Thursday, July 07, 2005

Seize the Day by Saul Bellow

I read this for a book club then the meeting was cancelled, and I’m left with nobody to discuss it with (I always did do my homework too early)… The only other Bellow I’ve read is Herzog which is a much bigger book in literal and figurative ways. But Seize the Day—which takes place all in one day—is another good example of a short novel (see The Bay of Noon). While it has an omniscient narrator, the book most closely follows one character, Wilhelm, and the day is his worst. Like a short story the novel starts very close to the moment of disastrous climax, but the novel goes deeply into character. Not a lot of plot, but there is a lot of reflection on people, particularly Wilhelm, and their many aspects. As is often the case, a lot of the revelation about the character comes from the relationships he has with other people (this is a good father-son novel—well, at least in terms of revealing the ways such a relationship can go wrong) as opposed to who he is in the abstract. Too often character development is done through facts about the person, rather than insight into how s/he behaves with others. This provides a nice example of how character development can in many ways carry a story.

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