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60 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A genuine life-enricher
I had never read any Bellow before I opened this book, but it blew me away, and I can't wait to read more. It is the story of Augie March, a poor kid brought up by his overbearing grandmother and downtrodden mother in 1930s Chicago. As he grows into maturity, he starts to make ends meet on the very edge of the law, doing odd jobs, working for a series of well-meaning but...
Published on 23 Mar. 2001

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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a fan!
I recently started making my way through Time Magazine's top 500 books and came upon this one as the first that I hadn't already read. I wish I could say I enjoyed it but I find it frustrating to read. Even the smallest interactions and laboriously described and the plot is often halted by reflections on the relationships between the characters, which I find tedious. I...
Published 14 months ago by Ms. S. P. Lewis


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60 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A genuine life-enricher, 23 Mar. 2001
By A Customer
I had never read any Bellow before I opened this book, but it blew me away, and I can't wait to read more. It is the story of Augie March, a poor kid brought up by his overbearing grandmother and downtrodden mother in 1930s Chicago. As he grows into maturity, he starts to make ends meet on the very edge of the law, doing odd jobs, working for a series of well-meaning but self-important grandees who try to make him into a big success. But Augie has "opposition", and though he is smart and handsome, finds his ambitions unsatisfied by the big bucks that his brother begins to amass. Again and again he rejects other people's plans to make something of him, until he falls wildly in love with the beautiful, rich and free-spirited Thea, who carries him off to Mexico to hunt iguanas with an eagle. Bellow's language is sometimes difficult, but always exuberant and expansive, full of detailed description and colour, bursting with throwaway ideas. The novel has an abundance of hilarious minor characters, who appear and reappear as Augie muddles his way through his Bohemian and vaguely Bolshevik circles, making a buck here and there, more or less legally, and observing everything with a wry sense of humour, dauntless optimism and quiet integrity. I have not enjoyed a novel this much for a long time. It starts slowly, building up characters gradually, but pretty soon it is unput-downable. The ending is a bit weak, like so many of these rites-of-passage novels, and it becomes a bit glib and conceptual. But the first 350 pages represent some of the finest twentieth-century writing in English that I have read. It is a novel about the limits of the soul and the growth of a mind, about the trade-offs between adventure and pain, happiness and security, and the search for fulfilment in a time of global depression, when the world was doing everything it could to dampen the human spirit.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pure joy, 2 Dec. 2010
By 
O. Sheehan (Rathmines, Dublin 6W Ireland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Adventures of Augie March (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
At the old age of 47 having read my way through most 20th century famous authors, I had, because of many misconceptions avoided Bellow. Then I downloaded the audio version of Augie March on my ipod and I was transfixed. There is no way to describe accurately the joy this writing brings to the heart. It is a long time since I finished a book and immediately wanted to read it again but that is just what happened here. I urge you to read this masterpiece. You won't regret it.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Augie March- the all-american kid, 15 Jun. 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Adventures of Augie March (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
In the Adventures of Augie March Saul Bellow gives us an insight into the reality of the life of the all american kid. March is a jewish kid growing up on the wrong side of the tracks during depression time Chicago. He strives to do his best by all around him whilst also trying to get a grip on the american dream. The two tier american society of the very rich and the also rans is exposed for possibly the first time in 20th century literatue. March tries to work both within the system and from without, with varying degrees of success. He flirts with education, crime, marriage and travel, all with startling results. The Adventures of Augie March is as accuarte a portrayal of the difficulties of growing up underprivliged in the US today as it was sixty years ago. An excellent read and a brilliant introduction to the fine prose of Bellow.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bellow resurrects the idea of adventure in an urban setting., 31 Dec. 2001
By A Customer
A brilliant portrayal of a young man trying to learn to live within his world. The experiences and encounters of Augie are vivid and richly colored. There is a wonderful freshness, almost vivaciousness, imparted to a tired and economically depressed Chicago. The very idea of adventure in an urban setting seems almost puerile perhaps to many, but Bellow perceives the existence of challenge and life in the run-down and dilapadated. It is perhaps old-fashioned to be inspired by a book but if such a thing can still exist it can be found in 'The Adventures of Augie March'
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "External life being so mighty... you produce a someone who can exist before it.", 10 Mar. 2015
By 
sally tarbox (aylesbury bucks uk) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Adventures of Augie March (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
I've finally finished it! And though it's a very dense read (not one to take to bed; you need to be 'on the ball' to cope with Bellow's prose), it's also extremely enjoyable.
The storyline follows our eponymous 'hero' from humble origins in Depression era Chicago, child of a simple-minded mother and unknown father, through a succession of jobs and relationships. From lowly work to getting 'taken up' by wealthier individuals, Augie's narrative includes wonderful, often very humorous, descriptions; interposed with his story are conversations on life which he has with his various acquaintances.
I don't pretend to have picked up on all the philosophical musings, but there's a lot of powerfully expressed truths in those I did. For example, on human dissembling:
"Even in a few minutes' conversation, do you realise how many times what you feel is converted before it comes out as what you say? Somebody tells you A. Your response is B. B you can't say, so you transform it, you put it through the coils of your breast. From DC to AC, increased four hundred volts, filtered. So instead of B, there comes out gamma sub one....Mind you, I'm a great admirer of our species. I stand in awe of the genius of the race. But a large part of this genius is devoted to lying and seeming what you are not."
A challenging book (536 p) but one I'm glad I read.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 20th Century American Picaresque, 5 Feb. 2010
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This review is from: The Adventures of Augie March (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
When Saul Bellow finished the Adventures of Augie March around 1953, he'd created a revolution in modern prose. Written in the first-person as a mémoire, the story is of the charming Augie growing up in the harsh but splenderous-of-life 20/30's Chicago. The style in which the novel is written is pungent, brimming, vibrating with detailed observations that capture character brilliantly.

From job-to-job Augie wanders, always with a vital spring in his step. Bellow describes crowds of characters with such precision yet such overblown energy, it feels like a free-jazz saxophonist in full flow. The opening lines say 'I'm an American and go at things . . . freestyle,' and so what follows is almost a rambling tale in which Augie is embroiled with an array of eccentric characters. I think this novel is alongside Moby Dick and Leaves of Grass, in that the style and content encapsulate the soul of the USA.

The best way to read TAOAM is with a brain full of black coffee and at full speed. Like Joyce, you have to allow the prose to flood into your mind, and so capture the free essence of a city bristling with life. Bellow has been credited with summing up what it is to be human amidst the growing urbanism of modern living. The complex relationships, our fears of death and lack of money is all worked into the text. One of Bellow's style-disciples is Martin Amis, who has said that Bellow is the writer of the 20th Century, in that the weight of his voice is stronger than other prose-masters.

Read this book if you want to discover a true master at work, somebody who in a boxing match, would KO lesser, yet more popularly read writers, such as Kerouac or Henry Miller. Bellow is someone to read when you become an adult, with deeper/wearier concerns, than the ones' we had as a teenager.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A verbal feast, 29 Dec. 2006
By 
Philip Mayo - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Adventures of Augie March (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
Saul Bellow uses Augie March's fairly extraordinary saga to allow us all, and probably himself too, to muse our ways through a succession of reflections on the human predicament. I would be surprised if most readers did not discover from time to time in these pages something of themselves; of their fears, hopes, dismay, despair, and perhaps resilience. It's a very rewarding read. Not that it's not difficult sometimes. In fact, either he, S.B., simply ratchets up his verbal dexterity beyond my reach from time to time, or could it be that his determination to find ever more complicated verbal chords actually sometimes produces combinations that don't really work. Certainly sometimes they don't work for me. But there are also passages of breathtaking effect which leave one to wonder how words can be crafted with such skill to describe with such extraordinary clarity our previously unvoiced (because by us un-voicable, if not un-thinkable) feelings and reactions to so many situations, some common enough. A master at work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bellow's genius manages to shine through the laboured language, 1 July 2009
This review is from: The Adventures of Augie March (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
The style of this novel was quite off-putting after reading more elegant and accomplished later works such as Ravelstein and Humboldt's gift. The usual old attempts to get 'behind' or create new types of language; being deliberately contradictory by describing things as 'black', not in terms of colour but by some alternative definition - these are things I find difficult to get past.
Ultimately, though, as with truly great writers, Bellow's idiosyncratic and truly unique characters and organic narrative flow rise this book above those early attempts at literary over-originality and, while not as good as Humboldt's Gift, this is a truly fascinating story, setting up many of Bellow's later pre-occupations e.g. the pre-occupation with Chicago underworld life; the narrator's fascination with powerful older men.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A poor kid from Chicago wades through the 1930s questioning life, love and how he should live., 4 Jun. 2008
This review is from: The Adventures of Augie March (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
The recollections of the novel's narrator, Augie, take the reader on a lengthy but engaging journey through the America of the Great Depression and, towards the end of the novel, the Second World War. Throughout the novel Augie fails to decide on a specific vocation. Whilst intelligent and well read, he lacks the specialist skills and certainty required to pursue a conventional career. Consequently, he finds employment in a number of multifarious, mostly menial, roles. Willing to turn his hand to anything, Augie finds himself, amongst other things, hitching rides across states on freezing-cold freight trains, stealing books for wealthy university students and helping to train an eagle with his then girlfriend in Mexico. The realist style of Bellow's writing makes for a lengthy but very enjoyable, engaging and, apart from the occasional references to the Old Testament and Classical Mythology, accessible novel. The introduction by Christopher Hitchens is also definitely worth reading after, or before if you want the plot spoiled further, you've finished the novel itself.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book, 5 April 2015
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This review is from: The Adventures of Augie March (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
Can there even be a Great American Novel? Looking in from the outside, I'd argue otherwise. There are too many American experiences, and such a diversity of experiences across a nation the size and population of Europe that arguing a single novel can articulate them is futile. This is borne out by the way in which novels as different as The Great Gatsby, The Sound and The Fury, The Adventures of Augie March and Infinite Jest are all trumpeted as Great American novels. Given that these books have nothing in common given a common language and the nationality of their authors, perhaps it makes more sense to speak of Great Novels of a particular American experience - in which case The Adventures of Augie March is a triumph, articulating the interwar American experience of the working class to such a degree as to make it intelligible and resonant across the ages, long after the historical events informing the life and times of the aimless but highly intelligent Augie March have receded into history.Whilst this mightn't be the place to start with Bellow (mostly due to length, the much shorter Seize The Day provides a better introduction to his body of work), it's a great novel and the best of his I've read. All varieties of life are contained here, understood in joy,tragedy and madness through the eyes of Augie March, a deceptively intelligent everyman scattered by the winds of change.

There are strong parallels between Bellow's life and March's - in some ways Bellow uses the novel as a vehicle to understand the kind of man he'd have been were it not for his art, exploring the tensions created by an inability to specialize or focus when all around him manage to, much as Bellow went from a variety of odd jobs to joining the military to becoming an academic before choosing to pursue literature properly, much as March does, albeit in the manner of a Dedalus whose Bloom never truly arrives (apologies for the nerdishness). I feel that this is a book that it's worth buying a copy of, as I started reading a library copy of this before. Whilst it seemed great (if nothing else, Bellow is a good storyteller and witty with it). I didn't manage to finish it on time. I really enjoyed the chance to reread the chapters I had read, and to appreciate how strong Bellow's prose is: Martin Amis' claim that "his sentences seem to weigh more than anyone else" has some truth to it. Bellow manages to be incredibly articulate and learned without ever being ostentatious- every sentence feels necessary. Whilst I still suggest reading Seize The Day first so as to get a feel for Bellow and his themes, this book is outstanding and deserves the praise it receives.

The Great American Novel? No, but it's the great novel of a certain American experience, much as Updike's Rabbit saga is of the WASP experience Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby of the aristocracy and David Foster Wallace's work is of the MTV/Facebook generations.
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The Adventures of Augie March (Penguin Modern Classics)
The Adventures of Augie March (Penguin Modern Classics) by Saul Bellow (Paperback - 26 April 2001)
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