Fiction. Literature. HTML: 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. With a jaunty sense of humor embedded in a serious moral view, Bellow's story both celebrates and satirizes the irrepressible American spirit..
paperback, intro by Albert J. Guerard
I made it 100 pages in and decided that was enough.
This picaresque book has been touted as a contender for the “Great American Novel.” It is a must-read according to the Boxall List. Perhaps my expectations were too high, but I do not think it has aged well. I like parts of it, especially Augie’s adventures in Mexico, but the story feels antiquated, especially it is depiction of women. It was published in 1953, so perhaps it is representative of its time, but young women are the described by their body parts and older women are said to be shrewish. It was hard for me to get past these segments. It is long and detailed. It meanders. The writing is fine, but reading it felt like a chore.
This review is from: The Adventures of Augie March (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
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This review is from: The Adventures of Augie March (Penguin Modern Classics)
I've finally finished it! And though it's a very dense read (not one to take to bed; you need to be 'on the ball' to cope with Bellow's prose), it's also extremely enjoyable.
The storyline follows our eponymous 'hero' from humble origins in Depression era Chicago, child of a simple-minded mother and unknown father, through a succession of jobs and relationships. From lowly work to getting 'taken up' by wealthier individuals, Augie's narrative includes wonderful, often very humorous, descriptions; interposed with his story are conversations on life which he has with his various acquaintances.
I don't pretend to have picked up on all the philosophical musings, but there's a lot of powerfully expressed truths in those I did. For example, on human dissembling:
"Even in a few minutes' conversation, do you realise how many times what you feel is converted before it comes out as what you say? Somebody tells you A. Your response is B. B you can't say, so you transform it, you put it through the coils of your breast. From DC to AC, increased four hundred volts, filtered. So instead of B, there comes out gamma sub one....Mind you, I'm a great admirer of our species. I stand in awe of the genius of the race. But a large part of this genius is devoted to lying and seeming what you are not."
A challenging book (536 p) but one I'm glad I read.