Self-taught-free-styler, Augie March, a Huck Finn for the 20th century, is a riot of a read and a true inspiration for my writing:
"I am an American, Chicago born — Chicago, that somber city — 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; sometimes an innocent knock, sometimes a not so innocent. But a man's character is his fate, says Heraclitus, and in the end there isn't any way to disguise the nature of the knocks by acoustical work on the door or gloving the knuckles."
Augie's voice picks you up by the curlies and you know instantly that the only course to take in life is to "make the record" in your own way. It's so good Christopher Hitchens thought Augie earned Saul Bellow the 1976 Nobel laureateship almost 25 years after it was published in 1953.
Bellow, who like Mordecai Richler & Leonard Cohen was Montreal-born, died on this day in 2005. With The Adventures of Augie March he captured the humanity of an outsider whose "social mobility has been transformed into a spiritual energy," as good friend and poet Delmore Schwartz noted, "not doomed to flight, renunciation, exile, denunciation, the agonized hyper-intelligence of Henry James, or the hysterical cheering of Walter Whitman."