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Dangling Man

3.54  ·  Rating details ·  2,216 ratings  ·  176 reviews
An essential masterwork by Nobel laureate Saul Bellow—now with an introduction by J. M. Coetzee
Expecting to be inducted into the army to fight in World War II, Joseph has given up his job and carefully prepared for his departure to the battlefront. When a series of mix-ups delays his induction, he finds himself facing a year of idleness. Saul Bellow's first novel document
Kindle Edition, Penguin Classics, 156 pages
Published September 6th 2006 by Penguin Classics (first published 1944)
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3.54  · 
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 ·  2,216 ratings  ·  176 reviews

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What happens if you are caught between two commitments?
If you have time to look at the world from an unoccupied position?
What will you see?
What will you discover of our common humanity?
Are you still engaged in the questions your generation asks, if you are not actively participating?
Can you understand the world better while you are inside it, or do you need to establish distance between yourself and everyday business to define its essence?
If it requires you to step out to see the patterns, but
This is Saul Bellow’s debut novel, published in 1944, so during the Second World War. It consists of Joseph’s personal diary entries dating from December 15, 1942, to April 9, 1943. He is waiting to be called up to the war. When the book opens he had already been waiting for seven months. Born in Canada, he was classified as an alien, this being the reason for the delay, the postponement of his induction. He is married, has a degree in history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and resides ...more
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
The thousands of my fans here at must know by now that I spent a great part of my childhood and early teen years in an island facing the Pacific Ocean (see my review of "Timbuktu" by Paul Auster). when I was around ten years old, a word was invented there, most likely by a close relative of mine named Aputuy (though I'm not sure of this as he may have picked it up also from someone else). I do not know how that word is spelled, but I'll write it here by the way it sounds: POO-CHOOT ...more
This was Bellow’s debut, published in 1944 when he was 29. It was probably not the best choice of introduction to Bellow – I’ll try Augie March or Herzog next – but I happened to find a cheap paperback copy in Oxfam and thought I might as well start there, having had my interest in Bellow piqued by James Atlas’ The Shadow in the Garden.

The narrator, Joseph, lives with his wife Iva in a Chicago boarding house while he waits to be called up for war service. For nearly four months he keeps a journa
Jul 16, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people recovering from political parties
Shelves: literature
Bellow is one of the strangest writers - it would be hard to say that I really like his writing. I mean, it is beautifully put together, but as I'm reading his books I keep thinking to myself, 'I'm really not enjoying this'. It is only once it is finished and months later I'm still thinking about the damn thing that I realise just how good he is.

I've often thought this one would make a good film. Of course, it would have to be a European film and since it is set in America it simply can never b
Saul Bellow wrote Dangling Man when he was about my age and as I read, I recognized some of the thoughts and realizations that Joseph is having. For example, Joseph sees a clear difference between his current self and his younger (college-age) self. There is also the struggle with society's sense that professional progress is the end-all be-all for 20-somethings and that being stalled or focusing on other things means you're "dangling."

I liked this very much about the book because it felt very
Beautiful novel, in the line of Dostoyevsky's 'Memories from the underground' and Hesse's 'Steppenwolf'. An exploration of the modern human condition: to be or not to be, placed in Chicago in 1942-43. The main character, Joseph, hesitates to dive in the war, like all men else around him; he finds no solution to his existential despair, is literally 'dangling', and gets frustrated by the hopeless waiting. In the end he makes up his mind, but it is doubtful his decision is satisfactory. A staggeri ...more
May 14, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The reviews of this book seem to split the readers into people who vaguely identify with the fatuous intellectual and those who react and judge from a distance. I identify with him. Joseph is a Bellow protagonist who doesn't bluster larger than life like Henderson or isn't excessively snobby and removed, an alien from another generation like Sammler. He is a dabbling intellectual who judges doers from afar and is poisoned by the intersection of his own lack of initiative or concrete movement tow ...more
Stephen Durrant
"Dangling Man," Nobel-Prize-winning author Saul Bellow's first novel (1944), is one of his slighter offerings. The central character, Joseph, is a "dangling man" because he has given up his job and is awaiting induction into the military. Perhaps he is dangling in another way: he has become too intellectually removed to connect emotionally with his wife Iva or his friends. His intellectual distance is applied to himself as well, and, despite all else, he does possess a certain lucidity. While he ...more
"I am exhilarated by the tremendous unimportance of my work. It is nonsense. My employers are nonsensical. The job therefore leaves me free. There's nothing to it. In a way it's like getting a piece of bread from a child in return for wiggling your ears. It is childish. I am the only one in this fifty-three-story building who knows how childish it is. Everybody else takes it seriously. Because this is a fifty-three-story building, they think it must be serious. 'This is life!' I say, this is pis
Try as I might, I’ve never connected with Saul Bellow’s prose. My first attempt was The Actual, his penultimate work, and his shortest. A few pages in and I was lost. Then, The Adventures Of Augie March, the novel that signalled his worth as a writer: after reading the opening page repeatedly, I knew I couldn’t continue through the whole book doing so, and abandoned it.

There’s something about Bellow, though, that makes me persist. It’s probably the perception of him as one of the best American w
European Douglas
Jul 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very good
Justin Evans
Jan 30, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Should've started my Bellow reading with this, I think. First I read Ravelstein, which was essentially an insult to the reader's intelligence. It took me a few years to get over that farce, and when I did, I went with 'Seize the Day,' which was okay, but not particularly memorable for any reason. This is really good, provided you liked that Dostoevsky volume that includes Notes from Underground and the Grand Inquisitor section from Brothers K. Because 'Dangling Man' is the mid twentieth century, ...more
May 22, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a book about what happens inside a man when he is left waiting, without "regimentation," when his days are all his own. It's a good book, and I enjoyed the philosophical overtones and the musings of Joseph, the main character. I just didn't feel as connected to him and to the book itself as I have with other books. It does make me feel differently about Bellow, so that's good. I like Bellow's style and his viewpoints (if Joseph's are his).
I recommend this to fans of Modernist fiction, t
In a sort of literary refutation of Hemingway, Bellow seems determined to restore interiority, description, and garrulousness to its proper place in American fiction. "Dangling Man" is a pretty good first novel, though Bellow seems unsure of how to end his book; DM is also a fascinating document of domestic life during World War II.
Robin Friedman
Nov 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Difficult Freedom

Saul Bellow's short and first published novel "Dangling Man" (1944) explores broad themes of community and alienation in the words of a self-centered young man awaiting induction into the Army in 1942-43 during WW II. The book sold poorly but it established Bellow as a writer of promise. The story is set in Chicago and is told exclusively by means of diary entries of the protagonist, who is identified only as Joseph, between December 15, 1942, and April 9. 1943. As befitting dia
Perseus Q
Saul Bellow, Nobel Laureate, is best known for his masterpieces The Adventures Of Augie March and Herzog. Of course, I've read neither of those. Not just because I'm a tosser who prefers the lesser known works of respected authors, but because I only had $3 on me when I wandered into Fowlers' Second-Hand Books, Lorne, and this book, at $2.50, was the only Bellow I could afford. I did in fact read Bellow's The Victim several years ago and I recall none of it; oh, there was a scene on a subway I t ...more
If I could give half stars I would have given this 3.5. What keeps it from 4 stars for me is the writing style. This is the first and only book I've read by Bellows and I have to believe that since it was his first novel his writing greatly improved after completing this. But judging by just this work I found his writing style a bit un-engaging and sometimes awkward.

However the ideas he presents through his main character, with sometimes brilliant sentences and philosophical thoughts, definitel
Oct 07, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
The late Nobelist’s first novel—and the first of his I’ve read—Dangling Man is a novel in the form of a personal journal. Written (by Bellow) a year or so after the period of the journal (by Joseph), the winter-spring of 1942-43, it recounts a young Chicagoan’s wait before being inducted into the Army. A technicality has thrust him into a kind of limbo of waiting and he sourly muses his way through it, behaving like an ass to his wife and acquaintances. The time is meant as a kind of gift to him ...more
Mike Mulvey
Nov 19, 2017 rated it liked it
Moments of brilliance, but lacking overall cohesion. Bellow structured the chapters like entries in a journal, but the style wavers between short, journalist reports and more rich and literary chapters. Given this was written very early on his career the meandering is understandable.

A thought that occurred to me while following the 'dangling' protagonist through the book: you really didn't need much money in the 1930s & 1940s to be a complete loaf.

I few of the many nuggets I highlighted:

Dec 19, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
"no virtue could be considered greater than that of trying to preserve oneself."

For such a short book, this one is NOT light.
A story about Joseph, rebel and a little disillusioned with life. He spends his time doing pretty idle things.

But from there it's a little crazy. It's dense and a lot of inner ramblings and he struggles to explain to everyone and even himself, why he is so against work schedule and a planned day.

but I can't say I enjoyed it. The living arrangement (and the guy who never
Sep 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Impressive, pithy, aggressive, sharp. The narrator reminded me of a more type A version of the narrator from Notes from Underground. Joseph is a wonderful representation of someone who is caught between worlds with way too much time to think about his situation, and the means to exist without worrying about working (well, he worries quite a bit about working, but the job is always just out of reach for one reason or the other). My first reading of Bellow, his first novel, is a fantastic start. I ...more
Jun 23, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book shows a slightly different Bellow from the one I'm used to. It's interesting, though. You hear about the dangers of an unexamined life, but the narrator of this book might argue that the reverse is just as dangerous. If we have too much time too look at ourselves, we might not like what we see, and then things just might spread from there.
Michael Finocchiaro
Not bad for a first novel, but not that compelling either. I had a hard time finding compassion and identification with Joseph, the protagonist. The book is entertaining, but not a "must" in the Bellow canon.
Jun 19, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Have always loved Saul Bellow's intellect and quirkiness. Had to have a Bellow fix.
Yair Ben-Zvi
A slim novel with huge ideas, and although a great foundation is laid down and much is left undone, underdone or unsaid (to the novel's detriment I must say), it's still a more than worthwhile read, especially considering the later heights Saul Bellow reached.

The protagonist Joseph, the eponymous 'Dangling Man' is, through a bureaucratic mix up caught between American army service during world war II and his life leading up to that. He has quit his job and is simply waiting with his wife in a sm
Steve Carter
Jul 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was Bellow’s first novel.
It is set in Chicago during WWII.
The character, Joseph, writes about his life in first person journal entries. He is in his 30s. He is dangling because he might get drafted into the army soon. Since he might be drafted he is not working. He is married and his wife is working. He is basically just hanging out. They are living in a rooming house.They lost their apartment because of a dispute he had with the landlord.

It is a short novel of one of those extended times
Andria Sedig
The Dangling Man is a diary styled novel exploring the hardships and lack of identity belonging to a man named Joseph who is supposed to be drafted for the Army, but his draft keeps being delayed. Without work, Joseph is idle and struggles to understand his purpose or role in life. The diary details the psychological toll that this idleness has on Joseph's mind and relationships. While the story was interesting, it also felt pretty repetitive, which I guess was part of the point. Joseph isn't ve ...more
Shin Gaku
Jul 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing novel ! Saul Bellow is a matured novelist from the begining. This is a story about young man called Joseph. He will be enlisted to the army but in the story he is jobless. He can't get along well with his wife, friends and family because of belonging to nowhere. His ordinary life is described in a diary style. This plot is very effective and convincing. In a diary we can describe everything from philosophical things to complaints of mundane life. Reading this novel is sharing the agony o ...more
Dan Snyder
Jan 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The literary suspense in this novel is due to a metaphorical suspension. Hanging on the decision of a draft board, a bureaucratic delay destroys the illusion of freedom in slow motion.
Suspense leads toward the surrender of useless volition for a man with no 'ideal'. The diminution of joy Joseph feels results from this destruction of freedom. More ingenious metaphoric language exists in this novel: The setting of a series of rooms in boarding houses present themselves as waiting rooms, and the d
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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 Marines during World War II.

Mr. Bellow's first novel, Dangling Man, was p
“Do you have feelings? There are correct and incorrect ways of indicating them. Do you have an inner life? It is nobody's business but your own. Do you have emotions? Strangle them.” 8 likes
“Some men seem to know exactly where their opportunities lie; they break prisons and cross whole Siberias to pursue them. One room holds me.” 2 likes
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