Sunday, August 31, 2008

Modern Library's Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century Quest: #81

Title: The Adventures of Augie March
Author: Saul Bellow
Judgin' the Book By Its Cover: Dude, it has a giant gila monster on it! Two thumbs up!!

Thoughts: This story, unsurprisingly, is about the adventures of one Augie March, a boy living in the Jewish slums of Chicago in the years before the Depression. The book follows him as he attends grows up, falls in love (over and over again), and eventually serves in World War II. It was quite difficult to get into this book, as the first 100 pages or so are spent describing various character's in Augie's neighborhood. Eventually, as Augie sets off on his journeys, things get more interesting. I especially enjoyed the passages describing his trip to Mexico with an unstable girlfriend bent on training a young bald eagle to hunt giant gila monsters (again, I can't get enough of the giant gila monsters!!).

I found Bellow's prose to be a bit off-putting-- he frequently used metaphors that were difficult to follow (or even nonsensical) and tended to be verbose where I would have preferred brevity. Moreover, I generally wasn't interested in Augie's search for meaning. He relegates all the events and people in his life to supporting roles for his grand theories about life, at times sacrificing story in doing so. There were definitely parts of the novel that I enjoyed, though, so it wasn't a complete fail, but this isn't a book I would return to anytime soon.

This week the Man Friend reminded me that it's been exactly one year since I embarked on this heroic quest, which depressed me quite a bit. It's been a long, strange trip (OK, not really, but I couldn't really resist a Dead reference), and it feels like forever since I read The Magnificent Ambersons, but I'm only 20% of the way done (not even, actually)! At this rate it will take me FOUR MORE YEARS to get through this list. I'm a bit intimidated, to be honest.

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