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The Adventures of Augie March ()


Modern Library Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century (81)

After the intellectual Left killed off God, they found themselves staring into the abyss; absent God what is the meaning of life?  There have been many, mostly feeble, attempts to answer this question.  The most disastrous have, of course, been Darwinism--we exist to propagate the species, Hegelianism/Marxism--there are World Historical forces in control and Existentialism--existence is it's own point.  Saul Bellow seems to fall into a loose grouping with the Existentialists and The Adventures of Augie March is essentially an existentialist tract.  In a return to the style of the picaresque novels (i.e., Tom Jones), Augie March bobs along from Chicago to Mexico to Europe to an open boat in the Atlantic, experiencing life and meeting a variety of characters--observing without judging, experiencing without changing, seeking without finding.  Critics claim that this is a life affirming book; but life does not need to be affirmed, it simply is.  One recalls Dr. Johnson's response to the argument that the material world does not exist: he kicked a rock and said, "I refute it thus!"  The task before us as human beings is to find or bring meaning to life.  Great literature illuminates the human condition and reveals truths which help us discern this meaning.  Bellow fails in this basic task and does so at mindnumbing length.

(Reviewed:)

Grade: (F)

  

Websites:

Saul Bellow Links:

    Author Saul Bellow Dies at 89 (MEL GUSSOW and CHARLES McGRATH, 4/05/05, NY Times)
    -FEATURED AUTHOR: Saul Bellow (NY Times)
    -OBIT: Author Depicted Men's Spiritual Crises (Jon Thurber and Mary Rourke, April 6, 2005, LA Times)
    -OBIT: Author Saul Bellow dies at 89 (HENRY KISOR, April 6, 2005, Chicago Sun-Times)
    -OBIT: Saul Bellow, novelist who charted ironies of modern soul, dies at 89 (Gail Caldwell, April 6, 2005, Boston Globe)
    -OBIT: Saul Bellow chastised America for its own good: He was a prose master who could bring to life any environment with a realism not limited to the surfaces of life. (Roderick Nordell, 4/07/05, CS Monitor)
    -TRIBUTE: Saul (Leon Wieseltier, 04.14.05, National Review)
    -TRIBUTE: Big ideas and wandering fools: Saul Bellow (1915-2005): The great Chicago novelist created a unique imaginative universe that made sense of modern human experience of crisis and change, says Tom McBride. (Tom McBride, 7 - 4 - 2005, Open Democracy)
   -Saul Bellow (1915-) (kirjasto)
    -SHORT STORY: Mosby's Memoirs (Saul Bellow, 1968-07-20, The New Yorker)
    -FEATURED AUTHOR : Saul Bellow (NY Times Book Review)
    -AUTHOR PAGE : SAUL BELLOW (1915-) (The Guardian)
    -Saul Bellow Society and Journal
    -EXCERPT : Chapter One of Ravelstein
    -ESSAY : Saul Bellow's Introduction to 'The Closing of the American Mind'
    -Choosing the Necessary:   Remarks by Saul Bellow to Padgett Powell's Graduate Class in Fiction Writing at the University of Florida,  Gainesville,  February 21, 1992
    -INTERVIEW : Saul Bellow seizes the day : A near-fatal dose of food poisoning has given Saul Bellow a new sense of urgency at 81. He talks to Desmond O'Grady about his latest novel (Electronic Telegraph)
    -INTERVIEW : The Full Bellow Treatment : At 84, novelist Saul Bellow has two new progeny: an infant daughter and a controversial novel. Friends say the new book is a paean to his friend Allan Bloom; foes say it's a malicious outing. (Sandra Martin, , April 29, 2000, Books Reporter)
    -INTERVIEW : Fathers and sons : Martin Amis discusses art, death and family relationships with his mentor and kindred spirit, Saul Bellow (Electronic Telegraph)
    -INTERVIEW : with Saul Bellow (Joanna Coles, September 10, 1997, The Guardian)
    -ESSAY : With Friends Like Saul Bellow : His support helped to make Allan Bloom a famous cultural conservative. But now that Bellow has written a roman á clef revealing that Bloom was gay (and possibly died from AIDS), his critics are crying betrayal. He fears they may be right. (D.T. MAX, April 2000, NY Times Magazine)
    -ESSAY :   A Bellow Novel Eulogizes a Friendship (DINITIA SMITH, January 27, 2000, NY Times)
    -ESSAY : Bellow's betrayal blots his copybook : Nobel laureate forced to repent over the 'outing' of Thatcher's favourite author (Ed Vulliamy, and Vanessa Thorpe, April 23, 2000, The Observer)
    -PROFILE : The wordly mystic's late bloom : He is one of our greatest novelists and has a Nobel prize to prove it. Married five times, he describes himself as a serial husband. Now, at 84, after a near-fatal illness, he has produced a vibrant novel and a baby daughter. James Wood, April 15, 2000, The Guardian)
    -PAL: Perspectives in American Literature:  A Research and Reference Guide: "Chapter 10: Late Twentieth Century: 1945 to the Present - Saul Bellow (1915 - )"
    -Herzog: Essay Topics and Critical Commentary
   -MARTIN AMIS: Between the Influences of Bellow and Nabokov (Victoria N. Alexander, The Antioch Review Fall 1994)
    -Shame and Saul Bellow's "Something to Remember Me By" (Saul Bellow Journal)
    -ESSAY : Saul Bellow, Allan Bloom, and Abe Ravelstein (Robert Fulford, Globe and Mail, November 2, 1999)
    -ESSAY : Fictional characters and their real-life models (Sanford Pinsker, Special to N.J. Jewish News)
    -ESSAY : Poison Ivy (David L. Kirp, American Prospect)
    -ESSAY : Wrestling in the Halls of Academe (Michael Miner, Chicago Reader)
    -ESSAY : Death and the Men of Letters : Measuring Roth and Bellow by the Way They Handle the Final Question (MARK KRUPNICK, The Forward)
    -LINKS : Saul Bellow (The Guardian)
    -ARCHIVES : Allan Bloom (Upstream)
    -ARCHIVES : "Saul Bellow" (Find Articles)
    -ARCHIVES : "Saul Bellow" (Mag Portal)
    -Mr. Bellow's Planet (from Commentary)
    -The Quest for the Self in Bellow's Henderson
    -Saul Bellow (from Nobel Prize Site)
    -INTERVIEW:  A CANDID TALK WITH SAUL BELLOW  (D.J.R. Bruckner, NY Times Book Review)
    -ESSAY : The Great American Augie : Saul Bellow won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1976, but the great novel that set him on the course for the prize had been published 23 years earlier, in 1953. The peripatetic hero of The Adventures of Augie March spoke in an idiom entirely new to American literature--an astonishing mix of the high-flown and the low-down. (Christopher Hitchens , Wilson Quarterly)
    -ESSAY: Rereading Saul Bellow (Philip Roth, 2000-10-09, The New Yorker)
    -ESSAY: Finding Augie March: Saul Bellow’s first novels. (Joan Acocella, 2003-10-06, The New Yorker)
    -ESSAY : So, Charlie Chaplin and Jean Cocteau walk into a bar ...  Unpredictable, startling and mysterious meetings (Robert Fulford, National Post)
    -ESSAY: Bellow at 85, Roth at 67 (Norman Podhoretz, Commentary)
    -REVIEW : of Ravelstein (Michiko Kakutani, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of Ravelstein (Jonathan Wilson, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Ravelstein by Saul Bellow (complete review)
    -REVIEW : of Ravelstein (Barton Wong, Spintech)
    -REVIEW : of Ravelstein by Saul Bellow (Floyd Skloot, SF Chronicle)
    -REVIEW : of Ravelstein (Louis Menand, NY Review of Books)
    -REVIEW : of Ravelstein ( J. Bottum, Weekly Standard)
    -ESSAY : Saul Bellow's Ravelstein (J. Bottum, The Crisis)
    -REVIEW : of Ravelstein (Christopher Hitchens, London Review of Books)
    -REVIEW : of Ravelstein  (Lorin Stein, Salon)
    -REVIEW : of Ravelstein (George Walden, This is London)
    -REVIEW : of Ravelstein (James Wood,  April 15, 2000, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW : of Ravelstein (Ron Charles, Christian Science Monitor)
    -REVIEW : of Ravelstein (Gary Giddins, Village Voice)
    -REVIEW : of Ravelstein (Mark Greif, American Prospect)
    -REVIEW : of Ravelstein (The American Enterprise, Leon Aron)
    -REVIEW : of Ravelstein (Adam Mars-Jones, The Observer)
    -REVIEW : of Ravelstein (John Mullan, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW : of Ravelstein (Zachary Leader, Independent uk )
    -REVIEW : of Ravelstein (John Leonard, The Nation)
    -REVIEW : of Ravelstein (Stephen Mitchelmore, Spike)
    -REVIEW : of Ravelstein (PAUL GRAY, TIME)
    -REVIEW : of Ravelstein (Chris Wood, Richmond Review)
    -REVIEW : of Ravelstein (JOSHUA PERRY, Harvard Advocate)
    -REVIEW: of Ravelstein (Juliana Geran Pilon, Humanitas)
    -REVIEW : of Ravelstein (Bob Wake, Culture Vulture)
    -REVIEW : of Ravelstein (The Gaping Void)
    -REVIEW : of Ravelstein (Cornel Bonca, Orange County  Weekly)
    -REVIEW : of Ravelstein  (ROBERT WEIBEZAHL, Book Page)
    -ESSAY : Robert Fulford's column about James Atlas & Saul Bellow (The National Post, December 12, 2000)
    -ESSAY : Bellow: the novelist as homespun philosopher by Robert Fulford (The National Post, October 23, 2000)
    -ESSAY : Stephen Moss assesses the critical response to Saul Bellow's long-awaited Ravelstein (The Guardian)
    -REVIEW : of  It All Adds Up: A Non-Fiction Collection by Saul Bellow (Peter Conrad, The Observer)
    -REVIEW : of The Actual by Saul Bellow (Grey Gowrie, Electronic Telegraph)
    -REVIEW : of Editors: The Best from Five Decades Saul Bellow and Keith Botsford (George Walden, This is London)
    -REVIEW: Mr. Bellow's Planet: Trailing clouds of glory, The Actual caps a career of fictional soul-making (Hillel Halkin, Commentary)
    -REVIEW : of Collected Stories of Saul Bellow  (Paul Gray, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Collected Stories of Saul Bellow (Stephen Amidon, New Statesman)
    -REVIEW : of Saul Bellow's Collected Stories (Alex Clark, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW : of Collected Stories by Saul Bellow (Jenny Shank, Rocky Mountain News)
    -REVIEW : of Bellow: A Biography by James Atlas (Richard Poirier, London Review of Books)
    -REVIEW : of Bellow : A Biography of Saul Bellow (Frances Kiernan, SF Gate Books)
    -REVIEW : of Bellow : a Biography by James Atlas (Lawrence Rainey, Independent uk)
    -REVIEW : of Bellow: A Biography. By James Atlas (EILEEN BATTERSBY , Irish Times)
    -REVIEW : of JAMES ATLAS: Bellow: A Biography (Richard Stern, The Nation)
    -REVIEW : of Bellow by James Atlas (James Wood, New Republic)
    -REVIEW : of Bellow by James Atlas (Edward Neuert, Salon)
    -REVIEW : of Bellow by James Atlas (Hywel Williams, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW : of Bellow by James Atlas (Adam Mars-Jones, The Observer)

Book-related and General Links:
    -Saul Bellow (1915-) (kirjasto)
    -FEATURED AUTHOR : Saul Bellow (NY Times Book Review)
    -AUTHOR PAGE : SAUL BELLOW (1915-) (The Guardian)
    -Saul Bellow Society and Journal
    -EXCERPT : Chapter One of Ravelstein
    -ESSAY : Saul Bellow's Introduction to 'The Closing of the American Mind'
    -Choosing the Necessary:   Remarks by Saul Bellow to Padgett Powell's Graduate Class in Fiction Writing at the University of Florida,  Gainesville,  February 21, 1992
    -INTERVIEW : Saul Bellow seizes the day : A near-fatal dose of food poisoning has given Saul Bellow a new sense of urgency at 81. He talks to Desmond O'Grady about his latest novel (Electronic Telegraph)
    -INTERVIEW : The Full Bellow Treatment : At 84, novelist Saul Bellow has two new progeny: an infant daughter and a controversial novel. Friends say the new book is a paean to his friend Allan Bloom; foes say it's a malicious outing. (Sandra Martin, , April 29, 2000, Books Reporter)
    -INTERVIEW : Fathers and sons : Martin Amis discusses art, death and family relationships with his mentor and kindred spirit, Saul Bellow (Electronic Telegraph)
    -INTERVIEW : with Saul Bellow (Joanna Coles, September 10, 1997, The Guardian)
    -ESSAY : With Friends Like Saul Bellow : His support helped to make Allan Bloom a famous cultural conservative. But now that Bellow has written a roman á clef revealing that Bloom was gay (and possibly died from AIDS), his critics are crying betrayal. He fears they may be right. (D.T. MAX, April 2000, NY Times Magazine)
    -ESSAY :   A Bellow Novel Eulogizes a Friendship (DINITIA SMITH, January 27, 2000, NY Times)
    -ESSAY : Bellow's betrayal blots his copybook : Nobel laureate forced to repent over the 'outing' of Thatcher's favourite author (Ed Vulliamy, and Vanessa Thorpe, April 23, 2000, The Observer)
    -PROFILE : The wordly mystic's late bloom : He is one of our greatest novelists and has a Nobel prize to prove it. Married five times, he describes himself as a serial husband. Now, at 84, after a near-fatal illness, he has produced a vibrant novel and a baby daughter. James Wood, April 15, 2000, The Guardian)
    -PAL: Perspectives in American Literature:  A Research and Reference Guide: "Chapter 10: Late Twentieth Century: 1945 to the Present - Saul Bellow (1915 - )"
    -Herzog: Essay Topics and Critical Commentary
   -MARTIN AMIS: Between the Influences of Bellow and Nabokov (Victoria N. Alexander, The Antioch Review Fall 1994)
    -Shame and Saul Bellow's "Something to Remember Me By" (Saul Bellow Journal)
    -ESSAY : Saul Bellow, Allan Bloom, and Abe Ravelstein (Robert Fulford, Globe and Mail, November 2, 1999)
    -ESSAY : Fictional characters and their real-life models (Sanford Pinsker, Special to N.J. Jewish News)
    -ESSAY : Poison Ivy (David L. Kirp, American Prospect)
    -ESSAY : Wrestling in the Halls of Academe (Michael Miner, Chicago Reader)
    -ESSAY : Death and the Men of Letters : Measuring Roth and Bellow by the Way They Handle the Final Question (MARK KRUPNICK, The Forward)
    -LINKS : Saul Bellow (The Guardian)
    -ARCHIVES : Allan Bloom (Upstream)
    -ARCHIVES : "Saul Bellow" (Find Articles)
    -ARCHIVES : "Saul Bellow" (Mag Portal)
    -Mr. Bellow's Planet (from Commentary)
    -The Quest for the Self in Bellow's Henderson
    -Saul Bellow (from Nobel Prize Site)
    -INTERVIEW:  A CANDID TALK WITH SAUL BELLOW  (D.J.R. Bruckner, NY Times Book Review)
    -ESSAY : The Great American Augie : Saul Bellow won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1976, but the great novel that set him on the course for the prize had been published 23 years earlier, in 1953. The peripatetic hero of The Adventures of Augie March spoke in an idiom entirely new to American literature--an astonishing mix of the high-flown and the low-down. (Christopher Hitchens , Wilson Quarterly)
    -ESSAY : So, Charlie Chaplin and Jean Cocteau walk into a bar ...  Unpredictable, startling and mysterious meetings (Robert Fulford, National Post)
    -ESSAY: Bellow at 85, Roth at 67 (Norman Podhoretz, Commentary)
    -REVIEW : of Ravelstein (Michiko Kakutani, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of Ravelstein (Jonathan Wilson, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Ravelstein by Saul Bellow (complete review)
    -REVIEW : of Ravelstein (Barton Wong, Spintech)
    -REVIEW : of Ravelstein by Saul Bellow (Floyd Skloot, SF Chronicle)
    -REVIEW : of Ravelstein (Louis Menand, NY Review of Books)
    -REVIEW : of Ravelstein ( J. Bottum, Weekly Standard)
    -ESSAY : Saul Bellow's Ravelstein (J. Bottum, The Crisis)
    -REVIEW : of Ravelstein (Christopher Hitchens, London Review of Books)
    -REVIEW : of Ravelstein  (Lorin Stein, Salon)
    -REVIEW : of Ravelstein (George Walden, This is London)
    -REVIEW : of Ravelstein (James Wood,  April 15, 2000, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW : of Ravelstein (Ron Charles, Christian Science Monitor)
    -REVIEW : of Ravelstein (Gary Giddins, Village Voice)
    -REVIEW : of Ravelstein (Mark Greif, American Prospect)
    -REVIEW : of Ravelstein (The American Enterprise, Leon Aron)
    -REVIEW : of Ravelstein (Adam Mars-Jones, The Observer)
    -REVIEW : of Ravelstein (John Mullan, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW : of Ravelstein (Zachary Leader, Independent uk )
    -REVIEW : of Ravelstein (John Leonard, The Nation)
    -REVIEW : of Ravelstein (Stephen Mitchelmore, Spike)
    -REVIEW : of Ravelstein (PAUL GRAY, TIME)
    -REVIEW : of Ravelstein (Chris Wood, Richmond Review)
    -REVIEW : of Ravelstein (JOSHUA PERRY, Harvard Advocate)
    -REVIEW : of Ravelstein (Bob Wake, Culture Vulture)
    -REVIEW : of Ravelstein (The Gaping Void)
    -REVIEW : of Ravelstein (Cornel Bonca, Orange County  Weekly)
    -REVIEW : of Ravelstein  (ROBERT WEIBEZAHL, Book Page)
    -ESSAY : Robert Fulford's column about James Atlas & Saul Bellow (The National Post, December 12, 2000)
    -ESSAY : Bellow: the novelist as homespun philosopher by Robert Fulford (The National Post, October 23, 2000)
    -ESSAY : Stephen Moss assesses the critical response to Saul Bellow's long-awaited Ravelstein (The Guardian)
    -REVIEW : of  It All Adds Up: A Non-Fiction Collection by Saul Bellow (Peter Conrad, The Observer)
    -REVIEW : of The Actual by Saul Bellow (Grey Gowrie, Electronic Telegraph)
    -REVIEW : of Editors: The Best from Five Decades Saul Bellow and Keith Botsford (George Walden, This is London)
    -REVIEW: Mr. Bellow's Planet: Trailing clouds of glory, The Actual caps a career of fictional soul-making (Hillel Halkin, Commentary)
    -REVIEW : of Collected Stories of Saul Bellow  (Paul Gray, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Collected Stories of Saul Bellow (Stephen Amidon, New Statesman)
    -REVIEW : of Saul Bellow's Collected Stories (Alex Clark, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW : of Collected Stories by Saul Bellow (Jenny Shank, Rocky Mountain News)
    -REVIEW : of Bellow: A Biography by James Atlas (Richard Poirier, London Review of Books)
    -REVIEW : of Bellow : A Biography of Saul Bellow (Frances Kiernan, SF Gate Books)
    -REVIEW : of Bellow : a Biography by James Atlas (Lawrence Rainey, Independent uk)
    -REVIEW : of Bellow: A Biography. By James Atlas (EILEEN BATTERSBY , Irish Times)
    -REVIEW : of JAMES ATLAS: Bellow: A Biography (Richard Stern, The Nation)
    -REVIEW : of Bellow by James Atlas (James Wood, New Republic)
    -REVIEW : of Bellow by James Atlas (Edward Neuert, Salon)
    -REVIEW : of Bellow by James Atlas (Hywel Williams, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW : of Bellow by James Atlas (Adam Mars-Jones, The Observer)

Comments:

I just found this website and it looks wonderful; anyplace that devotes quality time to reviewing great books is OK with me. I've read several reviews and found them thought-provoking and well-written. Handclaps all around. But I just have to take exception to the review of "The Adventures of Augie March", giving the book an "F", apparently due to a disagreement with author Saul Bellow's take on the meaning of life. That's hardly firm ground to stand on when reviewing a work of art. The questions should be: Is the book well-written? Does it tell a good story? Are the characters engaging? Does the narrative keep the reader involved throughout? Answer to all: YES! Though "Augie" isn't quite in league with Bellow's masterpieces "Herzog" and "Mr. Sammler's Planet", it is an excellent book, brimming with gritty details of life in Depression-era Chicago and fantastic, colorful characters. First and foremost is the narrator, Augie March, a young man handed opportunity after opportunity to succeed if only he falls in line...only falling in line isn't how Augie defines success, so he breaks free and moves onto something else, while everyone around him moans that he's screwing up again. This novel is a brilliant prose poem dedicated to the notion that life is a big happy brawl, and you won't get anything out of it if you sit on your hindquarters and wait for it to come to you. A quintessentially AMERICAN novel, it belongs on a bookshelf with "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" and "On The Road". A good, solid "A" for Mr. Bellow and Mr. March, and, sadly, a "C" to Orrin for his review.

- Bruce Hutton

- Jun-10-2004, 03:00

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