Seize the Day
In Seize the Day, Wilhelm (Tommy) Adler seems gullible, a complete failure, and on the edge of financial destruction. Against his agent's advice early on, Tommy went to Hollywood as a movie extra. He would have loved to have become a star, but eventually applied his talents to a successful sales career. As he hit his early 40s, his company brought in "new blood" and reduced Tommy's sales territory to 50% instead of providing a promised promotion, leaving him no choice but to quit to save face.
Tommy is hoodwinked by a Dr. Tamkin into giving up power of attorney in a stock market scheme and loses his last dollar, upon which his wife calls to demand money. Distraught, but self controlled, Tommy is carried into the street crowds by a wave of energy and into a funeral of a man unknown to him. Looking down into the casket, Tommy sees his own future and the futility of ambition. He weeps forlornly in the understanding that all men end this life in death.
Henderson the Rain King
In Henderson the Rain King, the crass, alcoholic American Eugene Henderson is having a 55-year-old's mid-life crisis. Although he is a millionaire, his money is not enough, his social position is not fulfilling, and his large family is not the stuff of contentment. His wives have not liked him. He has no purpose other than wanting more of everything. He is the epitome of anthropology's sometimes-assertion that Western society is full of a type of man that gets what he can. Interestingly, Bellow received one of his degrees in anthropology.
Eugene meets King Dahfu, who guides the spiritually lost white man in finding the real Eugene by roaring like a lion in a cage with a lion. Henderson also accidentally "makes it rain" and becomes a native icon. So adored, he becomes a healer of sorts and returns to America with plans to enroll in medical school to meet his new purpose.
Jack Nicholson once said that the role he most wanted to play was Eugene Henderson. A movie--inspired by the novel--was produced with Nicolson as the lead. Saul Bellows would have loved to see this one: "Henderson - Cultural Learnings to Make Benefit Glorious Altruism of Rich New Doctor."
The paranoid protagonist of Herzog finds himself alone after third wife Madeleine leaves him for his best friend, Valentine Gersbach. He lives in a crumbling country house with rats, a middle-aged college professor with financial woes and lady problems. His newest relationship with Ramona from Argentina is not going well. The first line of the novel reads: "If I am out of my mind, it's all right with me, thought Moses Herzog."
This Moses writes, but not on stone tablets. While traveling, he compulsively writes insane letters on a route that includes New York, Marthas Vineyard, New York again, Chicago, and home. He writes to friends, his therapist, the President of the United States, Schrodinger, Nietzsche, a bevy of mistresses, and several dead people. He never means to mail any of these wittily insightful messages, but they help him sort life.
Herzog looks for truth and beats back lifes hypocrisy, alienation, and boredom. In the end, Moses writes letters that he feels he can actually mail in order to remedy some of his circumstances. This is a healthier mental status and Moses begins again to see Ramona, but plans not to repeat past mistakes.
Herzog is said in particular to be autobiographical and Saul Bellow inserted himself firmly into all of these three novels. This collection is a must-have.