Showing posts from March, 2018


Saul Bellow's Seize the Day

Seize the Day (1956) is the shortest of Saul Bellow’s novels.  It has been called ‘a small gray masterpiece.’  Unlike the sprawling and discursive Augie March, his earlier novel, it is compact and radiates from its very beginning extreme tension and extraordinary emotional resonance.  In the words of Joseph Epstein, While Augie is aware of the forces of the contemporary world which lay in wait to kill off the self and is, at that book’s end, pledged to do combat with them, the hero of Seize the Day has almost been brought to his knees by these same forces. Thus, the novel is an affirmation of human life.  As John Clayton rightly observes, it is An affirmation of the possibility that the ‘salesman’ need not go to his ‘death,’ need not live a life given to him by others and follow a masochistic strategy to preserve his childish self.             The protagonist, Tommy Wilhelm, as we first meet him, is down on his luck, out a job and desperate at his own narrowing prospects.  He is living in…

Adrienne Rich's Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law

Adrienne Rich, American poet and essayist, is best known for her examination of the experiences of women in society.  She received the Yale Younger Poets Award for her first collection of poems A Change of World.  Her other books include Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law (1963), Of Woman Born (1976), The Dream of a Common Language (1978), Your Native Land, Your Life (1986), and An Atlas of the Difficult World (1992). During her career, Rich has been active in the women’s movement, the promotion of civil rights and anti-war activities. Much of her poetry reflects these concerns. In the words of Nina Baym, A multitalented writer, polemist, and literary theorist, Adrienne Cecile Rich is an exponent of a poetry of witness and dissent, a poetry that voices the discontent of those generally silenced and ignored.  She has encouraged people to question their beliefs, and in many of her poems Rich analyses herself, reflecting on such subjects as her Jewish heritage, myth, the historical developmen…

Earle Birney's Poetry: A Study

Of all the Canadian poets who appeared during the mid-twentieth century, Earle Birney comes before us as the most central and pivotal literary figure.  He was born in Calgary, Alberta, to Will Birney, an itinerant prospector.  He was an only child and spent what he called a ‘solitary and Wordsworthian childhood’ on a subsistence farm near Ponoka, Alberta.  During his childhood days he read the Holy Bible, John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, and the poems of Robbie Burns.  He was educated at the University of British Columbia, the University of Toronto, Berkeley and the University of London, where his primary interests were in Old and Middle English, culminating in a dissertation on Chaucer.  Throughout his career he was an experimental poet, publishing over 20 books of verse that vary as widely in form and voice as they do in subject.  His poems reveal his constant concern to render his encyclopedic experience – be it of Canada's geographical or cultural reaches, of nature, of trav…

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