The Augie in Me

Not since college have I gone to a fortune teller. And then I went as a goof. The knock against fortune tellers, which I have no reason to dispute, is that they’re masterful at making broad claims that sound specifically tailored to the listener. But I must say that I felt as if I was being fortune told when I read the following passage from The Adventures of Augie March quoted in Saul Bellow Letters, edited by Benjamin Taylor, a treasure trove of a book:

“And now here’s the thing. It takes a time like this for you to find out how sore your heart has been, and, moreover, all the while you thought you were going around idle terribly hard work was taking place. Hard, hard work, excavation and digging, mining, moling through tunnels, heaving, pushing, moving rock, working, working, working, working, working, panting, hauling, hoisting. And none of this work is seen from the outside. It’s internally done. It happens because you are powerless and unable to get anywhere, to obtain justice or have requital, and therefore in yourself you labor, you wage and combat, settle scores, remember insults, fight, reply, deny, blab, denounce, triumph, outwit, overcome, vindicate, cry, persist, absolve, die and rise again. All by yourself! Where is everybody? Inside your breast and skin, the entire cast.”

I grew up intending to become a fiction writer. But fresh out of college I got terribly blocked. I became a journalist instead, then a poet. Now, almost thirty years later, I’m back at it, working on fiction, wrestling with the internal demons who would prevent me. This paragraph from Augie March serves as my “2010: The Year in Review.”

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