I usually carry a book with me everywhere, allowing me to catch up on my reading if the subway is running slowly (and the subway is always running slowly) or if the laundry is taking longer than it should (because the towels never dry).
Most of the time, no one comments on what I’m reading—no one cares, unless it’s Saul Bellow. More times than I could count, some old man has sat down next to me while I was reading Bellow and told me I should also read Herzog or Humboldt’s Gift. I’ve had long conversations with these passionate old men and intend to eventually become one of them myself.
Which Bellow will I lecture strangers about? The Adventures of Augie March. Since I received my MFA, no book has impressed me as much as Augie March. It captures the energy of this country in the early part of the last century and it does it in a style that’s tightly wound, exacting, and idiosyncratic.
In later years, Bellows became a nasty old man, full of conservatism and bile, but in his youth he was up there with the greatest novelists America has ever produced.
Read Augie March.
Bio: Meakin Armstrong is Guernica’s fiction editor. You can follow him on Twitter at @meakinarmstrong.