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The Adventures of Augie March Paperback – Deckle Edge, Oct 3 2006
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“[Bellow’s] body of work is more capacious of imagination and language than anyone else’s…If there’s a candidate for the Great American Novel, I think this is it.” –Salman Rushdie, The Sunday Times (London)
About the Author
Saul Bellow was praised for his vision, his ear for detail, his humor, and the masterful artistry of his prose. Born of Russian Jewish parents in Lachine, Quebec in 1915, he was raised in Chicago. He received his Bachelor's degree from Northwestern University in 1937, with honors in sociology and anthropology, and did graduate work at the University of Wisconsin. During the Second World War he served in the Merchant Marines.
His first two novels, Dangling Man (1944) and The Victim (1947) are penetrating, Kafka-like psychological studies. In 1948 he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and spent two years in Paris and traveling in Europe, where he began his picaresque novel The Adventures of Augie March, which went on to win the National Book Award for fiction in 1954. His later books of fiction include Seize the Day (1956); Henderson the Rain King (1959); Mosby's Memoirs and Other Stories (1968); Mr. Sammler's Planet (1970); Humboldt's Gift (1975), which won the Pulitzer Prize; The Dean's December (1982); More Die of Heartbreak (1987); Theft (1988); The Bellarosa Connection (1989);The Actual (1996); Ravelstein (2000); and, most recently, Collected Stories(2001). Bellow has also produced a prolific amount of non-fiction, collected in To Jerusalem and Back, a personal and literary record of his sojourn in Israel during several months in 1975, and It All Adds Up, a collection of memoirs and essays.
Bellow's many awards include the International Literary Prize for Herzog, for which he became the first American to receive the prize; the Croix de Chevalier des Arts et Lettres, the highest literary distinction awarded by France to non-citizens; the B'nai B'rith Jewish Heritage Award for "excellence in Jewish Literature"; and America's Democratic Legacy Award of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, the first time this award has been made to a literary personage. In 1976 Bellow was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature "for the human understanding and subtle analysis of contemporary culture that are combined in his work."
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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; sometimes an innocent knock, sometimes a not so innocent. Read the first page
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Top Customer Reviews
This is a book that I have now read three times and the view of American idealism from fifty years ago when it was published is simply awe inspiring. The times when the text breaks from its narrative molde and goes into an extended discussion of philosophicl ideas in Yiddish inflected vernacular with idiosyncratic grammar can make you cranky and can often be perplexing. This is completely secondary though, for a close reading of any of these passages brings to light just how sophisticated Augie is--some of the actions he takes make him seem only slightly smarter than an ape though.
If this had been the only book that Bellow had written he still would have earned the Nobel Prize in 1976. I can thnk of few books I have read where a character has drank so deeply and appreciatively of their own culture, upbringing, and experience as Augie March did. When Augie opens his mouth with the book's first sentence declaring "I am an American," he speaks with a level of sincerity, certainty and complexity that animates very few other characters in the novels of any nation.
Auggie is an odd character who meets a lot of other odd characters. During the course of his adventures, he learns a lot about the world, or says he does, but he's not good at applying what he learns to his own life, and he ends up in about as big a mess as he begins in. This is a little disappointing, but Auggie is not that sympathetic a character, so it's not as disappointing as it might be.
We learn a lot too. Saul Bellow studied sociology and anthropology, and he tells us a thing or two about the poor, and people who are down on their luck. At one point, Einhorn, Auggie's mentor, tells him: "Young fellows brought up in bad luck, like you, are naturals to keep the jails filled - the reformatories, all the institutions. What the state orders bread and beans long in advance for. It knows there's an element that can be depended on to come behind bars to eat it." Similarly informative passages, about business, love, the training of wild animals, etc., can be found by opening the book at random to almost any page. (In fairness, a good part of what's said is over-generalization or just not true, but still you're going to leave this book feeling pretty impressed by what the author knows.)
So why not five stars? For one thing, the writing doesn't exactly propel you from one page to the next. For another, the book is not very uplifting. You've heard of Man's Search for Meaning? This book comes very close to telling us that there isn't any. That's pretty hard to take.
Most recent customer reviews
For what has been widely described as both a picaresque and coming-of-age novel, Augie March is neither a quick read nor an easy one. Read morePublished on July 18 2004
Recently Martin Amis claimed this was the great American novel, and it's as good a candidate as I've read. Read morePublished on April 29 2004
Recently Martin Amis claimed this was the great American novel, and it's as good a candidate as I've read. Read morePublished on April 29 2004 by Douglas S. Hardy
He is a good-hearted young man who tries to make a go of it, but, as Stella says, falls into the whims and desires of so many people he meets. Read morePublished on Jan. 17 2004 by C Brunner
An elegant, poetic walk through the life of a uniquely American character. Augie March goes humbly into Depression-era America and, in the search for the best inside himself,... Read morePublished on Dec 23 2003 by Daniel H. Yeary
I'm not going to write a long winded literary review. I think this book is best read as a series of short stories. I read a chapter a day and was able to get through it that way. Read morePublished on Oct. 13 2003 by T. zisis
This is easily one of the finest novels that I have ever had a chance to read and proves one of the basic rules of good fiction--experience bucks education. Read morePublished on April 15 2003 by Rick Kowalski
absolutely essential if you are a young man (in his twenties) like i am. this is an exploration of a boys quest for other peoples pragmatism which at first, in each case he... Read morePublished on Nov. 3 2001 by clayton ayling