“The Adventures of Augie March”
The contenders for best Chicago novel begin and end with the works of Saul Bellow, particularly the glittering string of mega-karat gems he produced during the quarter-century run that culminated with his 1976 Nobel. Of these, “Herzog” and “Humboldt’s Gift” have their partisans, but the critics that matter most are lining up behind “Augie”-led by the likes of Salman Rushdie (“If there’s a candidate for the great American novel, I think this is it.”), James Wood (“magnificently terminates and fulfills the line of Melville, Twain, and Whitman”), and Martin Amis (“the Great American Novel. Search no further.”). Bellow has detractors at least as loud as his admirers, as all great artists do during their lifetimes; many of the most vociferous of them are right here in the adopted hometown he has come to and left so many times (note that his greatest advocates originate from abroad). Let them rant: “Augie” ‘s greatness, like his creator’s, will outlive them all.
Alfred A. Knopf
Best of Chicago 2002