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Seize the Day – Saul Bellow



Posted September 4, 2016 by

Seize the Day – Saul Bellow – 1956


Reviewed by: Geoffrey Fox            Date: 20 September 2002

Bellow, Saul. Seize the Day. Crest paperback, 1965 ed. New York: The Viking Press, 1956. 128

A feckless fool has a really bad day. Clumsy, paunchy, 40-something Tommy Wilhelm, a failure as a salesman, soldier (he’s an undistinguished WWII vet), actor (he was an extra in one movie long ago, when he was still handsome but no brighter), son (his distinguished father, a retired physician, finds him repulsive) and husband (his estranged wife will not divorce him, nor let him have much time with their sons, but squeezes him for money he doesn’t have), entrusts his last $700 to an extravagant old con man, Dr. Tamkin (who may not be a real doctor), who gambles it on lard futures & disappears when the investment crashes. Tommy then stumbles into a funeral and weeps so at the futility of it all, the others think he must be a relative of the deceased. The end. All this takes place on upper Broadway, between 70th & Columbia U., in Bellow’s version an urban shtetl inhabited entirely by middle-aged & older Jewish men. Dr. Tamkin is amusing, but otherwise there’s nothing here to merit the extravagant blurbs; if it was “one of the central stories of our day” (Herbert Gold, The Nation) back in the ’50s, it’s neither central nor much of a story today (April, 1997).



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