The adventures of Augie March

by Saul Bellow

Hardcover, 2003





New York : Viking, 2003.


This grand-scale heroic comedy tells the story of the exuberant young Augie, a poor Chicago boy growing up during the Depression. While his neighborhood friends all settle down into their various chosen professions, Augie, as particular as an aristocrat, demands a special destiny. He latches on to a wild succession of occupations, proudly rejecting each one as too limiting. It is not until he tangles with a glamorous perfectionist named Thea, a huntress with a trained eagle, that his independence is seriously threatened. Luckily, his nature, like the eagle's, breaks down under the strain. He goes on to recruit himself to even more outlandish projects, but always ducks out in time to continue improvising his unconventional career.

Media reviews

The Adventures of Augie March is for me the great creation myth of twentieth century American literature.

User reviews

LibraryThing member girlunderglass
I couldn't even get to page 100... The introduction of The Adventures of Augie March makes a claim for the "primary of feeling and of unsymbolic real life" depicted in the book. But the most beautiful thing about books is the fact that they offer either an escape from this "real life" or a different perspective of viewing or living it. Saul Bellow consciously decides to offer neither and makes a brave attempt at portraying the life of Augie realistically but, unfortunately, the result is not entertaining, educating, or interesting in any way; to me, at least. "I went to the bakery today. I stole some bread. Grandma scolded me." Sure, you can take those sentences and transform them into long paragraphs, embroidering the text with adjectives and adverbial phrases; it will look a great deal better stylistically, but it won't have any more meaning than the original. And that's exactly what Bellow seems to be doing. Describing in great detail and authentic style an extremely boring character and his extremely boring life. There's nothing sadder than an author blessed with the gift of writing but deprived of the power of imagination.… (more)
LibraryThing member mjiko
This is one of my all-time favourite books, and a classic American bildungsroman. The prose is dense and full of description, but the book still storms along at a great pace, with fantastic characterizations and narrative. The atmosphere of Chicago that comes through is incredible. Saul Bellow encapsulates the spirit of that great city.… (more)
LibraryThing member TheAmpersand
Epic in the truest sense, an astonishingly dense and beautifully lyrical account of an undistinguished Chicago kid's coming of age. I wasn't too far into "The Adventures of Augie March" before I realized that one reading wasn't going to be enough and that I'd have to re-read it before too long. Bellow packs more material and feeling into two or three pages than some novelists can manage in entire novels: the book fairly bursts with characters, anecdotes, and uncannily great descriptive passages. There's something Joycean about the whole thing, too. Bellow inserts plenty of classical references in his description of grimy, busy mid-century Chicago, and his writing transmogrifies Chicago's trainyards and ethnic slums into hauntingly beautiful and memorable places, making them unlikely settings for literary greatness, But great is what "The Adventures of Augie March" is: its rich, almost grandiose sentences subtly probe the Big Questions while capturing the deeply affecting idiosyncrasies of the book's characters. It's nothing short of stunning. The next time I've got a few weeks to fill -- and God only knows when that will be -- I'll surely be picking this one up again.… (more)
LibraryThing member hdusty
a hard slog but well worth. america in a novel: the city, the country, the personalities. funny, heroic, tragic.
LibraryThing member growl
This book took me a while to get into. Once he starts working for his brother it picked up a bit and when he travels to Mexico I really enjoyed it. I was disappointed with the ending, but I guess that is the only type of ending a book of this genre could have. The descriptions and character development border on Dickensian. Not a quick read, but is satisfying.… (more)
LibraryThing member Narshkite
So much has been said about this book that I am going to balk on a review. I will just say that it is a wonderful portrait of a time and a place and a person, it is rollicking good fun, and it is unashamedly smart. Reading such a literate book, its brilliant and apt and challenging references worn proudly but without a trace of arrogance or elitism, made me long to read more challenging books.… (more)
LibraryThing member mike_wasson
This was a long trek and occasionally a bit of a slog, but wonderous at the level of pure syntax and weird astonishing description. (On a merchant marine ship: "[T]he horizon sea rising to grip after a cloud like a crab after a butterfly, with armored totter, then falling and travailing. Plus the sun's heat and the patriarch wake, spitting and lacy.") The book reminded me somehow of Thomas Pynchon's V., more in style than substance. (And if Benny Profane is Sal Paradise inverted, as a type he is closer to Augie March, wandering and striving and yet oddly passive.)… (more)
LibraryThing member tzelman
Took a long time to finish, but well worth it. Augie is a wonderful optimist in the novel about influence and growing up in Chicago
LibraryThing member RoseCityReader
Augie March follows the life of the hero from childhood in Chicago, through a sojourn in Mexico with a zany huntress, to life on the seas in the Merchant Marines. Full of Bellow's over-the-top characters and riddled with discourses on Big Ideas, Augie is a great American hero. Bellow is a treasure.
LibraryThing member annaflbak
I found Bellow an exciting author when I first read him in the late 1960s
paperback, intro by Albert J. Guerard
LibraryThing member Oreillynsf
As amy have pointed out on this pages, Augie March is a long hard book. But it is absolutely considered a classic, so I muddled through. I confess that it's special character eluded me, though the historical value of the book as a window into the 1930s was something. But all in all, for me it was more trouble than it was worth. That by no means indicates that you won't get more from it than me.… (more)
LibraryThing member hemingwayok
In the beginning, I wanted to kill myself - it was so boring. But, when it's Saul Bellow, you read the damn thing. So, I read. I really liked the way Bellow depicted America through the 30s and 50s. In quite a few parts, when Bellow was telling of Augie in the 30s, I almost felt like I was reading Fitzgerald - the fall of the rich into poverty - but it was a little darker, a little more "American". This, I think, is the distinct difference between Bellow and Fitzgerald - one was from the streets of hometown America and the other spoke from the lenses of ex-patriotism.… (more)
LibraryThing member RodneyWelch
A wandering picaresque novel that does little more than chase its own tail. The classic status of this thing continually confounds me.
LibraryThing member jddunn
A big rollicking humane book about a time when America was still a big rollicking humane country.
LibraryThing member pjpjx
well at times a bit juvenile, but a beautiful book
LibraryThing member NateK
The writing is excellent I just could not connect with it. Additionally there was much detail about people I didn't care about and who seemed to only inhabit the general periphery of Augies life.

I made it 100 pages in and decided that was enough.
LibraryThing member WrathofAchilles
Augie, himself, is frustrating, and I think Bellow wouldn't disagree. But Augie's purposeless path allows the light to shine on so many quintesentially American people, places, and ideas, that on the whole the book is awesome.
LibraryThing member keylawk
The bildungsroman of a fatherless fellow from privation drifting through jobs, women, and war. Bellow draws very contrasting themes -- longing and belonging, poverty and wealth, love and loss, with a comic undertow.
LibraryThing member jmoncton
This book falls under the category of a 'coming of age' book, following the life of Augie March, a poor Jewish boy growing up during the Depression in Chicago. The story is long and very descriptive of the hardships at that time. But this type of novel, I expect the character to grow or mature or at least experience some incredible life changing lesson. But at the end of the story, Augie is still the same flawed character making the same type of mistakes, but as a grown up adult. Overall 'meh'.… (more)
LibraryThing member HadriantheBlind
A bit of a disappointment compared to his other books, which were undoubtedly excellent. This one has gone seems to have gone nowhere - or at least well over my head. I might try it again later, and hopefully I won't become crushingly bored within 100 pages.
LibraryThing member vguy
Like an awful lot of American novels too long by half. Some credible characters and good scenes , such as the hunting with eagles, losing his rich fiancée because of helping a neighbour with her abortion. But great screeds of philosophising, well opinionated ranting describes it better. Events are a pretty random chain, no plot or sense of direction; you could stop reading at any point; the author seems to have done the same - the ending comes as a surprise: it just stops. Has the feel of a Bildungsroman as he starts out as a bright naive youngster, but doesn't get much Bildung, just more opinions!… (more)
LibraryThing member JVioland
Good book, well written, entertaining. Unfortunately, not memorable.
LibraryThing member annbury
A pretty good read. One wonders what all the fuss was about, until one realizes that Jews were not accepted and not taken seriously by the literary profession until this book was published. The style is crazy; Bellow describes people in great detail, but one has no idea as to what they look like overall. He uses massive amounts of verbiage to describe what is happening in the mind of his characters, and if that is style, so be it. The Chicago scene is thrilling, and the local characters amazing, especially Augie's brother, Simon, and his first boss-mentor, William Einhorn. I have no idea what the 'adventures' are.… (more)
LibraryThing member DanielSTJ
This novel was decent, but I felt the scope was a bit too wide and the prose not clear enough to give it a higher rating. The story was in the style of the Bildungsroman style that appeared, much earlier in Europe, except it was set in the United States instead. It is a novel of growth and self-exploration- as much for Bellow as for the reader themselves. Overall, a satisfactory book, but one that I only enjoyed in moderation.

3 stars.
… (more)
LibraryThing member alexrichman
One of those books that’s easier to appreciate afterwards than during! It’s understandably a classic given where it slots into the timeline of Great American Novels, its influence on Roth and the more recently wave of non-Jewish immigrant stories etc, but I’m not a huge fan of picaresque generally, or this one in particular. The eagle passage in Mexico was a particulate drag. One for the English students...… (more)



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