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Seize The Day

3.55  ·  Rating Details ·  7,459 Ratings  ·  543 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, 135 pages
Published by Penguin (first published November 15th 1956)
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This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Matt Whiteford (edit: spoilers included in answer)

No, Wilhelm is coming to terms with the only fateful resolution with which life can offer him: the deprivation of…more
(edit: spoilers included in answer)

No, Wilhelm is coming to terms with the only fateful resolution with which life can offer him: the deprivation of life itself. While he is not about to have a heart attack, he has finally realized that the depth of human suffering only ceases with the termination of the contract. Wilhelm pauses and reminds us of the similarities between the aged corpse and himself, the greyed, streaking hair and the pangs of sorrow hidden, welting in the man's eyes. Wilhelm then proceeds to break down in the middle of the crowd, understanding the frailty of the human condition and weeping in an unwitting culmination of the emotions building silently throughout the course of the novel(la). (less)
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Community Reviews

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Dec 12, 2012 s.penkevich rated it really liked it  ·  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
If there was ever a character as neurotic as Alexander Portnoy - it was Wilhelm Adler. Following him around for a day in this short but great novella, I laughed and cried. At times, well most of the time, he is pathetic but as in nearly all of Bellow's protagonists, there is a diehard optimism that keeps him going towards self-realization. This book is a breath of fresh air and will bring you a smile. Carpe diem!
Feb 26, 2015 Jimmy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Apr 11, 2011 Peter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 06, 2013 AC rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 11, 2017 Fabian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novella about the morning hours in the life of a man which is falling apart is authentic New York narrative AND somber urban fable.

Written in '56, it is still supremely relevant and I bet there are dozens, perhaps thousands, of Tommy Wilhems out there in the world, and they are all MODERN MEN; Wilhem is a man confused and, in the same vein as lame-o Holden C., one very unhappy with his placement in society, while also questioning his duties as a "man." The episode between Wilhem and his fa
Jan 20, 2016 Erik rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 waste ...more
Feb 24, 2016 Teresa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Saul Bellow não é para mim. Dos dois livros que li dele só retirei bocejos.
Mas, apesar de me ter desinteressado da leitura logo nas primeiras páginas, aguentei até ao fim. O que teve a função de me libertar de escrúpulos e culpas por pontuar e comentar certos livros de que desisto.

A acção de Agarra o Dia decorre durante um dia, no qual a personagem principal recorda o passado e tenta resolver uns problemas do presente. Wilhelm deixou a mulher e os dois filhos porque quer ser livre; vai viver p
احمد هلال
Mar 06, 2014 احمد هلال rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 22, 2016 Sarabvh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Saul Bellow has just entered "favorite writers" list.
And I've found the grown up, forty-four years old 'Holden Caulfield'.
It was awesome...

حال بعد از خوندنش مثل حال بعد از خوندن "فرني و زويي" و "سقوط" كامو ه، انگار خسته ميشي بعد از خوندش انقدر حرف برا گفتن داشته، از اون كتابا كه نميشه ازش يه سري كُتيشن برداشت. كل كتاب هايلايت ميشد اگر مال كتابخونه نبود...
Feb 24, 2009 Tara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 15, 2016 Manab rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
ঢাকা আরট সামিটের সেমিনার রুমে শরমিনী পেরেরা নামের একজন পজিশনিং, লোকেশন এইসব নিয়ে কথা বলতে বলতে এই বইয়ের কথা বললেন, এই বইয়ের পরথম পযারার কথা। মনে হইলো বাসায় পড়ে আছে যখন, পড়ে ফেলাই।

ইতোপূরবে সল বেলো পড়ি নাই। ভালো লাগছে। কোনো শবদ অযথা ছিলো না। কোনো চরিতরও। বেশিরভাগ লেখা পড়ার সময় উলটোটা মনে হয়, মনে হয় কলেবর বাড়ানোর জনয আঙুল নাড়াচছে। একটা সনদেহ অবশয হচছে যে সল বেলো হয়তবা একঘেয়ে। কিনতু এক বইয়ে একঘেয়ে বলি কী করে।

একটু ইয়ে লাগতেছে চললিশ বছর বয়সের কথা ভাবতে এখন। আমার ধারণা ছিলো ঐ বয়স মানে পায়ের উপর পা। দিল
Aug 24, 2010 Lobstergirl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
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
Apr 17, 2014 Sandra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: usa
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
Doug H
Sep 07, 2016 Doug H rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Be here now...."

Part Wilhelm Reich lecture, part Seinfeld television episode featuring a guest appearance by Ram Dass.

I'm not ashamed to say that half of this novella floated over my head or passed through my brain without sticking. I loved the funny bits in the other half though.
Wilhelm é um homem que não está à altura do que precisa ser: um pai de família. Não consegue sustentar os filhos, está quebrado, e ninguém o consola. Ninguém tem pena dele. É aflitivo, verdadeiramente aflitivo, assistir ao seu colapso emocional.
Nov 22, 2012 Frankie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 20, 2009 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Ali Nazifpour
Nov 13, 2013 Ali Nazifpour rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Vit Babenco
May 04, 2015 Vit Babenco rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Cynicism was bread and meat to everyone. And irony, too.”
Tommy Wilhelm is a hopeless dream chaser – all his life he was chasing his romantic dreams but couldn’t catch any. He is too credulous and conscientious so he always ends up being used. He wanted to be an actor but had no talent, he got married but received only unhappiness, he hoped to make money but just lost everything so he became bitter and distressed. And his ancient father, aware that the son will always remain a useless good-for-n
Feb 25, 2013 Amin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 (
Jun 04, 2016 Alan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In my five-book intro to lit class taught at a community college, I often included this novella or Alice in Wonderland or Tom Sawyer or Slocum's Sailing Alone. You can see I was not adhering to either chronological or authorial order or pigeonholing.
Bellow's short work evokes the America that Reagan and Bush advertise, the Market, the go-getters... New York in a word. (And, aware of current candidates from both US parties, I should add, the Losers.) Yet being Bellow, he raises essential questi
Aug 10, 2016 Aban rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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
Dec 20, 2008 Mark rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Aug 01, 2016 Amirsaman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
«همان طور با پسرش برخورد می کرد که سابقا با مریض هایش.»
«من یاد گرفتم همدلی م رو واسه مرض های واقعی نگه دارم.»
«وقتی آخرین گور کنده می شه، دستمزد گورکن باید داده بشه.»
«اگه عشق، عشق باشه، رایگانه.»
«او از چیزهایی حرف می زد که اهمیت داشتند، و چون آدم های خیلی کمی این کار را می کردند، او می توانست غافلگیرتان کند، به هیجان تان بیاورد، و تکان تان دهد.»
«آدم می تونه از برانداز کردن خودش و تلاش برای راست و ریس کردن خودش خسته بشه. می تونه کل نیمه ی دوم زندگی شو وقف جبران اشتباهات نیمه ی اول بکنه.»
Jim Peterson
I expected more. Likeable characters would've been a good start, but a likeable story would've been even better.
Sofía (Софья)
Jul 30, 2015 Sofía (Софья) rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: A nadie
Una novela mediocre sobre un hombre mediocre.
Dennis Littrell
Apr 17, 2010 Dennis Littrell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
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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 about Saul Bellow...

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“You can spend the entire second half of your life recovering from the mistakes of the first half. ” 91 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.” 60 likes
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