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Seize the Day (Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics) Paperback – March 1, 1996

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Editorial Reviews


''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.'' --New York Times

''One of the finest short novels in the language.'' --Guardian

''Saul Bellow is one of the giants of the twentieth-century novel. Read Seize the Day and see why.'' --Irish Times --This text refers to the MP3 CD edition.

About the Author

Saul Bellow was praised for his vision, his ear for detail, his humor, and the masterful artistry of his prose. Born of Russian Jewish parents in Lachine, Quebec in 1915, he was raised in Chicago. He received his Bachelor's degree from Northwestern University in 1937, with honors in sociology and anthropology, and did graduate work at the University of Wisconsin. During the Second World War he served in the Merchant Marines.

His first two novels, Dangling Man (1944) and The Victim (1947) are penetrating, Kafka-like psychological studies. In 1948 he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and spent two years in Paris and traveling in Europe, where he began his picaresque novel The Adventures of Augie March, which went on to win the National Book Award for fiction in 1954. His later books of fiction include Seize the Day (1956); Henderson the Rain King (1959); Mosby's Memoirs and Other Stories (1968); Mr. Sammler's Planet (1970); Humboldt's Gift (1975), which won the Pulitzer Prize; The Dean's December (1982); More Die of Heartbreak (1987); Theft (1988); The Bellarosa Connection (1989);The Actual (1996); Ravelstein (2000); and, most recently, Collected Stories(2001). Bellow has also produced a prolific amount of non-fiction, collected in To Jerusalem and Back, a personal and literary record of his sojourn in Israel during several months in 1975, and It All Adds Up, a collection of memoirs and essays.

Bellow's many awards include the International Literary Prize for Herzog, for which he became the first American to receive the prize; the Croix de Chevalier des Arts et Lettres, the highest literary distinction awarded by France to non-citizens; the B'nai B'rith Jewish Heritage Award for "excellence in Jewish Literature"; and America's Democratic Legacy Award of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, the first time this award has been made to a literary personage. In 1976 Bellow was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature "for the human understanding and subtle analysis of contemporary culture that are combined in his work." --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics
  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (March 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140189378
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140189377
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.4 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,566,551 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

117 of 125 people found the following review helpful By Lesley Freitas on June 23, 2005
Format: Paperback
I picked up "Seize The Day" when, one afternoon, I realized I'd never read anything by Saul Bellow. Throughout high school and college, none of his books had ever been assigned to me, and though I knew his name, it never resonated with me the way the names Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, or Steinbeck had. After reading "Seize the Day," I am rather angry at my high school teachers and college professors--and myself!--for keeping me from this author for so long.

"Seize The Day" tells the story of one day in the life of Tommy Wilhelm, a middle-aged failed actor who now lives in the same New York hotel as his father. Tommy is separated from his wife, and rarely sees his children; furthermore, he has been unemployed for several months, and faces losing the last of his money in an ill-conceived stock market venture. It is with all of this in mind that Tommy finally comes to a day of realization and reckoning, when he realizes his isolation and his failure.

The theme of man's isolation is strong throughout the book, yet it is not what struck me most about Tommy's situation. I read "Seize The Day" immediately after finishing "The Fountainhead," and perhaps that skewed my focus a bit. What I found most interesting about Tommy is his inability to judge himself. He is aware of his failures, but cannot take the final step and truly confront them; he must ask those around him, particularly his father, both for a kind word and for a way to understand himself. I have to wonder if Tommy's isolation would be less of a burden if he weren't also isolated from himself--a thought which struck me to the core.

If you are like me, and have read dozens of American classics without touching a Saul Bellow book, read "Seize The Day" as soon as possible.
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64 of 73 people found the following review helpful By Dennis Littrell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 23, 2005
Format: Paperback
"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.
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful By immortal pickwick on November 21, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is a powerful page-turner which in my view should be read once through to fully experience its sweeping crescendo and then again at a more deliberate pace to appreciate the beatifully descriptive langauge and symbolism of the text. Bellow writes with a detached sympathy for his unfortunate hero, Tommy Wilhelm, who finds himself on the brink of financial ruin and spiritual collapse. I think this is an important story about alienation in our modern commercial society and renewal through acquaintance with the true bared self within us that we are taught to neglect and long to return to. In just over a hundred pages, Saul Bellow manages to bring the ominously swelling pressures of his tragic hero's surroundings and inner monologue to a swirling climax, compassionately cleansing Tommy in an emotional acceptance of himself in the turbulent end. All the while, Bellow meticulously develops a suffocating world in which with Tommy we can't help but feel the merciless chaos surrounding him and amidst it all sympathize with the poignant alienation of a reflective mind. Very interesting read and highly recommended as a primer to Bellow's oeuvre.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Eric Franklin on March 8, 2001
Format: Paperback
Middle-aged Wilhelm las lost his sense of direction. He cannot find the means to support his wife and kids, who he recently walked out on, and is looking for pity and help from everyone that he can.
The premise may not sound that interesting but Bellow does an incredible job of showing how suppressing emotions come back to haunt us. Throughout this book, Wilhelm has several life-changing interactions with the other characters, and comes out a totally different person. These interactions are gracefully executed by Bellow, showing an amazing grasp of differing psyches and how they interact with others.
I don't want to give anything away, but Wilhelm's final confrontations with Tamkin and his father are absolutely amazing. If your interest can be held by an intensely personal journey (as opposed to a plot driven thriller), then this book may be for you. Once you've finished the book, just compare the opening paragraphs with the closing ones and you should get a hint of what you just gained. Doing so may even convince you to give it another go.
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