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The Adventures of Augie March (1953)

by Saul Bellow

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
3,392662,922 (3.86)2 / 209
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.… (more)
  1. 11
    Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: These sprawling novels feature an irrepressible and memorable protagonist. The Adventures of Augie March is set in the 1920s and Depression-era America; Middlesex tells the family history -- spanning the 20th century -- of a hermaphroditic main character.… (more)
  2. 00
    This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald (CGlanovsky)
    CGlanovsky: Young men coming of age in different eras of 20th Century America.
  3. 00
    David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (CGlanovsky)
    CGlanovsky: Bildungsroman: the education of a young man.
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» See also 209 mentions

English (64)  Dutch (1)  French (1)  All languages (66)
Showing 1-5 of 64 (next | show all)
Augie March becomes a wanderer through the America of the 1930's, though he keeps telling himself he is not a drifter. Just as soon as he gets through this current difficulty, usually caused by a woman, he will get down to making a sucess of himself. We leave him at a fairly stable point, while he is still a work in progress, though he has already been in and out of most of the circumstances of the adventure story, and the "how I became a sucess." tale. Mr. Bellow, has a firm grasp of English, and is a very good plotter. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Oct 22, 2021 |
Saul Bellow had been on my list of authors to try for years. Truth be told, I was scared of him. Winner of the Nobel and the Pulitzer, I imagined Bellow’s writing to be dense and academic, or too experimental. And, yes, there is something one could call experimental about The Adventures of Augie March , a departure from the more “traditional” forms of storytelling, however it was so accessible and engaging, drawing me in almost effortless.

I actually listened to this book in audio format but I find it interesting that my perception and recollection of it is very visual. As Augie narrates his story, I felt as if I was flipping through an old album of photography. Augie pinpoints one or another of the people around him, old eccentrics, crooks, immigrants, the new-rich, with such great detail and insight, and as he talks about this of that character, a bigger picture of Chicago during the depression starts to form. Eventually even Chicago becomes too small of a canvas for such a story and it spills out, first south, towards Mexico, and then East, to Europe.

I have at times drawn a parallel between a book and a painting, and although I cannot think of a specific painting at this moment, it certainly would be a Picasso: bits and pieces of characters and plot, all with multi-facets, creating a much bigger picture of a time period. Not exactly pretty, but captivating and intriguing. Certainly distinctive, but somewhat vague.

I should stop now; as I realize that my description may do this book a disfavor. Anyone reading this review may think it is after all a difficult book, when really it is not. It was a great story to listen, with a remarkable narrator. I cannot recommend it enough.

( )
  RosanaDR | Apr 15, 2021 |
I want to read this again. It is a rambling picaresque set mostly in Chicago (and Mexico) in the years before and during WWII. The writing is complex, and notable for
1. long, dense descriptions of characters and setting
2. characters that are shrply observed
3. similes and metaphors that are arresting: wait, what, let me reread that, oh, I'd never have seen that but it is so very apt! (on almost every page
4. allusions, both direct and indirect, to legend, myth, literature and philosophy that made me want to stop every two or three pages to learn more (but not pedantic)

The picaresque form is somewhat antiquated, but the writing more than holds one's attention and admiration ( )
  brianstagner | Nov 22, 2020 |
I wasn't going to finish it, but then I got determined to do so. I'm glad I did, but only because I accomplished that. ( )
  littlebookjockey | Sep 15, 2020 |
I've only read two books by Bellow, arguably one of the great American authors of the twentieth century. (The first was Herzog, which I read 50 years ago. I have no memory of it, and I suspect that at 16 I did not have the experience to appreciate it.) Augie March, written about 15 years earlier than Herzog, is a fascinating, but often exasperating, novel. My-husband-the-English-major, who listened to it a bit earlier, opined it was a Bildungsroman, but I saw precious little Bildung happening during Augie's Adventures. I would agree with some other Goodreads reviewers that it was more a picaresque novel -- that is, one damned thing after another. Various friends and family members tell Augie that he just lets things happen to him and will follow anyone who flatters him, and I'd agree with them, too.

Although there are major segments set in Mexico and afloat in the Atlantic, the majority of the novel is set in Chicago from the 1920s to the late 1940s. There's plenty of atmosphere, and Bellow has a good memory for the slang of the period. (At least, I assume so, as Bellow came up in this time and place.)

Others have reviewed this book better than I (Steve Sckenda here on Goodreads, for one) but I would like to mention some thoughts I had while listening.

I wish I had a dollar for every adjective Bellow used -- he loved to string them together, especially when describing people's physical appearances. He also seemed a bit fixated on handicaps and imperfections. Not only the obvious major characters -- Georgie, his developmentally-disabled brother; his weak-eyed and eventually blind mother; Einhorn, the near-quadriplegic employer -- have their handicaps pointed out. He points out the physical imperfections, great and small, of many characters. Only Augie and his girlfriends seem exempt -- and even Augie gets two teeth broken in a fight in Mexico and mentions the broken teeth several times afterwards.

Some other twentieth/twenty-first century writers -- John Updike and Richard Ford come to mind -- have revisited the same character multiple times. I almost wish Bellow had written a "Further Adventures of Augie March." He is a character almost too self-aware, but it doesn't seem to get him anywhere, and when the book ends, he is barely even 30 if I read it right. What would Augie become in 10, 20 or 30 years? Sadly, we'll never know (although he may appear in other books under other names?) Although this wasn't my favorite book of all time, I would still recommend it, and if you like audiobooks, the narrator, Tom Parker, does a great job with this one. ( )
  auntieknickers | Aug 21, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 64 (next | show all)
The Adventures of Augie March is for me the great creation myth of twentieth century American literature.
 

» Add other authors (20 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Bellow, Saulprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Trilling, LionelIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To my father
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I am an American, Chicago born–Chicago, that somber city–and go at things as I have taught myself, free-style, and will make the record in my own way: first to knock, first admitted; and sometimes an innocent knock, sometimes a not so innocent.
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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.

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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