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 placed 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.
Saul Bellow (1915–2005), author of numerous novels, novellas, and stories, was the only novelist to receive three National Book Awards. He also received the Pulitzer Prize, the Nobel Prize in Literature, and the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.
©1956 1974 by Saul Bellow. renewed 1984 by Saul Bellow (P)2011 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
“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.” (New York Times)
I've always liked the way Bellow captures characters by their dress, their expressions, their manners, and this short novel has some good ones, starting with Tommy Wilhelm. But he places Wilhelm in a predicament and then leaves us hanging. When I read this decades ago, I thought it was moving. Listening to it now, I found it frustrating.
Excellent as usual.
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