Market Street BART Station - October 30,1991

I have a vision of the place that I am sure is wrong. White tile everywhere with little black tiles lining the corners of the walls and floor. The floor is made of black something, maybe rubber, maybe glass. Posters are placed here and there with dollar amounts on them – is that how much it costs to ride? The sign nearest me says Get Home.

The right hand is the one that betrays me first - a tremor. No. nonono. I am biting tinfoil. Metal shiver from the right canine through the ear, back of the neck, where it turns into a buzz that disperses through the blood. I am buzzing.

Shit goddamn motherfucking ass shit I am so mad at every single person in San Francisco. I hate you. Fuck all you fuckers because you are about to see me fucking fall on the fucking floor and pee my pa

-out-

In. I know where I am. I’m on the floor of course. I drag my dead lead arm two inches that feel like 26.3 miles. Was Mark walking with me? I know he was somewhere in the day. I think he is going to get me something. No he’s gone. I’m alone. People are talking. Open your eyes stupid.

EYES OPEN AND ALL SENSES SLAM INTO ACTION/OVERLOAD
TOO MUCH LIGHT
someone rifling through my bag - my wallet
PAIN
ow my head someone is pushing on it stop please stop go away
ROAR
are you ok? who is Mark? What’s your name honey? Can you hear me? Its Katie, her name – it’s on her card here. Did someone call 911?

-out-

in. weak. aware that I am soaked the waist down. but warm, a blanket. it’s darker but loud. Moving. hey! I know this! it is ambulance! I have an IV. make my hand cold.

-out-

i. drug push. veins burn from in to heart to fingertips and toes. No info can exit this head but I hear you.

“why isn’t that boy upstairs in Pediatrics? This is no place for a little kid.”
“he just shot his parents”

-out-

in neurological exam. I can follow the finger.

“Hey there’s our girl!” Half a dozen people I barely know and as of this moment hate.

“It’s ok, miss Katie! Mark sent us to take you back to the club – you can stay in Mark’s office until closing and we’ll go out to breakfast!”

Doctor Neuro to the rescue: “I think “Miss Katie” needs to go home and sleep for a couple of days. Someone needs to get her home.”

Silence.

Dr. Neuro: “I will discharge this woman when someone promises to take her home.”

Blank stares. “Let’s call Mark.” They call.

Innocent faces with wide oh-so honest eyes are back. Aurora volunteers. “I’ll take her home doctor.”

“All right. Just step over here please.” She does. The others close in. “wow seizures must be so cool – do you remember them? Are yo..” Aurora is back

“We are out – sorry miss Katie, we’ll tell Mark you’re here.” They leave. Quickly.

“I told her I wouldn’t release you to a driver whose pupils were dilated that far.”

thank you” is the first thing I remember saying all day.

SEIZE THE DAY

Seize the Day, a novella by Saul Bellow, offers a cold glimpse into the injustices of a world dominated by avarice and duplicity.

Written in 1956, Seize the Day describes eight hours in the life of Tommy Wilhelm, a middle-aged, unemployed Jewish New Yorker living on the Upper West Side. Not just any day, however--today is the day he will attempt to overcome the burdens imposed by his demanding, separated wife; his wealthy, despicably contemptful father; his aimlessness; his poverty; and himself. Taking the advice of Dr. Tamkin, he invests his last seven hundred dollars in shares of lard on the commodities market. He waits and waits throughout the day, deep in thought over past follies and present concerns. But, in the end, opportunism and bad luck once again defeat Wilhelm: the lard shares plummet, he loses his savings, and Dr. Tamkin leaves town.

Bellow poses a number of messages in Seize the Day . He suggests first--primarily--the corrupting effect of money on individuals and the cruelty of "the system." At the same time, however, Bellow says that one must be aware of life's unfairness and act accordingly: there comes a point, in other words, where one's own naivete becomes as shameful as the harsh reality it attempts to ignore. The solution, Bellow implies, is to seize the day--not just the important ones, but, rather, every day.

Like much of Bellow's work, this novella is a masterfully crafted work of literature. His novels include Dangling Man (1944), The Adventures of Augie March (1953), Henderson the Rain King (1959), and Herzog (1964).

I have always been a habitual reader, and like many habitual readers, I am not always that discerning about what I read. I often read what is termed genre fiction, a somewhat disparaging term for books where the plot is dependent on elves or explosions. To counterbalance this, and to learn more about the world of literature, I have made an attempt to read more literary fiction. Literary fiction is the type of fiction where characterization is explored without the use of the fantastic or unusual, and where plot often takes a backseat to characterization. Less charitably, it often involves the psychological and family problems of middle class people from the East Coast. Seize the Day fits both descriptions. It is also written by Saul Bellow, who received a Nobel Prize for perfecting this type of work.

The book is a short novel, or novelette, taking place in one day in the life of a middle class New Yorker, Tommy Wilhelm, who is rapidly running out of money and self-respect. The other two important characters in the story are Tommy's father, Dr. Adler (Tommy changed his name for reasons that perhaps have to do with avoiding his Jewish background) and Tommy's "friend", the pretentious, dishonest Dr. Tamkin, who convinces Tommy to gamble what remains of his money on the commodity market. The book covers the events of the day, including some long conversations between Tommy and these two characters, and also covers some of Tommy's background, such as his attempt as a career in Hollywood and his failed marriage. Beyond the characterization, the plot of the book is driven by Tommy's gambling on the commodities market, which anyone who knows anything about literary conventions or commodity markets will be able to guess the conclusion of.

There are several aspects of the book that a reader in the early 21st century may not quite be in tune with. For one thing, an attempt to subvert the hypocrisy of the 1950s Jewish bourgeois is a battle that may not seem as interesting as when the book was written. This also makes one of the major interactions in the book somewhat murky for me: Tommy's father disapproves of his son's dissipate life, and I am not sure whether this is because he is genuinely worried and concerned about his son's well-being, or whether he is being portrayed as an unsympathetic conformist. The only character in the book who seems highly relevant to me is the slick, insufferable Dr. Tamkin, who has a ready made explanation and story for everything, and who seems to very accurately describe the type of new age con-man who has continued to surround us.

But as interesting as the book is on its own, it has one big problem: Saul Bellow's Nobel Prize. If I had found this book and read it without looking at the name of the author, I would probably have found it an interesting enough book, and an interesting look into a particular society. The problem is this book is held to be an important work by an important author, a master of a literary tradition that considers itself to be the most important form of literature. Is this a good book? Yes. Is this book an incredibly insightful, deeply psychologically moving look into the human condition? That is something I am much less sure of.

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