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Dangling Man (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – 27 Sep 2007
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About the Author
Saul Bellow's dazzling career as a novelist has been marked with numerous literary prizes, including the 1976 Nobel Prize, and the Gold Medal for the Novel. His other books include The Adventures of Augie March, Herzog, More Die of Heartbreak, Mosby's Memoirs and Other Stories, Mr Sammler's Planet, Seize The Day and The Victim. Saul Bellow died in 2005.
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A young man has quit his job in anticipation of being drafted quickly into the War but bureaucratic inertia or incompetence leaves him waiting for his papers alone in a room in Chicago in mid-winter where, financially supported by his wife, he writes his journals. His idleness forces him to reflect on life and, as he slides into highly critical self-analysis, he becomes increasingly frustrated and irascible with his friends and family. Eventually, the prospect of going to War begins to appeal to him, whereas before it had appalled him. The ambience is mid-century European existentialist (Camus, Buzatti) as he grapples with problems of loneliness, alienation and anxiety, but it is very much set in an American milieu and there is a real evocation of wartime Chicago. This book is beautifully written and manages to be both unsettling and enjoyable. In fact, it is hard to imagine finer writing.
now this is what we call democracy! everybody is free to think and say what they want, complete uncensored freedom of speech apart from the things that are .. forbidden.. like communism in the usa..
sure, the process on paper is perfect: if tomorrow a vast majority of people woke up communist, next thing you know, they will move lenin and mao's mummies over to capitol hill; but this doesn't take into account how the will of people can be manipulated, how scare tactics can work on the minds of the majority of people, how the secret service and the military complex can be used to change the course of history, and so on.
anyway, dangling man is not about this stuff.. it's just that the main character, joseph, is a self declared ex member of the communist party, some time before mccharthy came of age.
dangling man is more about the agony of a generation, the depression generation of americans, who was going to take a blood bath in europe and thus thrust us into this magnificent times of nowadays.
the pressure of modern life, in a big city, while the war is on, finally has the best over one man, Joseph, who surrenders to everything, becomes incapable of the daily repetition of acts in a robot-like manner: wake up, go to work, earn money, spend money, go back home, with few exceptions for the weekends (when there has to be more spending and less earning).
Joseph decides to go to war, but even this attempt is delayed, because man makes his own life as miserable as it can be, and so there is red tape, there are problem. so joseph spends almost an year or a bit longer, living off his wife, reading the newspaper, with increasingly worn clothes; all the good qualities that "society" or "good manner" require, peel off him like skins decaying for lack of use.
the character will loose the extra weight of external skins that society requires us to wear and will go down to a core of a solitary man, desperate to be part of something, in agony for having lost that social belonging.
last words of the book are: "Long live regimentation!".
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