2009: 26. The Adventures of Augie March

“I am an American, Chicago born - Chicago, that somber city - and got at things 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.”

The Adventures of Augie March, Saul Bellow

This book kicked my butt seven ways until Sunday - this is the second time I’ve tried to read it, and I only made it this time through sheer dint of will.  I was determined to read it because it’s on the Modern Library top 100 novel list, but it was not easy for me.  But victory was mine, and having pushed through I have to say that I feel a better woman for it.

It is a bildungsroman, the story of Augie March, who grows up in Chicago with his mother, elder brother and mentally challenged ill younger brother, as well as their indomitable boarder, an elderly woman they call Grandma who runs ragged over them all.  The story tells of his wild youth, growing up in the city and drifts through his early life until it eventually stops.  Not so much plot - more like Bellow ran out of steam.  Look - I understand why this is considered a great American novel.  Bellow is a great writer, and there is so much packed into this novel.  In this sense, it reminds me of Rushdie, and The Moor’s Last Sigh.  It’s such a rich tapestry of life - overwhelming and terrible and grand.  It is work to pour through a book like this, but it’s rewarding - certain passages knocked even me off my socks (even I, who didn’t really like the book that much).  But I definitely appreciated it more than I cared for it - there is so much going on to such little end that while I saw what he was doing and why it matters as a novel, I couldn’t care for it anyway. 

 

Date/Place Completed: March 2009; D.C.

Categories: Fiction, Modern Library Top 100, Book Resolutions

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017