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Seize the Day

3.55 of 5 stars 3.55  ·  rating details  ·  5,383 ratings  ·  398 reviews
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.
Paperback, 118 pages
Published April 3rd 1984 by Penguin Books (first published 1956)
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Dec 12, 2012 s.penkevich rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to s.penkevich by: James Wood
'Nature only knows one thing, and that’s the present. Present, present, eternal present, like a big, huge, giant wave – colossal, bright and beautiful, full of life and death, climbing into the sky, standing in the seas. You must go along with the actual, the Here-and-Now, the glory -

Following the success of his lengthy, 1953 National Book Award Winning novel The Adventures of Augie March, Nobel laureate Saul Bellow returned in 1956 with the very slender Seize the Day. Called ‘the most Russian...more
There is a strikingly pathetic point in Saul Bellow’s novella Seize the Day, when the protagonist Wilhelm (let’s call him Tommy, his Hollywood alias) Adler laments how the latter half of his existence will be occupied by analyzing the failures that occurred in the first half. In the depths of his dour fatalism he opines, “A person can become tired of looking himself over and trying to fix himself up. You can spend the entire second half of your life recovering from the mistakes of your first ha...more
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...more
This is Bellow.

Not the early, picaresque Bellow of Augie (1953) – which I do not much like – writing a clunky, poorly edited, Americanized, Depression-Era Bildungsroman…, with the so-unBellow-like voice of sentences made in endless *largo*… but the Bellow that has found his voice, for better and even, sometimes, for worse…. A Bellow that is modern, urban, postwar, a scratchingly desperate New York Manhattan Bellow…, not the yuppified, gentrified, Ed Kochified Manhattan of Annie Hall, but the Man...more
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...more
Bellow is a treat even if you don't completely swoon over every novel in its entirety. His descriptions, his dialogue, his portrayals of humanity are so rich. This novella is told from the point of view of the increasingly shabby and morose failed actor and salesman, Tommy Wilhelm, but Bellow also lets us in on what his disapproving father, Dr. Adler, thinks.

Then Wilhelm had said, "Yes, that was the beginning of the end, wasn't it, Father?"

Wilhelm often astonished Dr. Adler. Beginning of the end
It's been about a week since I finished this book, and have picked up two new books in the meantime, so my first thoughts are a bit hazy and lost to other curiosities. However, the thing about the book that has stuck with me - and will no doubt lead me to re-reading it in later years - is its examination of American ideals and the internal grapplings of a human soul. How wonderfully fresh and true this story remains today, over 50 years after it was written! Tommy, the novel's protagonist, must...more
Actually, the first time reading a piece of life caused me such a severe headache, and I’m yet waiting to take my catharsis pill!

Cruel and naked is the realism, with which Saul Bellow illustrates a one-day life of a confused and lonesome man, who is ruined by a failed marriage and an unfulfilled love, plus by the the heavy sense of duty to support his two sons.

This novella, in fact, is the story of a hard epiphany which should take place so Tommy Wilhelm be purged from a kind of midlife crisis...more
احمد هلال
الحمد لله رب العالمين
- العلاقة بين الابن و أبيه ، قد تضطرب لاقدر الله ،و تسوء بسبب حمق الأبن و إصراره على سلوك طريق معين ، الكاتب الأمريكى سول بيلو رسم لوحة رائعة بروايته أغتنم الفرصة ، فالأب فى الرواية طبيب ناجح ولكن أبنه شاب يتنكب نصائح الأب فيترك الجامعة بحثا عن هليود فيفشل فى هليود ويخسر الجامعة و يخسر تقدير والده و يعمل مندوبا للمبيعات ويتزوج و لضعف شخصيته تستغله زوجته فتسنزفه و تنفصل عنه ولكنها تظل ترسل له الفواتير ، و يظل هو طوال فصول الرواية يستجدى عطف أبيه ، و يستدين منه الأموال بلا مقا...more
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...more
Sadly, Bellow's fourth is a sterling example of a complex, internally argumentative work doomed to oversimplification by the ruthless whore of context. (More dangerous now than ever in our Age of Infernally Instant Information.) Case in point: this famous and much-GR-"liked" excerpt. Nice on its face, but left rather facile without implications of its origins: as spat-out by a snaky Hubbardian shyster and self-described "psychological poet" who spends the bulk of the narrative leading our protag...more
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...more
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 n...more
Well, I have been reading Philip Roth for a long time now (the long time amounting to only twelve books read out of an outstanding thirty or so Roth books), and reading Saul Bellow was nothing but help; nothing but completion, and comprehension (already many things!). As soon as you start reading this book you feel as if you're reading Roth, but a Roth who is in a more moderate mood. Not much anger, not much ridicule, not a 'howl', but very moving all the same.

Saul Bellow's human understanding (...more
Apolgies in advance for skipping over the plot summary, but here's what I think I learned from this book:

1) Bellow, like Banville, is a master of characterization, the expression of character through movement, reaction, idiosyncrasies, etc. It's not just what they look like and what they're wearing (though this is important) it's what these things say about the character and how they're expressed through speech, interaction with others, moments of isolation, etc. It can't be all wooden descripti...more
Wilky Adler, che si ostina a farsi chiamare con il nome d’arte Tommy Wilhelm, scelto in giovinezza quando volle andare ad Hollywood per intraprendere la carriera di attore che è consistita in una semplice parte da comparsa in un film, non ha fatto che sbagli nella vita: non è riuscito a tenere in piedi il suo matrimonio, non è riuscito a conservarsi il posto di lavoro, ha investito in Borsa gli ultimi soldi che gli sono rimasti ed ha perso tutto, e poi non riesce ad ottenere l’amore di suo padre...more
The little novella ‘Seize the Day’ is rightly called a masterpiece.
Like a modern Greek tragedy, we have in Tommy Wilhelm a protagonist who is facing the world closing in on him. Instead of shutting down, giving in or giving up, he feels very deeply. What he ask for is just a bare minimum of human understanding, of compassion

Sadly, his father, who is fiercely aloof, can’t provide this and regards him as a loser. He ex-wife demands even more alimony. He is swindled out of the little cash he has b...more
While Seize the Day is the first Saul Bellow book I have read, it sure as hell won't be my last!

The book is set in a New York hotel off Broadway in the 1950s, (contemporaneous with when it was published) following the struggles of Tommy Wilhelm, a man in his mid forties who is the youngest member of the residence, the rest being Jews over the age of 70, including Tommy's own respected doctor father. Tommy has been a failure at everything; first acting, then his marriage, and most recently, his...more
Before I get into Saul Bellow's little powerhouse of a novel, a word about introductions, forewords, and prefaces.

Unless I finish a novel with a feeling of wonder, I rarely read the introduction. Any kind of foreword usually functions to inflate the page count, advertise the book (why, if I'm already reading a book, do I need to read an ad for it?), and attach some big shot author's name with the work at hand.

However, there are those few introductions which function as great literature in their...more
Jay Gertzman
What is the remedy for the universal self-interest that strangles what is supposed to be democracy? It is exemplified by the humble wise man in Malamud’s The Assistant, the image of light in Henry Roth’s Call It Sleep, the wandering Jew in Scholem Asch’s The Nazarene, and the failed actor in Bellow’s Seize the Day. This response is the intuition of salvation conferred by a religiosity that depends on Jesus and the Jewish roots of his mysticism. Malamud said he “tried to see the Jew as universal...more
I'm reading Saul Bellow backwards. I should've read Augie March, then Seize the Day, then Herzog. Instead I read Herzog first, the tale of a man at rock bottom. Now I've read about Wilhelm, a man who thinks he's at rock bottom but isn't. I have yet to read Augie March, but my impression is that he's a superego-type character. Perhaps for Bellow it shows his progress from the shallow heroes to the complicated. At any rate, I should get back to chronological order for Bellow's books.

One of the st...more
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 immediat...more
Harold Griffin
I loved this book and commend it to someone interested in sampling Bellow. Unlike "Herzog"and the formidable "Adventures of Augie March," the rich and engaging prose in this small novella is easily accessible. "Seize" is populated by only a few, but all memorable, characters. I'm not sure I would have loved this as a younger dino (say in my early Pennsylvanian period), but this year it resonates.

Tommy Wilhelm was born Wilhelm ("Wilky") Adler, but changed his name when he tried and failed at a m...more
Kelli Robinson
This novella, which took me longer to read than Pride and Prejudice, was not a quick and easy read. The picture depicted on the front cover of a man looking up at the very tall RCA Building (ominous/overbearing) and my memories of the phrase "seize the day" from the movie "The Dead Poet's Society" (suicide) set a tone to this novella - maybe unjustly. I felt the despair and desperation of Tommy Wilhelm from the start. His life was miserable and he could not seem to do anything right. The "answer...more
Erez Davidi
This is the first work by Saul Bellow that I have had the chance to read. I decided to start with this short novella, well… chiefly because it’s short. But also because I found the title “Seize the Day” to be intriguing.

“Seize the Day” follows 24 hours in the life of Tommy Wilhelm, a 40-year old New Yorker, whose life is in shambles. He has two children and a wife, and although technically still married, they no longer live together. Wilhelm is also unemployed and pretty much out of money and lu...more
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 wastel...more
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 bi...more

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...
Narges Moini
گذشته به درد ما نمی خوره . آینده پر از دلواپسیه . فقط حال واقعیه . همون این جا و اکنون . دم را دریاب !
Scott Middleton
Reading Seize the Day in 2014 is like experiencing a shadow version of "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" in which the cheeky protagonist, rather than glibly celebrating his freedom with a morning shower mohawk, spends the better part of a day lamenting his failed career, loveless marriage, and overall lack of executive function. Seize the Day is a brief novel with a clear arc and a satisfying, if unhappy, resolution in which our hapless hero accepts his sad state of affairs and has a good cry. Writing...more
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Saul Bellow was born in Lachine, Quebec, a suburb of Montreal, in 1915, and was raised in Chicago. He attended the University of Chicago, received his Bachelor's degree from Northwestern University in 1937, with honors in sociology and anthropology, did graduate work at the University of Wisconsin, and served in the Merchant Marine during World War II.

Mr. Bellow's first novel, Dangling Man, was pu...more
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“You can spend the entire second half of your life recovering from the mistakes of the first half. ” 55 likes
“I want to tell you, don't marry suffering. Some people do. They get married to it, and sleep and eat together, just as husband and wife. If they go with joy they think it's adultery.” 34 likes
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