Set in 1942, Dangling Man is not so much a traditional story as it is a character study of a man with no direction and too much time on his hands. Joseph, is young married man who, due to his immigrant status hindering his attempts to enlist in the US Army, has been left in a Chicagoan limbo.With nothing to do, and no one to talk to, Joseph begins to unravel. In fits of ennui, he lashes out at his friends, his relations, and his wife, and while he does feel remorse, this doesn’t stop it from happening again and again.
Though the book is quite short and focuses more on philosophical issues than an actual narrative, it’s still very effective. There are parts of Dangling Man that hit a little too close to home for various reasons, which made it quite difficult to read, despite it’s length. I suppose however, that’s a testament to Bellow’s writing more than anything however.
On that note, it’s worth drawing attention to the fact that having read this book, I can now cross off another name on my list of Nobel Laureates. I’m not aiming to assess the relative worth of the laureates, especially since there is no guarantee that the work I’ve read is representative of their wider output, as, I think, is the case here.
That said, I’m still glad I read it, even if it is just for the sense of timelessness and solidarity that I got out of Joseph’s experience.