Dangling Man

by Saul Bellow

Paper Book, 1971





New York : Penguin, 1996, c1971.


GENERAL & LITERARY FICTION. Expecting to be inducted into the army, Joseph has given up his job and carefully prepared for his departure to the battlefront. When a series of mix ups delays his induction, he finds himself facing a year of idleness. Dangling Man is his journal, a wonderful account of his restless wandering through Chicago's streets, his musings on the past, his psychological reaction to his inactivity while war rages around him, and his uneasy insights into the nature of freedom and choice.

User reviews

LibraryThing member edwardhenry
Bellow's first novel is not as brilliant as those written during his peak, but it shows flashes. Most interesting to me were the traces of existentialism found herein, which can be seen in a better digested form in Bellow's later work.

Dangling Man is very short, to the point that it can be read in one long sitting. It is an uneven novel, and the characters are not nearly as lively as Bellow's would come to be, but it's still Bellow, and it's still great.… (more)
LibraryThing member stillatim
Should've started my Bellow reading with this, I think. First I read Ravelstein, which was essentially an insult to the reader's intelligence. It took me a few years to get over that farce, and when I did, I went with 'Seize the Day,' which was okay, but not particularly memorable for any reason. This is really good, provided you liked that Dostoevsky volume that includes Notes from Underground and the Grand Inquisitor section from Brothers K. Because 'Dangling Man' is the mid twentieth century, American love-child of those two pieces. My only problem is that I had the uncomfortable feeling that Bellow would have told me I was taking the wrong things to be ironic. The Dangling Man's fatuous 'philosophy,' either of his younger or older self, made me laugh out loud. The idiocies of the other characters were sometimes amusing, but just as often touching. I suspect that's the opposite to the way that Bellow would have had me read it. So this passage from February 2 is my favourite in the book: "I answered that I was preparing myself spiritually, that I was willing to be a member of the Army, but not a *part* of it. He thought this a very witty answer. He believes I am a natural comedian and laughs at everything I say. The more serious I become, the harder he laughs." Indeed.

On the other hand, you'd be perfectly justified in saying: "This is the maudlin and pathetic ravings of a man who believes himself to be better than everyone else. We all have those thoughts, but he seems to be unaware that we all have those thoughts; he also seems to be unaware that he's a shitbag."
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LibraryThing member weird_O
Dangling Man is Saul Bellow's first book, published in 1944. The writing is good, the characters are well drawn, the story satisfactory. But the novel as a whole kinda sucks.

The narrator, Joseph, is a Canadian, married to an American citizen, and living in Chicago. Because of his citizenship, his effort to join the U.S. Army is stalled. He'll be accepted, he's told, but but there'll be a delay. They'll contact him soon. In anticipation of his induction, he quits his job. He and his wife economize to live on her earnings, give up their flat and move into a rooming house. He sits at home. Waits. Gets into squabbles with his wife, his parents and brother, his in-laws, with longtime friends, with neighbors. He rejects every effort people make to ease him through this limbo. Fists fly. He's asked to leave the rooming house, his wife is ready to separate. What's to like about the guy?

At first, it seemed to be about alienation. He's an alien, and that status initially prompts rejection by the army. People endeavor to commiserate, and they offer suggestions and even financial assistance, which he chooses to view as insults. His reactions to people mystifies them and, pushed a little more, angers them. More alienation. But it's really about his indecision, his reluctance to commit himself one way or another. Contrarian.

But it's a short book.
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LibraryThing member jeffome
This was a bit odd. One man's odyssey in the early 1940s waiting to be called up for the war......waiting........can't get a job......wondering.......others wondering what the matter is that he is still around.......scared......personality and disposition take a turn for the worse......friends pay........wife pays........waiting. A bit unsettling for sure when i try to imagine what that would be like. Also significant in that this was written in 1944, so it was rather real for the time. But it was not very gripping, and i struggled to get through it in spite of its small size. But then again, I am still thinking about it. So, a 3-star rating it is....but just barely.… (more)
LibraryThing member soylentgreen23
Like a grown-up 'Catcher in the Rye', Bellow's 'Dangling Man' is a young gentleman cast adrift in society, unsure of how to live, of how his principles can be reconciled with the imperfect society around him.



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