Dangling Man by Saul Bellow

You guys! Today is not a rave. I did not like this one. Not that I hated it. But I haven’t been unenthusiastic about a book on this blog for a while, so here goes:

Dangling ManDangling Man, I did not love you. Apparently you “reflected contemporary intellectual preoccupations with the nature of freedom” but, to be honest, I was mostly bored.

The dangling man of the title, Joseph has quit his job at the Inter-American Travel Bureau in preparation for a draft that never seems to come. Now he just spends a lot of time in his room thinking about his existence and human nature in general, that is, when he’s not taking out his frustration by picking fights with his family and friends.

Joseph’s complete self-absorption coupled with his detachment from his own life stopped me from connecting with him as a character. Meanwhile, his petty squabbles never elevated beyond little tantrums of pride and self interest to become engaging.

I also found the book to be strangely ungrounded; I had to keep reminding myself it was taking place in Chicago. With the intellectual friends, musings on French and German philosophy and existentialism, industrial landscape and foreign surnames I thought it all felt somehow European. I also found the weird mix of the banal and rambles on existentialism kind of jarring, each mode prevented me from connecting with the other.

Look, I probably missed something important but this book left me cold.

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