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The Adventures of Augie March (Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin) Paperback – October 1, 1996

3.9 out of 5 stars 129 customer reviews

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"The Adventures of Augie March is the Great American Novel. Search no further." -- Martin Amis --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Introduction by Martin Amis --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin
  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (October 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140189416
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140189414
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (129 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #991,436 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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. Okay, there's no rule that requires novels in these categories to be either. But still and all, one somehow feels uneasy, given the various changes in locale and steady aging of the protagonist, that Bellow (or Augie) so steadfastly refuses to get on with it already.
Much of the novel is rendered in a convoluted narrative style-Augie's voice-that may be termed ornate. Or off-putting. Or ornately off-putting. Intended to echo, presumably, the Yiddish, German and Russian speech patterns Augie grows up hearing in Chicago during the twenties and thirties, this narrative device may in fact do that; but its syntactical wanderings soon begin to remind one, whatever their authenticity, of the criticism once leveled at Henry Luce's beloved Timestyle: "Backward ran the sentences until reeled the mind." Lexicon also figures in the curious mix, as words are combined in unexpected ways-sometimes cleverly (and with a kind of mini-revelation effect: you mean you can say that?) but just as often, apparently, randomly--just for the heck of it. Augie likes to talk (write), and what comes out, comes out:
"Many repeated pressures with the same effect as one strong blow, that was [Einhorn's] method, he said, and it was his special pride that he knew how to use the means contributed by the age to connive as ably as anyone else; when in a not so advanced time he'd have been mummy-handled in a hut or somebody might have had to help him be a beggar in front of a church, the next thing to a memento mori or, more awful, a reminder of what difficulties there were before you could even become dead."
[...
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Format: Paperback
When I was a kid, some of my classmates already knew what they wanted to be. They marched in a straight line towards the goal. I, however, never knew what I wanted to do. I liked studying, but had no vision of a future. I drifted along and climbed into whatever boats came within reach. Augie March is a young Chicagoan from a broken home, who drifts with the tides as well, in the period 1927-1947. He winds up smuggling illegal immigrants, stealing books, travelling to Mexico, trying to train an eagle to catch iguanas, and playing poker. After a few good, bad and indifferent experiences with women, he joins the Merchant Marine during World War II, gets married to a would-be actress, and survives a ship torpedoing. When we leave Augie, he's making illegal business deals in Europe. Has he ever made a really conscious decision ? It's not clear. Bellow's novel is full of humor, philosophy, and insights on life. For example, on page 305 --"But I had the idea also that you don't take so wide a stand that it makes a human life impossible, nor try to bring together irreconciliables that destroy you, but try out what of human you can live with first."

THE ADVENTURES OF AUGIE MARCH is an almost endless literary parade of portraits, of weird and wonderful characters from many walks of life. It's like a pilgrimage back in time to another America, another age---perhaps more innocent in some respects, but not so smooth, not so well-rounded, a thrusting, struggling America where raw money power arbited so much. Even though the book could have been cut down a bit here and there because 617 pages is overlong, Bellow's novel will remain a classic of American and world fiction for two reasons. First, because human nature scarcely changes.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This novel is unquestionably one of the great masterpieces of our time.

Saul Bellow paints portraits of characters like Rembrandt. He has a brilliant technique for divulging not only the physical nuances of his characters but also gets deep into the essence of their souls.

He has an astute grasp of motivation and spins a complex tale with an ease that astounds. Even the most unusual twists of fate seem natural and authentic.

Augie is a man "in search of a worthwhile fate." After struggling at the bottom of Maslow's hierarchy of needs as a penniless youth in Chicago, he ultimately discovers that alignment with the "axial lines" of his existence is the secret to human fulfillment.

While his brother is engrossed in chasing after financial enrichment and social esteem, Augie learns through his own striving that such pursuit is "merely clownery hiding tragedy."

Augie is a man dogged in his pursuit of the American dream who has an epiphany that the riches that life has to offer lie in the secrets at the heart's core. If, as Sartre says, life is the search for meaning, then Augie is the inspired champion of this great human quest.

The true test of a great book is that you wish it would never end. Fortunately, Saul Bellow is as prolific as he is brilliant and there is much more to explore.

Bellow is worthy of the characterization of one of America's best living novelists: he is a treasure. His wisdom staggers the imagination.

Don't let this novel pass you by!
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