The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow is way better thought of than I realized. I went into Bellow’s book esteeming it as only a “near-Pulitzer” (no Pulitzer Prize for Fiction was awarded in 1954, but Bellow’s book was one of six that were suggested), an early work by a soon-to-become eminent writer given minimal notice by a divided public and Pulitzer jury. IT WON THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FOR FICTION IN 1954! It’s been listed by Time and the Modern Library Board as residing within the best 100 novels written in English! Boy! Am I ever glad I liked it. It makes me feel like I’ve got some amount of taste and critical instinct.
I began with low expectations, OK, but before I had finished the novel — a long one let me tell you at 536 pages — I was formulating semi-positive thoughts about it. I came into this blog and wrote three words, “wordy”, “yet”, and “incisive”, and to those three words, that should actually be read as a phrase, I hold. Truthfully, some of Bellow’s sentences left me in the dark. The syntax was conflicted and the grammar was questionable, but it felt like a choice, part of his voice. So, I pressed past that occasional sentence and mined the novel for its more comprehensible bits, and in the end, I was won over to Bellow. I hadn’t been sure how I’d feel about him for a long time. I mean he’s a very decorated literary figure, but then, so is Faulkner (Bwahaha!) and I have yet to crack one of his “classics” since college. Anyway, I look forward to reading more of Saul’s books, though I need to finish these Pulitzer and not-so-Pulitzer books first. These things take time. Someday I will have more of that commodity … someday after I get past the Faulkner Pulitzers … and, oh yeah … he won two … big surprise, huh?