, from Dreiser’s Clyde Griffiths to Fitzgerald’s James Gatz to Salinger’s Holden Caulfield to Miller’s Willy Loman, fight not against society but against nothingness.Years after writing Seize the Day, Bellow said in interviews that never liked Tommy Wilhelm very much. Indeed, Wilhelm is not particularly likable and the reader is likely to feel as much sympathy for him as the other characters in the novella. “Stop whining, be a man, get a job!” we want to say to him. And yet, the story is compelling and unconsciously reaches those hidden parts of our psyche that fear the stark nothingness, and leads us to the novella’s surprisingly cathartic conclusion.


The only Bellow novel I've read to date. I didn't especially care for it as I was reading it, but came to think more and more highly of it in the weeks after I finished it. Bellow has an almost uncanny power of description, and the character Tamkin must be one of the great creations of twentieth-century American literature (especially his poem, "Mechanism vs. Functionalism: Ism vs. Hism"). But what really impressed me about the book was realizing that it's really a profound religious poem, about Tommy Wilhelm's attempt to save his soul in the materialistic wasteland of modern America. I only realized this reflecting on the scenes that stuck with me days and even weeks after reading the novel. The novel almost begins with Wilhelm talking to Rubin, the man running the newstand at the hotel where Wilhelm lives. Rubin shares Wilhelm's taste for nice clothes, a small but revealing desire for beautiful but useless things ("It didn't seem necessary--he was behind the counter most of the time--but he dressed very well")."As Wilhelm approached, Rubin did not see him; he was looking out dreamily at the Hotel Ansonia, which was visible from his corner, several blocks away. The Ansonia, the neighborhood's great landmark, was built by Stanford White. It looks like a baroque palace from Prague or Munich enlarged a hundred times, with towers, domes, huge swells and bubbles of metal gone green from exposure, iron fretwork and festoons. Black television antennae are densely planted on its round sumits. Under the changes of weather it may look like marble or like sea water, black as slate in the fog, white as tufa in sunllight. This morning it looked like the image of itself reflected in deep water, white and cumulous above, with cavernous distortions underneath. Together, the two men gazed at it."The Ansonia is like a distant heavenly palace, or at least a visible representation of someplace different, better, more beautiful. The two men stand, looking at a necessarily distorted image of it, and are together as they do so. Later, as they briefly discuss Wilhelm's investments, Rubin loses interest and looks elsewhere.Wilhelm's father, the hard, angry, greedy, materially sucessful Dr. Adler, appears throughout the short novel to criticize Wilhelm for being something of a failure. He is obsessed and resentful about his own impending death. We last see him in the bowels of the hotel building, in the dark and hot massage room. It's as if he's in hell. The concern for money and physical life have left him deformed and damned.At first I disliked the ending of the novel; I thought it was an easy and slightly dishonest way to invest the ending with an emotional impact or meaning it hadn't earned. But, the more I thought about, the more powerful and even understated it seemed. So, in short, I think this is a very good short novel, and would recommend it to anyone.


A truly great book, so unusual in many ways, a book so totally about abysmal failure. It's hard to imagine that someone could write like this about the anti-hero protagonist, there's no sex or romance, just a broken marriage (wife and kids remain off-stage the entire book), no real action of any sort, just the almost surreal helplessness and the father-son conflict that seemed to me to be right out of Kafka, a book that scoffs at the American dream and deals in lard futures. The unforgettable Dr. Tamkin. And then there's Bellow's incredible prose that can go seamlessly from a learned, erudite philosophical style to the rhythm of slangy 1950s New York conversations.


I'm on a bit of a novella reading binge at the moment, in preparation for a class I'm teaching next fall. And if this temporary obsession brings me to more books like SEIZE THE DAY, maybe it will become a lasting obsession. Reading Saul Bellow is dangerous business for a writer because unless you are one of about five living authors I can think of, your sentences will never be as beautiful as Saul Bellow's. In fact it might be best just to say that out loud before sitting down to write. As in "I am going to sit down to write now, and my sentences will never be as beautiful as Saul Bellow's." Then, at peace with that truth, you can begin to type. I'm tempted to use an example here of one of the half-paragraph stunners that Bellow traffics in. Instead I'll list three one-sentence paragraphs that left me breathless. "He breathed in the sugar of the pure morning.He heard the long phrases of the birds,No enemy wanted his life." A little context might help explain why those lines hit with such force. So much of this book is in the churning consciousness of Tommy Wilhelm, and in his his Socratic dialogues with one of my favorite literary charlatans, Dr. Tamkin. Wilhelm worries. He worries about his worries. He seeks the smallest trace of affirmation from his fellow man. All the while he seems to revel in the misery he causes himself. Then he notices something about the world around him. "Light as a locust, a helicopter bringing in mail from Newark Airport to La Guardia sprang over the city in a long leap." Or: "In full tumult the great afternoon current raced for Columbus Circle, where the mouth of midtown stood open and the skyscrapers gave back the yellow fire of the sun." The world outside seems like a place of overwhelming beauty and overwhelming motion. Somewhere Wilhelm can no longer find his place. We follow him as he journeys through a remarkably small part of this world, attempting to gain control of the present, but never quite able to touch it. It's a book that comes in great waves of talk, feeling, and the raw unconscious. An effective way to capture a true unraveling. A short potent dose of novella.


"...since there were depths in Wilhelm not unsuspected by himself, he received a suggestion from some remote element in his thoughts that the business of life, the real business -- to carry his peculiar burden, to feel shame and impotence, to taste these quelled tears -- the only important business, the highest business was being done. Maybe the making of mistakes expressed the very purpose of his life and the essence of his being here. Maybe he was supposed to make them and suffer from them on this earth. And though he had raised himself above Mr. Perls and his father because they adored money, still they were called to act energetically and this was better than to yell and cry, pray and beg, poke and blunder and go by fits and starts and fall upon the thorns of life. And finally sink beneath that watery floor -- would that be tough luck, or would it be good riddance?"

Dennis Littrell

Bellow, Saul. Seize the Day (1956)A short novel, representative of Bellow's work"Seize the day, put no trust in the morrow" is what Horace wrote at the end of his first book of Odes a couple of thousand years ago. And ever since, youth has been urged to make hay while the sun shines since the bird of time is on the wing--to toss in a couple more homilies. But what Saul Bellow has in mind here is entirely ironic since his sad protagonist, Tommy Wilhelm Adler has never seized the day at all, much to his unfeeling father's disgust.This then is a tale of failure (one of Bellow's recurring themes) and the shame and self-loathing that failure may bring; and yet there is a sense, or at least a hint--not of redemption of course--but of acceptance and understanding at the end of this short existential novel by the Nobel Prize winner.The way that Bellow's drowning, existential man experiences the funeral as this novel ends is the way we should all experience a funeral, that is, with the certain knowledge that the man lying dead in the coffin is, or will be, us.And we should cry copious tears and a great shudder should seize us and we should sob as before God with the full realization that our day too will come, and sooner than we think--which is what big, blond-haired, handsome Jewish "Wilkie" Adler does. And in that realization we know that he has seen the truth and we along with him. An existential truth of course.The structure of the novel, like James Joyce's Ulysses, begins and ends in the same day. Through flashbacks from Adler's nagging consciousness, the failures and disappointments of his life are recalled. When he was just a young man he foolishly thought because of his good looks and the assurance of a bogus talent scout that he might become a Hollywood star; and so he spurned college and instead went to the boulevard of broken dreams as it runs toward Santa Monica.And so began the failure and dissolution of his life. As Bellow tells it, Wilhelm has slipped and fallen into something like a watery abyss. He can't catch his breath. He is drowning. He reaches out to his father, who turns away from him. He reaches out to Dr. Tamkin, the mysterious stranger, the clever fox of a man who swindles him and then disappears into the crowd of the great metropolis. He reaches out to his wife, who will also not extend a helping hand. Meanwhile, the waters about him have grown, and he is lost.We are all lost, more or less, except those who delude themselves, who have their various schemes and delusions to distract them, is what Bellow seems to be saying. Those of us who have not seized the day, a day that is fleeting and subtle, indefinite and hard to grasp, become so much water-logged driftwood.With resemblances to Albert Camus' The Stranger and Arthur Miller's Willy Loman, Bellow's Wilhelm is the essence of the anti-hero, literature's dominate strain of the mid-twentieth century. Such men have no firm or deep beliefs. They exist for the day, like butterflies, tossed about by circumstance all the while wondering why, but without any ability to rise above their predicament, a predicament that is so ordinary, so banal, so patently unheroic to be that of Everyman.And what is the answer? For Bellow and Camus and Miller, the answer is the finality of death. A man lives, goes about craving--"I labor, I spend, I strive, I design, I love, I cling, I uphold, I give way, I envy, I long, I scorn, I die, I hide, I want"--and for what and because of what? Like the tentmaker, Omar Khayyam, we wander willy-nilly without a clue, and then become so much dust in the wind.For life IS a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying in the end, nothing. All our labors are like those of Sisyphus pushing the stone up the hill only to watch it roll back down again.We cannot help but feel in reading this novel both a sense of empathy for the man who has failed, but at the same time, we might feel like his father and want to give him a kick and say, "Wilkie, get a grip on yourself. Quit making the same mistakes over and over again."But we know that for Wilhelm it is already too late. He cannot change his nature anymore than the leopard can change its spots. We sense the great hand of fate upon him, and we shudder. For in some respects--different respects of course--we could be him. And we straighten up our frame, we return to our duties and responsibilities, to our work and the rhythms of our lives secure in the knowledge that we are stronger that Wilhelm, that although the waves may toss us about, we will not sink. At least not yet.In reading this for the first time now half a century after it was written, I am struck with how different the zeitgeist is today. We have wildly successful heroes and larger-than-life murderous villains, and nowhere is there the existential man.This short work is a splendid representative of one of my favorite genres, the short, sharply focused American novel from the early or middle 20th century. Other--widely differing--examples are John O'Hara's Appointment in Samarra, Nathanael West's Miss Lonely Hearts, F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, John Steinbeck's Cannery Row and Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea, to name a few. --a review by Dennis Littrell

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