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Dangling Man (Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin)

Dangling Man (Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin) - Salman Rushdie, Saul  Bellow Not much action. This is a character study looking at a man (Joseph) who finds himself out of work, and in a state of administrative "limbo" for several months after he is drafted for World War II, but the Army loses his records (hence the "dangling"). If pressed to state a theme for this book, I think it would be the basic human need to have meaningful work in one's life. This doesn't necessarily mean professional work (as Joseph's materially successful older brother, Amos has); it might mean charitable work (as seen with Joseph's neighbor, when she nurses the sickly old landlady). The longer he remains in a "holding pattern", Joseph becomes more restless and anguished. His self-esteem declines, he becomes insecure, combative, and dissolute (cheating on his loving wife, Ida, with promiscuous Kitty). Resolution only comes at the end, when he is finally inducted into the Army, and cheerfully faces the dangers and uncertainties of war, grateful that his direction and purpose have been restored. Bellow may have overstated things here to make his point, but I agree with the overall idea I think he was getting at. Dangling Man feels a lot like The Catcher in the Rye, if Catcher had met up with Holden Caulfield at age 28 instead of 16... A disillusioned young man, feeling seperated from the world around him, wanders around a big city (Chicago), struggles with frustrations with the shortcomings he sees in his friends and family, and stews about the materialism/phony-ness (insert other societal complaint here) of modern civilization. I probably could have written a little play with Holden and Joseph for my review, but nothing came to mind. This book is too gloomy for stuff like that anyway. Overall, Dangling Man isn't a bad book, but it isn't nearly as engaging as Catcher.