Saul Bellow: Seize the Day
Tommy Wilhelm, who used to be Wilky Adler but changed his name because Tommy Wilhelm sounded so much better, is down on his luck. Early on he rejected his father’s profession in medicine and tried acting, at which he was a flop and was tricked by a talent scout. He went into sales but then quit when nepotism did him out of his sales district. He is separated from his wife and estranged from his children and father. He lives in a hotel where his father has retired and naturally turns to his father for help but is denied. He then turns to a substitute father, Dr. Tamkin, who promises to invest Tommy’s last $700 in a commodity speculation. Naturally, he disappears with the money, leaving Tommy broke. The whole action of the novel takes place during a single day (though with lots of flashbacks) and, by the end of the day, Tommy is desperate. Of course, he finds his epiphany at the end – in a funeral parlour – and presumably comes to realise that caring for others and not being a loner is the way forward, as other Bellow heroes also come to realise. This is one of Bellow’s shorter novels and, though it was not particularly well received when it first appeared, it has grown in reputation and is certainly well worth reading.
First published 1956 by Viking