"He speaks of himself as another in order to tell the story of himself. He must make himself absent in order to find himself there."
I really love Paul Auster a lot, and I was excited (so excited it took me about a year and a half to get round to it... *sigh*) to read this, an autobiography of sorts. I say 'of sorts', because, of course, this is Paul Auster we're talking about, and when it comes to his style of writing, nothing is simple, and something as straightforward as autobiography becomes... well, a lot more complex than that.
Well, at least part of it is more complex. The first part, Portrait of an Invisible Man, is an attempt to come to terms with the death of his father, or, maybe more accurately, with his father's life- how he never really seemed to be there, and never really opened up to anybody, least of all his son. It's a really sad summation of a life, and it's sad that Auster never really knew his father- that he never opened up enough to catch a glimpse of the soul inside. Tied up with this portrait is a revelation that I shan't tell you about because it's probably the only thing in the book that really has a spoiler attached to it. But let's just say it's a really interesting thing to consider in regard to Auster Senior's psyche, and examining it as such is something which Auster does well.
So that's the first bit. And it's probably the most... Normal of all Auster's work. I don't even know if I mean that as an insult or not- it's an accessible bit of writing, and it's pretty interesting, but I guess it didn't really grab me? In the course of writing this, my research (ahem, Wikipedia) has told me that this was Auster's debut work (I think, apart from poems and translations, although this isn't on Wikipedia so what do I know?) so I guess it makes sense that he started off writing like a normal person and then found his own voice. Which, fortunately, he does in the very next section!
The second part is The Book of Memory, and it's a memoir of some thoughts and experiences and friends that Auster's had, only- and this is the kicker- it's written in the third person. And it's not written in the third person just for the sake of it (well, I like to think not anyway) but so that Auster can somehow step outside of himself to really, really take a look around him, and to consider his life from a different angle. And that angle is weird. Like... SO MUCH is discussed that I can't even list all the references he makes (also cause I can't remember them all) but he talks about Pinnochio and fathers and sons and the nature of memory and writing and truth and is your brain hurting yet, because mine kind of is.
And that's the thing about this second part- it's almost like Auster's overthinking everything SO MUCH that everything could mean everything or nothing. There were points when I was just like 'dude, you think waaaay too much' but I think really that was just me going 'my brain really hurts right now.' And so while the first part wasn't interesting enough to stimulate any brain things, the second part was maybe too interesting, and so it hurt my brain. What I'm thinking is, Auster seems to have found some magical combination of the two that has meant that basically everything else that he's written, I've loved. I liked this, but not as much, but if the process meant that he essentially found his voice (as I've apparently decided that's what it did)? Then I'm good with it.