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The Adventures of Augie March (1953)

de Saul Bellow

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3,892743,240 (3.84)2 / 224
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.

.
… (més)
  1. 00
    David Copperfield de Charles Dickens (CGlanovsky)
    CGlanovsky: Bildungsroman: the education of a young man.
  2. 00
    Aquest costat del paradís de F. Scott Fitzgerald (CGlanovsky)
    CGlanovsky: Young men coming of age in different eras of 20th Century America.
  3. 11
    Middlesex de 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.… (més)
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» Mira també 224 mencions

Es mostren 1-5 de 74 (següent | mostra-les totes)
A really great read. Bellow is a master class in description using simile and metaphor, and evokes the time period for which he is writing in an absolute avalanche of description. Worth reading just to catch a flavor of the times. Halfway through this book I had to watch Radio Days, an old favorite of mine for its wonderful evocative milieu and story telling. It has much in common with Augie March. ( )
  jsmick | Jun 17, 2024 |
Huckleberry Finn and this outstanding book are comparable in terms of significance and creative writing abilities. A significant book to appreciate for its exquisite writing. ( )
  jwhenderson | Mar 27, 2024 |
It's amazing to me that people argued about Great American Novels as recently as 2003, fifty years after Augie March settled the question. It even starts with "I am an American" and ends with "America"! How can it not be the GAM?!

I'll never tire of this book, the only modern inheritor of the picaresque tradition and the first since Huck Finn. It's different from everything else I've read by Bellow, consciously visceral and eclectic, a multisensory kaleidoscope of the American century. It's a goddamn long novel but somehow the creativity never lapses and the voice never wavers and never sounds writerly, despite being intensely literary as in this streetcar trip:

It was stiff cold weather, the ground hard, the weeds standing broken in the frost, the river giving off vapor and the trains leghorn shots of steam into the broad blue Wisconsin-humored sky, the brass handgrip of the straw seats finger-polished, the crusty straw golden, the olive and brown of coats in their folds gold too...

Or this description of the coalyard manager Happy Kellerman:

He was a beer saufer; droopy, small, a humorist, wry, drawn, weak, his tone nosy and quinchy, his pants in creases under his paunch; his nose curved up and presented offended and timorous nostrils, and he had round, disingenuous eyes in which he showed he was strongly defended.

Bellow is brilliant at punctuation; his sentences move not like rivers but like traffic, interruptedly, with trams and big shots' cars and stumblebums syncopating the flow. The novel is profoundly planted in the picaresque tradition: in its rambling plot, of course, the story of an American trying on everything for size, but also in its assertion of the primacy of the real, the tangible, the sensual world:

Everyone tried to create a world he can live in , and what he can't use he often can't see. But the real world is already created, and if your fabrication doesn't correspond, then even if you feel noble and insist on there being something better than what people call reality, that better something needn't try to exceed what, in its actuality, since we know it so little, may be very surprising. If a happy state of things, surprising; if miserable or tragic, no worse than what we invent.

This is the reality-preferring, the reality-delighting, creed of the picaresque. It's an ironic inversion of Hamlet's spiritualist finger-wagging to Horatio. The world has more in it — more actual people, more dreams — than are dreamt of in your philosophy — turning the "philosophy" from the original "science" to the modern, hand-waving sense. Of "people generally": "they dug for unreality more than treasure, unreality being their last great hope because then they could doubt what they knew about themselves was true." This from the most hard-headed character in the novel, Mimi, who embodies resilience and pragmatism.

And the language here is such a treat, such a multifarious delight, it adds up to an alternate, better, reality of its own. Bellow stacks nouns like a gourmet burger chef: "...if I chose to be a lawyer, I wouldn't need to be a mere ambulance chaser, shyster, or birdseed wiseguy and conniver in two-bit cases." And he knows the power of the monosyllable: "blue gas stink in this hot brute shit of a street". Language is tactile, pungent, impinging on the ear: a band "began to pound and smite" and shortly after "clashed, drummed and brayed". These verbs are of the construction trade or the military, and they describe Bellow's tactile technique in this book.

The overriding theme of Augie's life (until he runs out of paper) is his clientism, his being serially adopted in his fatherlessness, his dependence on others as he gropes for his own identity: "Admitted that I always tried to elicit what I hoped for; how did people, however, seldom fail to supply it so mysteriously?" This is something I identify with — maybe in part 'cause of my race and gender, but even within the world of the story, and my world, Augie's and my caromings seem fortunate. But to what extent do Augie and I over-appreciate our dependence on others, our status as objects of fate? The novel take Heraclitus' "fate is character" for its leitmotif. To what extent is that true? Less and less I think so.

But I'll always love this book. It's a humongous beating heart of human sympathy, of love and trying to make things better. It's weird and sad (like at the end of chapter 4 when they commit Georgie to the institution — I cried) and full of dead-ends and wrong turns and schemes and capers. Rereading it caused me to fall five books behind schedule for my 2022 reading goal, and I don't regret a single second. ( )
  yarb | Aug 2, 2023 |
This is a tough read. There's probably a hundred different characters in this book. i thought several times that I couldn't believe kids in high school have to read this. ( )
  gideonslife | Jan 5, 2023 |
This story starts off in Chicago and is set mostly during the 1920s, Great Depression, and World War II. It is a coming-of-age story for the titular Augie. We get to know his family, including his practical elder brother, Simon, slow brother, George, and overbearing grandmother. He drifts through life not knowing what he values or wants. He forms a number of relationships, jumps from job to job, and gets involved in a series of escapades, largely at the request of his relationship du jour.

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. ( )
  Castlelass | Dec 10, 2022 |
Es mostren 1-5 de 74 (següent | mostra-les totes)
The Adventures of Augie March is for me the great creation myth of twentieth century American literature.
 

» Afegeix-hi altres autors (18 possibles)

Nom de l'autorCàrrecTipus d'autorObra?Estat
Bellow, Saulautor primaritotes les edicionsconfirmat
Hallock, RobertDissenyador de la cobertaautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Trilling, LionelIntroduccióautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
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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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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.

.

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Mitjana: (3.84)
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