Thursday 15 December 2011
Devouring Books: Invisible by Paul Auster
I shouldn't have worried. Even though I wasn't sure exactly what was missing, as soon as I started reading Part 2, I kind of went 'ah, this is a Paul Auster book!' and relaxed into it and could properly enjoy it. I don't know if you've ever read one of Auster's books, but what he does is create an entire fictional universe within which his story revolves, and when you think you're at the heart of the narrative, you're actually on its first layer, and then the whole thing turns around, goes deeper, and gets more interesting. He's so different from any other author I've read, and also his style is clearly, really difficult to describe! Needless to say though, I find it sort of intoxicating, and also, you know, awesome.
Since I like Auster's style so much, the actual story is always kind of secondary to me and, and I pretty much believe that he could make a trip to the shops sound intriguing and exciting, with many hidden secrets, and so much background to that one trip. Nonetheless, Invisible does happen to have a good story too- it sort of explores the most significant year (in three parts) of one man's life, told in the first, second, and then third person, and then verified and further investigated by another character, who is wholly secondary to Adam, the main character's, story (see what I mean about Auster's style?!) It's interesting because, it kind of seems like everything interesting and significant that happened to him happened in these three events, in this one year, and from them, his entire life direction is decided. Interesting concept, no?
The thing with the story in Invisible is, even though it doesn't all quite mesh together perfectly, in a way that makes it almost more convincing and lifelike. Allow me to explain- the first and third parts of Adam's story both relate to the same story, contains the same cast of characters and the third finishes off the first part pretty neatly, but the second part is... different. And not only a little bit different, but an entirely different story, in an entirely different part of his life (although it happens just after the end of the first section) and it seems mildly random, and a whole lot... incesty. Mutually agreed incest, but still! I was kind of disarmed entirely by this change in direction, and considering the subject matter, I didn't really know what to think about it! The point is though, that while this part seemingly had nothing to do with the other two parts (and it really didn't, other than giving us a greater insight into Adam) it's kind of reflective of real life- it doesn't follow a pretty narrative where everything is wrapped up neatly just when you want it to be, but is much more random than that. Albeit with slightly less/no incest.
Basically, I was always going to like this book because I really like Auster's style, but if you put that aside for a minute (which is pretty impossible to do) then I think the story stands up as a good one (the style, in my opinion, makes it, and all of Auster's novels, great ones). So basically, if you've read Auster before and have already vetoed him, avoid; if you love him then obviously read it; and if you're a first timer then I think this is a pretty good one to start with, to ease yourself into the Auster way of writing, and work your way up to the amazingness that is The New York Trilogy. I highly recommend it.