And that's where Paul Auster comes in. He's maybe the author that I have the most books by that I haven't actually read. It's weird, because whenever I read a book by him, I LOVE it, but somehow there always seems to be something I want to read more than a Paul Auster book. Maybe it's because I'm too lazy to deal with his mindfuckery (there is a fair bit of mindfuckery. Which in the end, I always LOVE, but when I THINK about it, it's like meh. Effort.) or maybe it's because, you know, I own too many books, but somehow, poor Auster gets sidelined all the time.
But! In the past two weeks, I've read 2 books by him. Which is something else that I haven't really done since I started blogging, because I tend to prefer spreading out books by different authors because, you know, what if people get boooored? (I care about this a lot less now. Evidently.) But, I wanted to read Man in the Dark since it was mentioned in Tolstoy and the Purple Chair (and I already owned it) and then The Book Jar told me to read Timbuktu, which is the Auster book I've had the longest. Which is a weight off my shoulders in just having read it!
Since both of these books are pretty short, and this post is already kind of long (I'm so sorry! I'm just rambling!) I'mma mini-review these suckers for you, but I feel like I should make a point first. And I guess the point is... It's really great branching out, and reading lots of different authors and styles and things all the time, but also it's sometimes nice to return to an author you know you love, and who does what he does, and does it well, without having to worry about, like, reviewing two sort-of-similar-only-not-really books really close together. Because, you know, that's the point of reading anyway, isn't it? Just doing whatever you want? Yes, it is.
Man in the Dark
"She held my hand when Oona left me, applauded when Sonia and I got back together, saw her son whenever he and his wife flew in from Chicago, attended family events, watched television from morning to night, could still tell a decent joke when the spirit moved her, and turned into the saddest person I have ever known."
If Man in the Dark and Timbuktu have anything in common, it's that they're both fairly basic for Auster books. There's very little meta-fiction, few connections with other works, and he keeps things fairly straightforward (for him). All this does is make them more powerful- considering how short Man in the Dark is, and how long ago I read it (a couple of weeks is a long time, people!) a lot of it has stayed with me, which isn't something I can always say about books.
Man in the Dark all takes place in one man's head over the course of one night, and it's kind of about the stories we tell ourselves to stop thinking about the things that have happened to us. I'm pretty sure everyone does it, and if not then I guess we all use books to achieve the same effect, and I don't know if Auster is saying this is a good or bad thing, but maybe it's just a way to get through another night. There's definitely an opportunity for Austerian weirdness in the book, and whilst I definitely thought things were heading that way, in the end I was kind of glad they didn't- that the story really was just a story, and that real life ended up being more important.
"He pitied him for not knowing how to enjoy life. The world was filled with such wonders, and it was a sad state of affairs when a man spent his time worrying about the wrong things."
There's a reason Timbuktu was my longest unread Auster, and that's because it's narrated by a dog. Narrated is actually the wrong word, but it's all about a dog's eye view of the world, and so whilst I bought this because Auster's name was on the cover, I wasn't sure when I'd actually read it because that's kind of a premise that doesn't appeal to me much. Thank goodness for The Book Jar, is all I can say, because without that, Timbuktu might have been sitting on the shelf FOREVER.
Which it wouldn't have deserved. Because, and this is such a rare thing, I didn't even roll my eyes ONCE at this book. It didn't hurt that the dog in question (Mr. Bones) was kind of hyper-intelligent, so following him wasn't stupid or dumbing down, it was just... This is how this creature sees the world, and these are his experiences. It also didn't hurt that this book is kind of a chronicle of different kind of dog ownership, and also just ways of living- the devoted homeless guy, the kid-who-isn't-allowed-pets, the 'perfect' Suburban family- all experienced from the dog's point of view rather than the humans'. Mr. Bones is smarter than a lot of the humans in the book, and knows what he wants better than all of them, and yet, everyone who is kind to him, he loves in his own way.
Timbuktu is also probably THE most straightforward Auster book I've read, and I think that's because it doesn't need to be anything more- Auster is showing you the world from a wholly different perspective, and doesn't need any narrative tricks cleverer than that. It's not a hyper-realistic account of a dog's life, of course, but it feels about right anyway, and most importantly, it sucked me right in. And that's kind of enough.
So. This Paul Auster fellow is pretty good. You might want to give him a try sometime.
*I'm still alllll about reading everything by certain authors. And with music, I'm definitely more likely to get ALL of certain artists' music than constantly wanting to find new artists to listen to all the time.
Auster's been hanging onto my bookshelf FOREVER and I can't seem to get to him because of all the other shiny books calling out to me. So I haven't read a single one yet, but I will! He sounds pretty darn good, in a Murakami sort of way.ReplyDelete
Auster's TOTALLY Murakami-esque. Only they're not that much alike, but because they do weird things and stuff (that I LOVE) I totally group them together in my brain. Which Austers do you haaaave? Can I choose one for you to read?!Delete
I read Man in the Dark the other week (as well) and I was happy with the meta-part of the story, but as soon as that ended and we were back in the real world, it bored me. I still have some other Auster books somewhere in the house, but I'm not so very eager to get to them.ReplyDelete
Auster is one of those authors that I hear about all the time and therefore don't want to read because I have this condition which makes me deliberatly avoid anything that everyone's talking about. And no, it's not called being a hipster - according to nearly all of the teachers I've had (and my family) it's called being difficult :)
Yeaaaah, I read your review (and I'd just read it too) and I was like 'should I be all indignant and commenty?!' and decided against it haha! But I liked it because I think I was EXPECTING, basically for the weird and crazy thing to happen, but then it didn't and, you know, he was just an old man alone in the dark as one day we all will be. Or something. (But yeah, I liked it!)Delete
See, no, yeah, I have the same problem as you, only I NEVER hear anyone talk about Paul Auster (except this one lecturer I had once, who set one of his books as a course book and so set me on an Austery journey) so I'm like 'he's my own special author of awesomeness!' Except, yeah, apparently not!
"before I was pretty much on my own. Which tended to mean sticking to authors I knew I was going to like"ReplyDelete
Accurate. Thanks, book blogging! Because I have been exposed to a crapload of books I would've completely missed otherwise.
ALSO I did not know who this man is. But now I kind of do. So hurrayyyy.
Nice work book blogging, you're the best! But yeah, definitely. I probably wouldn't even have read Emma Donoghue without it! OMG. And no Murakami! It's not even worth thinking about, really.Delete
Yay sort of knowing Paul Auster! That's like a step closer to reading his books! READ THEM ALL
Oh maaaaan. I need to read the Auster you bought me, and then I need to read the Auster I stole from the shop because of the movie (the inner life of Martin Whatshisface thingumibobby... shut up I haven't eaten dinner yet and my brain's asleep), and THEN I need to read these Austers, because you said so and they sound equally as awesome as the OTHER two I already have. Glad we got that straightened out.ReplyDelete
Also... YAY BOOK JAAAAAR! :D
Ooooh, you DO need to read The New York Trilogy. That's my favourite. Favourite favourite. I haven't even heard of The inner life of thingy whosit though! I also really like Moon Palace, just fyi. READ THEM ALL.Delete
The Book Jar is the greatest of all things. As long as it stops telling me to read Shakespeare when I need something to read in the bath.
I used to pick books the same way pre-blogging. Blogging is so nice with the branching out and whatnot. Also this:ReplyDelete
"It's really great branching out, and reading lots of different authors and styles and things all the time, but also it's sometimes nice to return to an author you know you love"
Also I suppose I should check out this guy.
The branching out is good, and the returning is good. It's alllllll good, Alley. For reals.Delete
Check him out you should! I think he's a bit of a love/hate thing, or even a get him/not get him thing (not, not getting him in a dumb way. Just in a, like, love way) so I wouldn't even be cross if someone was like 'wtf is up with this dude?' Just if they didn't try. *looks pointedly at you*
Paul Auster is such an interesting author. He's kind of brilliant and I'm pretty sure he can write about anything.ReplyDelete
I read Oracle Night on a lark and loved it. Then I read In the Country of Last Things. I have the New York Trilogy sitting on my shelf waiting to be picked up.
Thanks for giving me two more books to add to my list!
Iiinterestingly, you've just named 2 author books that I haven't read and don't even own! But it's good to know that they're good too! I looooove The New York Trilogy so much! In a mind-fucky way.Delete
Fact: I've never read Paul Austere! GASPPSSSSSSSSS! Also, I've never had the desire either. Please, Laura, try and forgive me! At this point I'm still not convinced, but hey, stranger things have happened. I'm the same way with my classics... something new is being blogged about by blogger x and suddenly I've totally forgotten that Tolstoy copy I was salivating over. The life!ReplyDelete
YOU ARE NOT CONVINCED BY MY DOUBLE REVIEW?! Shocking! I definitely think that Auster's not for everyone, but ALSO that everyone should give him a try, just to check! JUST SAYING.Delete
Okay so I've never heard of or read Paul Auster before, but you've intrigued me... what book by him should I try first (assuming there's others by him that you also liked a lot)? If I can get my hands on it soon enough I may just add it to my April TBR.ReplyDelete
Ok, so my PERSONAL favourite Paul Auster book is The New York Trilogy, but I feel like it takes the sort of oddness that I'd read in his other books and turned it up a notch, and that's why I liked it so much? SO I'm going to say read Moon Palace first because it's the first one I read? And it was awesome and made me want to read more?Delete
Ok, I'm adding to my list!Delete