Marching with Augie a Third Time

Writing to fellow author Bernard Malamud, in an undated letter written slightly after the publication of The Adventures of Augie March, Saul Bellow states that “two things about the book please me still: the comedy and the characters. Many people have missed what, to me, is the fun of the book. They suffer from culture-gravity.”

So now afer reading Augie a third time, I truly appreciate Bellow’s comment about the fun of reading this novel. For instance, the exaggerated physical description of the Magnus family and its embodiment of Chicago’s Eastern European immigrant nouveau riche is Rabelaisian humor at its best.

I cannot think of another American novel that has as many interesting and quirky female characters as this book. Mimi Villars, Thea Fenchel, Stella Chesney, Lucy Magnus and Sophie Geratis are all sketched out brilliantly as they play crucial supporting roles in Augie’s odyssey in quest of a purpose in life.

Many critics of both genders accuse Bellow as being a womanizer and a real schmuck in the way he treated women, and that his female fictonal characters should be dismissed as sexual sterotypes and caricatures. I cannot agree. Separate the art from the political correctness, and see the genius in Bellow’s characterization. Lighten up from the culture-gravity and have some fun as you read, or in my case, read once again, this wild, wonderful book.

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