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Sunday, September 07, 2003
Saul Bellow - Seize The Day  

Title: Seize The Day
Author: Saul Bellow
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 8.5/10
I knew that some day I would have to review this book. I did not like this book initially. It was a required reading for my Contemporary Fiction course back in my undergraduate days, and Saul Bellow... oh well, Saul Bellow is Saul Bellow of course. He won the Nobel Peace Prize for Literature in 1976, and he happens to be the first American to win this prize after John Steinbeck. The thing about Award winners, Nobel Peace Prize for Literature award winners in particular, well, they all share this common trait... their novels, are pretty ... complex. They talk a lot about life. They present you the raw depressing bits of what its like to be human. If you're a deep thinker, they're fine. But usually, they get you thinking too much, and you may get depressed after reading their works.

Seize The Day may sound like an optimistic title for a book, but in reality, the plot brings the reader deep, deep down into the wallowing dungeons of its depression. The protagonist, Tommy Wilhelm is one big time anti-hero. Here's a guy who's separated from his wife and has kids who don't respect him, lives in a dingy hotel with his rich and arrogant doctor father who thinks he's a good-for-nothing, a failed actor (his manager once said that he's the type who's fit for 'the guy who loses the girl' roles, and up to his neck in his financial problems. Tommy's got a bad way of handling his life, but this guy does not look like he's about to do anything radical to change it. He meets this sleazy conman Tamkin and although he knows it clearly that Tamkin's a big-time hoax, and really bad at it too, Tommy still thinks that whatever Tamkin's proposing to him is worth a shot at. Well, you'll read about it, won't you?

The entire plot of Seize The Day happens in one day. There are instances of flashbacks employed by Bellow that help give readers an idea of what has happened to Tommy that puts him in the position. Now everything is rather climatic, and the language style is steadily paced. It moves in a New York pace, so you see Tommy rush from one place to the other, and the climax just pushes forward. The reader will probably move from oblivion, to chaos... and truth be known, this particular reader was stuck in the chaos for sometime until a few months later when I remembered this book and everything just sunk into place. There isn't order now, but there is a reason why Saul Bellow won the Nobel prize. This book is a good determiner of that. You'll probably hate it for its lack of optimism, you'll even despise it for putting you down into depression! But months down the road, when you're faced with the problems of life that Tommy faces (although, hopefully, not to the extent that he faces them) and if you've read this book before, you'll probably remember how Bellow skilfully brought the realities of the urban rat-race into a 100-odd page short novel, and how the essence of carpe diem was masterfully captured in the one day in the life of a failing loser.

Which is why I give it a strong 8.5 out of 10. Everyone has got to start somewhere. Carpe diem. But carpe diem gracefully, cleverly.

minishorts  # 3:19 PM