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John Oyler: 'Adventures of Augie March' rings true in real life

| Friday, Nov. 10, 2017, 2:00 a.m.

This month's book club selection was Saul Bellow's highly acclaimed novel “The Adventures of Augie March.”

I eventually managed to get through it and then tried to find out why critics are so impressed with the book.

Turns out it is a “picaresque novel.”

I thought I knew what that meant, but decided to check it out anyhow. Wikipedia thinks it is an “episodic recounting of the adventures of an anti-hero on the road.” Sounds a lot like my autobiography!

Consequently, this week I feel obligated to report on my recent long weekend trip to Colorado to visit my daughter Sara and her family. I have become too frail to handle air travel that involves anything other than nonstop flights — fortunately United still provides this service between Pittsburgh and Denver.

Preparing for the trip I had carefully organized my belongings to fit in one small gym bag. Sure enough, the woman in security confiscated it and began to inspect its contents. I immediately blurted out, “bran muffins!”

And, of course, I was correct. One of my numerous eccentricities is an obsession with fiber. Not knowing if we could buy bran muffins in Colorado, I put two into a plastic container and stuck them into the bag. I can't believe it looked like a dangerous weapon in the X-ray machine!

Sara and Nora met me at the Denver airport. Nora was scheduled to play in an early soccer game the next day at a field fairly close to the airport, so we checked into a nearby hotel and then went out for dinner.

The game the next morning was fun to watch, even though our team lost, 2-1. I was extremely impressed at the level of play for a group of seventh-graders.

The big event of a busy weekend for the McCance family was 15-year-old Ian's participation in the Rocky Mountain High School play, “Alice in Wonderland.” This is the third time Ian has had a significant role in a major play; it appears this is something at which he is especially accomplished.

Ian portrayed the Carpenter. In case you have forgotten, the Walrus and the Carpenter succeeded in persuading a horde of oysters to join them for dinner without telling the oysters they were the main course on the menu. They carried this off quite well.

Sunday morning was dominated by Halloween preparations. Claire (10 years old) decided to be the Red Queen from Ian's play. Nora was going to be Spider-Girl.

For his costume, Ian put swatches of red paint (blood) on a white T-shirt and then attached cereal boxes to the shirt.

Cereal Killer!

Sara and the girls took me back to the airport for an uneventful afternoon flight. As always I had a warm feeling when I drove under the overpass at Rosslyn Farms and dropped down to the Carnegie exit on the Parkway West. It reminded me of my father's custom of honking the horn and declaring, “Now we're home!” whenever we crossed the Allegheny County line on the way home from a long auto trip.

John Oyler is a Tribune-Review contributing writer. He can be reached at 412-343-1652 or Read more from him at

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