Friday, May 22, 2015

The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow (49 down 51 to go)

Lord, what a runner after good things, servant of love, embarker on schemes, recruit of sublime ideas, and good time Charlie. ~ Augie March’s surmise of himself

This is the first time I’ve read The Adventures of Augie March or Saul Bellow. The novel is a picaresque tale and first-person narrative. It is the coming of age tale of Chicago born Augie March, beginning in his childhood, during the great depression. It is told in realist style, with definite existential themes.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This novel satisfies square G4 of 2015 Classics Bingo: Banned book

According to an unnamed editor, Augie is
…one schemer, chancer, romantic, and holy fool. 
Augie himself says: 
I am an American, Chicago born, and go at things as I have taught myself, free-style, and will make the record in my own way: first to knock, first admitted.

As already alluded to, it is a picaresque novel. That was a new one on me: the adventures of a roguish hero of low social class who lives by his wits in a corrupt society. That’s about right. There isn’t much of a plot for me to explain. It begins in Augie’s childhood home with his older brother Simon, another brother George who is mentally disabled, his mother who is going blind, and a live in domineering tenant they call Grandma. Grandma is not really any relation. She does truly seem to care about the March’s though and since Mother March is indecisive and rather simple, Grandma runs things. Augie’s father left before Augie can remember.

Augie never quite seems to find his place in the world, or even know what it is. I’ll relate one phase of Augie’s life that was amusing. He meets a strong-willed heiress, Thea, who professes to love him. At first Augie’s loves Thea's sister, but when his love is not returned, he falls for Thea. Augie falls in love pretty easy. Thea has an absurd idea of buying an eagle, moving to Mexico, training the eagle to catch giant iguanas, selling the iguanas to zoos, and sell the story of the exploit to magazines. Augie blindly goes along, though he has a foreboding sense it will all fail. He names the eagle Caligula, because it sounds like the word Spanish word for eagle: águila. The fiasco does indeed fail, and nearly kills Augie.

In another adventure, Augie is shipwrecked and adrift in a lifeboat with a man who is seriously deluded if not insane.  The novel ends, without really ending. Augie seems to have settled into the closest thing he has known to normalcy, but he is still searching. The reader is hoping for his happiness, but not at all sure Augie has found it. Some observations Augie makes about himself along the way:
I know I longed very much, but I didn’t understand for what.
Studying his brother Simon: 
I watched him study the skill of how to put on a hat, smoke a cigarette, fold a pair of gloves and put them in an inner pocket, and I admired and wondered where it came from, and learned some of it myself. But I never got the sense of luxury he had in doing it.
…something about me suggested adoption.
I was a sucker for it too, family love.

To one of his loves: 
But one of the things I thought is that you and I are the kind of people other people are always trying to fit into their schemes.
Before long the word got around that I was a listener to hard-luck stories, personal histories, gripes, and that I gave advice, and by and by I had a daily clientele, almost like a fortuneteller.
I am a person of hope, and now hopes have settled themselves upon children and a settled life.

I liked Augie though he had his flaws. I often wanted to get in his face and shake some sense into him, but it wouldn’t have done any good. He had several friends, relatives, and loves that tried. He reminded me a little of Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye, but not nearly so annoying.

I learned that a jitney is a nickel from this book.

References to other classic books:

Grandma reads Anna Karenina and Eugene Onegin

Augie reads The Iliad

Augie finds some books that interest him: City of the Sun, Utopia, Discourses and The Prince

Augie refers to Sherlock Holmes, and The House of Usher

Other excerpts:

God may save all, but human rescue is only for a few.

The world doesn’t let hot blood off easy.

He was an Italian, he brought the style of ancient kingdoms with him.

But while no other animal is reprimanded for its noise, for yelling, roaring, screaming, cawing, or braying, there is supposed to be more delicate relief for the human species.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday (May 19, 2015)

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created The Broke and the Bookish

Today’s topic is a Freebie -- YOUR CHOICE OF TOPIC

GREAT! Because I didn’t catch last weeks, and I want to do that one – sort of:

Top 10 Authors I’d like to have a pint with at the local pub.

10.  Ernest Hemingway (cuz I’m pretty sure if he heard a bunch of authors were at the pub, he’d show up invited or not.
9. Frank Herbert
8. Ken Kesey
7. Kurt Vonnegut
6. William Golding
5. Gabriel García Márquez
4. Mark Twain
3. Joseph Heller
2. J.R.R. Tolkien
1. Jerome K. Jerome

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Oh dear dear child

I hope it's a child anyway. I could forgive a child this.

An online review I happened upon of a film version of David Copperfield:

"Charles Dickens, who wrote this story, lived in the 1800's. He is the only author whose popularity has come near to equalling (sic) that of JK Rowling!"

Good to know CD is at least NEAR equaling JK Rowling.  I bet Fitzgerald and Hemingway are bummed though. Well, would be - if not for the whole being dead business.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Fading Realm

I happened to be in the city today (Washington D.C.) and the name of a local restaurant caught my attention – Busboys and Poets. It is also a bookstore, and live performance venue for local artists

In the mid 1920’s Langston Hughes was working as a busboy at the Wardman Park Hotel in D.C. where he encountered American poet Vachel Lindsay. Hughes shared some of his poetry with Lindsay, who dubbed him the busboy poet – and the rest is history.

The food was excellent, the atmosphere eclectic, the book selection was small with a distinct focus.

It all leads up to this, an original poem that I wrote a few years ago for my daughter. I was never a busboy.

The Fading Realm
By J.E. Fountain

There are times I feel that all the world
Is asleep
That God and I alone keep the watch

But of course it is only a dream
The world turns
And God seems to manage without me

But then there are those times late at night
All my realm
Lies quiet and I savor the peace

Lord and guardian I survey my keep
All are safe
With no cause for alarm they all sleep

The Queen, my companion and my friend
Feels me stir
Half asleep she chides "don't be too late"

But I cherish the dark and quiet
And she knows
There are burdens I carry alone

If the princes are home, which grows rare
I find them
I can hear them breathe; it is enough

Soon they must begin their own crusade
I am sad
But not dismayed; they are well prepared

And last I will visit the princess
She sleeps quiet
And I lose track of time at her side

Soon I will no more be what I have
Always been
The most important man in her life

May God grant that I will be gracious
To the man
That cannot hope to be found worthy

But he will try, and she will believe
As she should
And I need rise no more in the night

The queens voice breaks the spell and bids me
Come to bed
For a moment longer I tarry

Trembling hands caress the princess' cheek
I kiss her
Good night Sweetheart, sleep well, I love you

Sleepily, dreamily, "Good night Daddy"
"I love you"
All is well

© 2015 Joseph E. Fountain

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Who said it Wednesday (May 6, 2015)

It isn’t important, I know, but I hate it when somebody has cheap suitcases. It sounds terrible to say it, but I can even get to hate somebody, just looking at them, if they have cheap suitcases with them.

Do you know who said it?

Leave a comment with your answer (or guess), or

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Teaser Tuesdays (May 12, 2015)

“It’s said people can go forty days without food, three days without water, and about thirty-five seconds without finding meaning in something…”
WIRED FOR STORY: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence by Lisa Cron

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm.

Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!