Paul Auster

About three/four years ago I read The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster. Not sure what first compelled me to read this but I did and ended up loving it. The first part of the trilogy, City of Glass is one of my all-time favorites. Auster is the best example I’ve seen of post-modernist literary author. His books always seem to concern the nature of writing, playing around with the concept of author. In City of Glass, the story focuses on a narrator named Daniel Quinn and he explains that he publishes detective fiction under the name Max Work. One night, Quinn recieves a phone call asking for private detective Paul Auster. Quinn hangs up but they call back and Quinn decides to play along and see where this goes. He ends up tracking the recently release convict father of an albino named Peter Stillman. Stillman’s father had been arrested years ago for locking Peter up in the basement, torturing him, and attempting to release the anti-christ he believes exists in all men. Quinn’s investigation leads him to the steps of a New York City author named Paul Auster and to the secret behind the Stillmans. An amazing mind-blowing novella!

The second work I read by Auster was In the Country of Last Things. In this novel, a woman named Anna Blume journies to a nameless war torn country to find out where her brother, a reporter, has disappeared to. Auster creates one of the most nightmarish worlds in this work, a place where suicide has become an artform and a business. People can hire assassins to kill them when they aren’t expecting it, people perform balletic moves as they dive off skyscrapers, others train themselves to be excellent athletes and then jog themselves to death. Anna finds a library in the center of the city where scholars have sought sanctuary. Here she learns important information on her brother and begin a downward path that won’t allow her to ever escape this place.

Then I read Hand to Mouth, a memoir on Auster’s struggle to suceed as a writer focusing particularly on the monetary side of things. He sets up a struggle inside himself that comes from his parents’ two opposing views of wealth. Auster gives up a full grad school ride at Columbia to just live and struggles from age 21 to 35 working on jobs as varied as on an oil rig and translating French documents into Vietnamese. Finally, after his father passes, leaving him a substantial amount, Auster writes City of Glass and begins his literary career. Hand to Mouth is available in The Collected Prose of Paul Auster which I picked up this summer. The book is a definite must have if you’ve read and enjoyed any of his works.

The most recent Auster novel I’ve read is The Book of Illusions. The book follows college professor David Zimmer whose wife and children have been killed in a plane crash. Zimmer drops out of life, drinking constantly, watching television late into the night. He stumbles upon the silent films of a little-known comedic actor named Hector Mann. Mann becomes his obsession and he finds the only archives in the country that have prints of Mann’s films. Mann himself vanished from society in 1929 and is believed dead by the world. Then Zimmer recieves a letter from a woman claiming to be Hector Mann’s wife, inviting Zimmer to their ranch in New Mexico. Once there Zimmer is able to view films by Mann no one has ever laid eyes on. He also begins to come to terms with his loss and realizes something about his grief and the strange connection with these films.

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~ by Seth on November 18, 2005.

One Response to “Paul Auster”

  1. Just curious where you go to host your blog. I am looking into starting one and wanted to get your advice on where to shop.

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