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Seize the Day

Seize the Day

3.5 11
by Saul Bellow

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“What makes all of this so remarkable is not merely Bellow’s eye and ear for vital detail. Nor is it his talent for exposing the innards of character in a paragraph, a sentence, a phrase. It is Bellow’s vision, his uncanny ability to seize the moment and to see beyond it.” –Chicago Sun-Times

Fading charmer Tommy Wilhelm


“What makes all of this so remarkable is not merely Bellow’s eye and ear for vital detail. Nor is it his talent for exposing the innards of character in a paragraph, a sentence, a phrase. It is Bellow’s vision, his uncanny ability to seize the moment and to see beyond it.” –Chicago Sun-Times

Fading charmer Tommy Wilhelm has reached his day of reckoning and is scared. In his forties, he still retains a boyish impetuousness that has brought him to the brink of chaos: He is separated from his wife and children, at odds with his vain, successful father, failed in his acting career (a Hollywood agent once cast him as the “type that loses the girl”), and in a financial mess. In the course of one climactic day he reviews his past mistakes and spiritual malaise, until a mysterious philosophizing con man grants him a glorious, illuminating moment of truth and understanding, and offers him one last hope….

This Penguin Classics edition contains an introduction by Cynthia Ozick.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

Editorial Reviews

Alfred Kazin
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.
— The New York Times, 1956

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Penguin Classics Series
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.07(w) x 7.73(h) x 0.37(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet 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."

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
June 10, 1915
Date of Death:
April 5, 2005
Place of Birth:
Lachine, Quebec, Canada
Place of Death:
Brookline, Massachusetts
University of Chicago, 1933-35; B.S., Northwestern University, 1937

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Seize the Day 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was extremely dull. A struggle to read that was only completed as a project for school.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i thought that Saul Bellow did an amazing job with writing this novel. It was hard to read some of the things Tommy's father would say, because even though that deep down we know some father's say that stuff it does happen. I also loved the ending of this book because it summed up everything in the book. Beyond everything i just mentioned i love love love his choice for the title. It just makes the book amazing. That you should live life to the fullest because in a split second it could be taken from you.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this short but very complex tale. Bellow writes with a zest that no postmodern writer has acheived. He captures city life in his romantic realism that is far beyond Sandburg. This is neither a postmodern novel or modernist novel. In fact, it refutes both ideals. It engages the character of Wilhelm as a Jewish character in the middle of urban America, a place that Bellow feels comfortable. Bellow's ultimate vision is that humanity can only learn through experience and not ideology. Wilhelm constantly finds bad characters and financial mishandlings that put him on the verge of destruction. Also in this myriad is his very troubled relationship with his father. Live in the moment. Carpe diem or 'seize the day,' is the motto of Dr. Tamkin, the malevolent trickster or stranger myth encountered in Judaism. I'd recommend it thoroughly. Shows the appreciation of Judaism, although Bellow's obviously masculine character could not delve to be observant.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I tried to read this book and couldn't get interested. It was so slow, and seemingly pointless that I could not remember what I was reading. Only read this book if you must.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is arguably Bellow's most profound and moving work. It captures the world of West Side New York , and is filled with remarkable portraits of stunning minor characters. Its hero,Wilky,is a failed salesman, the poor losing- his- last- cent- son of the prosperous Dr. Adler. He is the hippotamus- like failed actor whose contradictory and broken heart fails him in his struggle to make sense of his life.The book is written with a precise Yiddish- English and rare humor.The final scene in which Wilky comes to a funeral cortege and weeps copiously ,but not for the dead person but for himself is tremendously painful and poignant. This is a great book, a book about failure and success , the American dream in one Jewish version of it. I believe anyone who cares for Literature will love this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read Seize the Day by Saul Bellow for an AP English book critique and found it mesmerizing. It makes one discover that throughout life's ups and downs, and there's always that silver lining. Because life is a precious thing to behold and to LIVE, live every day to the best of your ability, because you never know when it will be taken from you.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Last year I was given an English assignment where we were to choose between several books and write a literary analysis. I chose 'Seize the Day', intrigued by it's title. It sounded like a fairly uncomplicated story about how you should, well, seize the day. Boy, did I underestimate this novel! It has become one of my favorite books- thought provoking, meaningful, mournful and uplifting all at the same time. The story of a man who is desperate to succeed in a harsh, unrelenting business world is unforgettable. I suggest this book to any intelligent person who enjoys exploring the gray areas in life. This book will change you!