Dangling Man by Saul Bellow

Opening with a diary entry dated December 15, 1942, we are privy to the inner thoughts of an idle young man awaiting his draft call.  There is a reason diaries are meant to be private; much can be tiresome and the rest, way too much information about a man’s thoughts.

While many of the relationships were interesting, I, like the young man, was quite eager for the call to duty.

Joseph is the keeper of the diary and quits his job to volunteer in WWII.  Much red tape causes delay in his being called and ennui quickly sets in.  Idle for the most part, his diary seems to be the only thing he does with regularity.  In this, we meet his wife, mistress, friends, family and neighbors.  This was a man without purpose hoping for a push to a regimented life.  I fear I’d cross the street if I saw him coming my way.

Joseph’s wife, Iva is a young and patient women.  She eventually comes to realize that her husband will take no initiative and sees her as less than an ideal partner.  Iva grows slowly, but surely and quietly hopes for her husband’s draft letter to come.  I hoped she’d start drafting her ‘Dear John’ letter as soon as the call comes in.

Mr. Vanaker is Joseph’s neighbor in a rooming house.  He drinks heavily and tosses his empty bottles from his window, he urinates loudly in a shared bathroom without closing the door and steals items from his neighbor’s rooms.  We never get to know him intimately, but a closer look would likely reveal an interesting character.

I think a meeting in Chicago would be most appropriate with Mr. Bellow.  As I’ve alluded to in previous reviews, he certainly is well adept at capturing man’s inner thoughts, both the light and the dark.  Perhaps he’d share his early days growing up in Chicago and his young calling as a writer.

My rating for Dangling Man is a 7 out of 10.

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Next up, Hubert Selby, Jr.’s Last Exit to Brooklyn…


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