Thursday 15 December 2011

Devouring Books: Invisible by Paul Auster

I am a big lover of the Auster, but prior to reading Invisible, I hadn't read anything by him for a year, so I was completely out of touch with his (very distinctive) style. This doesn't sound like a big deal, but it meant that, while I was reading the first part, which is basically a story in the first person that anyone could have written, I was kind of disappointed. It wasn't that it was bad, at all, but it just didn't seem as Auster-y as I'd become accustomed to, even though I couldn't exactly remember what that meant.

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.


  1. I adore Paul Auster! I've only read three of his books (NY Trilogy, The Book of Illusions and Brooklyn Follies). I really liked each one, and have yet to be disappointed. I've got Moon Palace waiting for me on my TBR pile at home :)

  2. Moon Palace is sooooooo good! OMG I love him so much! Sorry. Gush. But yeah, this one's good too!

  3. To be honest, I have to say I respectfully disagree ;-). For me, the book didn't really come together at all, although I did enjoy some of its aspects. If you're interested, here's my review of it:
    But then again, I am one of the people who have probably vetoed Auster, now that I've read two of his works. I just don't think the man is terribly creative. His characters seem so similar: it tends to be a New York-based, writer-y guy (oh wait, an alter ego of Auster himself?), so while he might be an interesting man and all that it kind of seems like a cop-out to me that he's just writing about himself over and over. But maybe I picked the wrong books? Apart from Invisible, I also read Leviathan and wasn't overly taken (review here). Do you have any recommendations for Auster sceptics?

  4. I feel what you're saying (and I read both of your reviews and I really liked them) and I get the kind of 'meh' feeling about Auster- because, as you say, his books are kind of similar and along the same lines, I feel like if you really don't like him, you're going to find most of his books kind of lacking. My absolute favourite though, The New York Trilogy, is kind of different to everything I've ever read- I mean, it's still Auster-ish, but it's very very intriguing and interconnected and kind of made me go 'WOAH!' ...if that's a good enough recommendation for it! I also really like Moon Palace, but again that's very Auster-ish. So yeah.

    I do, however, agree with you on a lot of the intellectual/cultural things he puts in his books, but I fear that it might actually be really connected to the story and I just don't know about it because I'm dumb so I tend not to complain about it.... But sometimes it is just too much!