Paul Auster

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Having done a search there doesn't seem to be a thread on Auster. He's one of those authors I have very conflicting feelings about. I read the New York Trilogy when I was in my mid-twenties and I was enthralled. I reread it not too long ago as well, and thought it generally still held up (although the device of introducing a character called "Paul Auster" does seem gimmicky and PoMo 101 now; in the eighties I guess he could still get away with it.) It's tightly written, it has an urgency and verve to it and a real sense of existential mystery. It still feels fresh.

My problem with Auster is that none of his other novels, for me, have remotely got close to the NY Trilogy. Not only that, but it's diminishing returns. Some of the other eighties works were not too bad (his memoir The Invention of Solitude was pretty good; In The Country Of The Last Things not too bad), but in the 90s he wrote some really terrible novels (Mr Vertigo, Timbuctoo). I haven't read his latest, but the one before, Oracle Nights, was poor. Tired sloppy writing ridden with cliché, stereotypes rather than chartacters, unfunny wisecracks, lumpy plot, yet another outing for lone, existential NY writer protagonist-cum-alter ego etc etc. (and yet I guess ultimately readable, since I did finish it).

Anyway, thoughts on Auster?

Revivalist (Revivalist), Wednesday, 11 October 2006 10:17 (sixteen years ago) link

I've only read the NY trilogy so far, and I loved it, and now I'm a little scared to read any of his others in case they suck. I've heard 'The Invention of Solitude' is really good, though.

The cover art of his most recent novel was so terrible I could barely bring myself to read the blurb.

franny (frannyglass), Wednesday, 11 October 2006 11:35 (sixteen years ago) link

Moon Palace is the other great one. If you like NY Trilogy you'll dig it. Forget the rest of it I think.

Hugo Lovelace (Hugo Lovelace), Wednesday, 11 October 2006 17:45 (sixteen years ago) link

Yeah, I pretty much have the same take as the first post.

A-ron Hubbard (Hurting), Thursday, 12 October 2006 01:13 (sixteen years ago) link

I somewhat liked Music of Chance at the time though. Don't know if it would hold up.

A-ron Hubbard (Hurting), Thursday, 12 October 2006 01:13 (sixteen years ago) link

I will be the first on this thread to say: Read the comic version of City of Glass. That's really all you need.

Casuistry (Chris P), Thursday, 12 October 2006 01:47 (sixteen years ago) link

Chris, can I webmail you to please send me your plot summary of the commic version of City Of Glass?

Ruud Comes to Haarvest (Ken L), Thursday, 12 October 2006 01:56 (sixteen years ago) link

No. I only accept e-mails about plot summaries of books I have never read.

Casuistry (Chris P), Thursday, 12 October 2006 01:57 (sixteen years ago) link

> My problem with Auster is that none of his other novels, for me, have remotely got close to the NY Trilogy.

I agree wholeheartedly here.

I was especially disappointed by The Music of Chance. Something about it seemed so leaden in comparison to "City of Glass." Leviathan was just a long "Locked Room." Dull, somber, literal, predictable. I kept asking, Where's the FUN at?

The Mad Puffin (The Mad Puffin), Thursday, 12 October 2006 17:12 (sixteen years ago) link

I read Music Of Chance first and it cast a little bit of a pall on the others I read. I have seen him and his wife around town a few times- I used to see him at the movies all the time, at MOMA and Lincoln Center. I talked to both of them very briefly on separate occasions, they were both pretty nice.

Ruud Comes to Haarvest (Ken L), Thursday, 12 October 2006 17:19 (sixteen years ago) link

three weeks pass...
i don't really see what the comic book adds to the novella; that said i don't think so much of the novella, or the trilogy.

i just read his autobio 'word of mouth' which eh, he's very proud of himself for having had, you know ... jobs ... and shit. well done!

it includes as an appendix his previously suppressed detective novel 'squeeze play', pub. under the name paul benjamin, which is more fun and funnier than his pomo takes on same. in fact it would probably add to the trilogy if it were a tetralogy, really.

tom west (thomp), Wednesday, 8 November 2006 17:36 (sixteen years ago) link

I loved "The Music of Chance", I also read "Oracle Night" tho which I thought was pretty crap.

Ronan (Ronan), Wednesday, 8 November 2006 18:34 (sixteen years ago) link

New York Trilogy is the one.

jed_ (jed), Wednesday, 8 November 2006 18:52 (sixteen years ago) link

Based on this thread, I went to the bookstore yesterday to look for the New York Trilogy. My search was somewhat unsuccessful, though, 'cause the bookstore was a poling place and the booths were set-up in the fiction section, doing a handy job of completely blocking off the "A" section - I could see the books, but short of crawling under the pooling booth, there was no way to reach them.

So I went and bought Shel Silverstein's Runny Babbit instead.

I'm Passing Open Windows (Ms Laura), Wednesday, 8 November 2006 22:38 (sixteen years ago) link

Unfortunately, the first Auster book I read was Leviathan. A real snooze. I decided at that point that I didn't have to read any more Auster. Life's too short and all that.

Mike Lisk (b_buster), Wednesday, 8 November 2006 22:57 (sixteen years ago) link

i don't really see what the comic book adds to the novella

"Adds" is an odd word here; but the comic book uses the comic medium in a more interesting way than the novel uses the novel medium. The underlying narrative ends up the same.

Another way of putting it might be that it's one of the few "comicizations" that doesn't read like one! It comes off as perfectly suited for the medium it's in.

Casuistry (Chris P), Thursday, 9 November 2006 00:15 (sixteen years ago) link

But if all you care about is the plot, you know, read whichever you want.

Casuistry (Chris P), Thursday, 9 November 2006 00:16 (sixteen years ago) link

admittedly i have only ever flicked through the comic book but i didn't notice anything particularly interesting formally. i was more annoyed by douchebaggy easter eggs like making auster's neighbour a 'menard, p' or whatever.

it seems to kind of disturb the metafictional aspect of the plot, though the metafictional whatsit does nothing interesting at all so you know whatever.

the baseball card game auster designed looks pretty neat, i want to try and play it with someone. i don't really understand baseball, though.

tom west (thomp), Thursday, 9 November 2006 00:34 (sixteen years ago) link

Not interesting in the sense of "OMG REVOLUTIONARY". Just very nice use of medium. I dunno, I could cite some things I guess. The maps of walking through the city and spelling out letters, that was much more effective in the comic, for instance.

Casuistry (Chris P), Thursday, 9 November 2006 06:06 (sixteen years ago) link

His latest novel, Travels In The Scriptorium, has been getting some poor reviews in the UK. I read a bit of it in a bookshop, it almost reads like a parody of NY Trilogy. I don't think I'm going to be spoiling anyone's fun by saying that yes, the protagonist is ye olde existential writer protagonist, and yes, there is a character in it who is writing a book called Travels In The Scriptorium. I've lost count of the number of times he's used that ploy.

Revivalist (Revivalist), Thursday, 9 November 2006 09:27 (sixteen years ago) link

yeah it's actually getting quite embarrassing. the guardian review of this ran along the lines that Auster was trying to impress the reader with his question-solving skills but that none of the questions/riddles were even worth posing.

jed_ (jed), Thursday, 9 November 2006 17:31 (sixteen years ago) link

Only thing I've read by him is Mister Vertigo which was pretty good fun and completely fell apart in its last fourth or so. I'm getting pretty tired of books that painstakingly cover one period of a character's life, and then brush over like twenty years in five pages before lingering for a while on their twilight years and then ending.... but it was engaging while it lasted.

Doctor Casino (Doctor Casino), Friday, 10 November 2006 18:54 (sixteen years ago) link

Moon Palace is the other great one. If you like NY Trilogy you'll dig it.

I agree with this. Moon Palace was actually the first Auster I read, and it inspired me to go on to read the Trilogy.

o. nate (onate), Tuesday, 14 November 2006 16:11 (sixteen years ago) link

it seems to kind of disturb the metafictional aspect of the plot, though the metafictional whatsit does nothing interesting at all so you know whatever.

I wouldn't say that the metafictional stuff does nothing interesting. I think it adds to the atmosphere of Ben Katchor-esque, low-rent, NYC-existential noir - said atmosphere being the novels' greatest accomplishment.

o. nate (onate), Tuesday, 14 November 2006 16:17 (sixteen years ago) link

maybe if ever i'd been to NY. in the 80s.

tom west (thomp), Tuesday, 14 November 2006 17:32 (sixteen years ago) link

I remember Moon Palace, the restaurant, in the 80s. You didn't miss much.

Paul Eater (eater), Tuesday, 14 November 2006 20:36 (sixteen years ago) link

He's too handsome that's his damn problem

808 the Bassking (Andrew Thames), Saturday, 18 November 2006 08:37 (sixteen years ago) link

one month passes...
auster is a weakness of mine; with the exception of 'art of hunger' and the 'brooklyn' one from last year i've liked all his novels. i also like his shorter books, 'why i write' and 'red notebook,' and i think he's not the worst translator of french poetry either -- he sure kicks barbara wright's ass, for instance. i like the way he's enthusiastic about literary cult classics, too -- writingg introductions to joe brianard's 'i remember' and allain's first 'fantomas' book. i'm a dork; i own the paperback version of his first book, the one about baseball written under the assumed name.

he continually repeats himself and the meta tropes are way old hat, but i think he can still write, and find him infinitely more enjoyable than other middlebrow writers who rewrite the same stuff alla time a la murakami. i quite liked the one about the dude who destroys the only copies of his films, and i am embarrassed to say i was genuinely moved by 'timbuktu,' the one told from the point of view of a homeless dude's dog.

i think i like his devotion to the idea that we're controlled by weird coincidences we can't even begin to understand.

Michael J McGonigal (mike mcgonigal), Wednesday, 10 January 2007 08:45 (fifteen years ago) link

three months pass...
wow i didn't like ny trilogy much. for one thing his language is pretty shockingly clumsy and the problems he's attacking seem pretty empty. i mean it feels like crude versions of the nouveau roman that lack the control of language as an instrument and so flail at it instead and there's an egotism that seems too underplayed to be purposeful in a good way so actually probably just genuine and maddening as well.

not many ppl push the same territory he does, so i guess that's why he gets over + he's real easy to read? but i mean for someone doing the same stuff so much more RIGHT there's steve erickson who has the advantage of actually worrying about things beyond the page.

after thinking about the fact that he's had some stuff made into a graphic novel, it hit me how all his stuff is pretty-much graphic-novel-level in the easy-to follow twistyturns and reliance on conjuring up powerful images from trope more than linguistic facility.

anyway, i mean, the ny trilogy was alright, and i have a decently fuzzy fond vague memory of moon palace, but i was still pretty shocked when i saw just how poor the writing was and how little there was really going on, not to mention that its also mostly pretty ancient gothic tropes he's reworking to feel modern, as opposed to actually being in any sense even a representitive of a modernist break, much less postwhatever.

s.clover, Saturday, 21 April 2007 07:32 (fifteen years ago) link

Did I mention how the City of Glass graphic novel is better than the novel? I did? OK.

Casuistry, Sunday, 22 April 2007 02:54 (fifteen years ago) link

cosign

thomp, Monday, 23 April 2007 01:02 (fifteen years ago) link

although what's with the 'graphic-novel-level', eh

thomp, Monday, 23 April 2007 01:03 (fifteen years ago) link

Fite! Fite!

Casuistry, Monday, 23 April 2007 04:38 (fifteen years ago) link

three weeks pass...
no disrespect to graphic novels meant, more like his descriptions are so awful they're probably better rendered visually -- like the text itself doesn't add anything, and at times detracts from whatever it is that's going on.

s.clover, Wednesday, 16 May 2007 18:16 (fifteen years ago) link

the top 10 books according to Auster:


1. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
2. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
3. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
4. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
5. In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust
6. Ulysses by James Joyce
7. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
8. The Castle by Franz Kafka
9. Samuel Beckett’s Trilogy: Molly, Malone Dies and The Unnamable
10. Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne

Zeno, Wednesday, 16 May 2007 18:55 (fifteen years ago) link

Could you get more canonical?

The New York Trilogy owes an awful lot to the Beckett trilogy.

underpants of the gods, Thursday, 17 May 2007 14:39 (fifteen years ago) link

At least he didn't try to throw in one obvious non-canonical pick just to seem hip.

Hurting 2, Friday, 18 May 2007 02:21 (fifteen years ago) link

The Trial is way better than The Castle though.

Hurting 2, Friday, 18 May 2007 02:21 (fifteen years ago) link

This weekend, read a compilation of true-life stories from NPR listeners, a project that Auster initiated and edited into book form.

Enjoyed it all very much, except the last section of 'Meditations', which rambled like a drunk at a party who's clapped his hand on your shoulder and won't let you go. Genuinely affecting submissions of coincidences and touches of the divine.

scampering alpaca, Tuesday, 22 May 2007 13:39 (fifteen years ago) link

two years pass...

Was it David Mazzucchelli who did the comic version of CoG? WAS IT??? (what, I don't know how to use google anymore?)

If Snotboogie always stole the money, why'd you let him play? (Dr. Superman), Saturday, 6 June 2009 22:49 (thirteen years ago) link

Google says yes.

If Snotboogie always stole the money, why'd you let him play? (Dr. Superman), Saturday, 6 June 2009 22:50 (thirteen years ago) link

Around these parts, the thing about Auster is that he fills a need. If he didn't exist, we'd have to invent him. And increasingly,
we do.

alimosina, Monday, 15 June 2009 01:47 (thirteen years ago) link

five months pass...

James Wood rips Auster another one:

http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/books/2009/11/30/091130crbo_books_wood?currentPage=all

I always thought I didn't have much time for Wood as a critic but I have to say I agree absolutely with him here. Auster gets away with murder.

Zelda Zonk, Wednesday, 25 November 2009 15:50 (thirteen years ago) link

Kind of makes me feel a bit relieved, as I've felt similar diminishing returns with the Auster I've read.

Attention please, a child has been lost in the tunnel of goats. (James Morrison), Thursday, 26 November 2009 22:21 (thirteen years ago) link

yea i usually loathe wood but hes otm here

johnny crunch, Thursday, 26 November 2009 22:42 (thirteen years ago) link

is this guy more popular abroad or am I just more in the dark than I think I am? I had never heard of him until I read that NYorker article earlier this week.

a full circle lol (J0hn D.), Friday, 27 November 2009 00:15 (thirteen years ago) link

I found the NY Trilogy a bit Jewish.

Information. Motivation. Supplementation. (wanko ergo sum), Friday, 27 November 2009 00:35 (thirteen years ago) link

i remember being 17 or so and reading the first half of leviathan thinking it was so fuckin brilliant

johnny crunch, Friday, 27 November 2009 00:37 (thirteen years ago) link

"is this guy more popular abroad or am I just more in the dark than I think I am?"

he's pretty well known in the u.s! and pretty popular too.

scott seward, Friday, 27 November 2009 17:40 (thirteen years ago) link

he's always been big with hip college kids and hip 20 and 30somethings. since the 80's at least. plus, people know him from the movies smoke and blue in the face.

scott seward, Friday, 27 November 2009 17:43 (thirteen years ago) link

yea j0hn sorry yr just in the dark :(

just sayin, Friday, 27 November 2009 17:43 (thirteen years ago) link

haha my wife loathes the new york trilogy so much

velko, Friday, 27 November 2009 17:47 (thirteen years ago) link

this is a pretty amazing takedown.

jed_, Friday, 27 November 2009 22:18 (thirteen years ago) link

two weeks pass...

did not realise he used to be married to lydia davis!

just sayin, Thursday, 17 December 2009 10:15 (twelve years ago) link

Indeed!

Some of their best work (Davis's Break It Down and Auster's The Invention of Solitude) seem to have sprung from their tumult.

The Hood Won't Jump (Eazy), Friday, 18 December 2009 14:30 (twelve years ago) link

funny that they were both reviewed by james wood w/in a few weeks (he likes lydia davis a lot more)

just sayin, Friday, 18 December 2009 14:32 (twelve years ago) link

B-b-but what does he think of Siri Hustvedt?

alter cocker jarvis cocker (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 18 December 2009 18:56 (twelve years ago) link

I always thought I didn't have much time for Wood as a critic but I have to say I agree absolutely with him here. Auster gets away with murder.
That piece was great, thanks. Anytime reading or trying to read either of those guys has finally resulted in a payoff.

alter cocker jarvis cocker (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 18 December 2009 18:57 (twelve years ago) link

six months pass...

Auster makes a serious play for the Bad Sex Award in his upcoming novel Sunset Park:

“The first time they went to bed together, she assured him she was no longer a virgin. He took her at her word, but when the moment came for him to enter her, she pushed him away and told him he mustn’t do that. The mommy hole was off-limits, she said, absolutely forbidden to male members. Tongues and fingers were acceptable but not members, under no condition at any time, not ever… Did he understand? Yes, he understood but what was the alternative? The funny hole, she said. Angela had told him all about it and he had to admit that from a strictly biological and medical standpoint it was the one truly safe form of birth control in the world. For six months now he has abided by her wishes, restricting all member penetration to her funny hole and putting nothing more than tongue and fingers in her mommy hole.”

http://abcofreading.blogspot.com/2010/06/why-paul-auster-should-have-stopped.html

Zelda Zonk, Thursday, 1 July 2010 00:06 (twelve years ago) link

The mommy hole was off-limits

please every ILE regular who might enjoy this as much as I, find this thread in time

Lord hear my prayer

get your bucket of free wings (underrated aerosmith albums I have loved), Thursday, 1 July 2010 00:19 (twelve years ago) link

.......

call all destroyer, Thursday, 1 July 2010 00:24 (twelve years ago) link

no words

call all destroyer, Thursday, 1 July 2010 00:25 (twelve years ago) link

mommy hole vs. daddy daycare

puff puff post (uh oh I'm having a fantasy), Thursday, 1 July 2010 00:27 (twelve years ago) link

in a steel cage

get your bucket of free wings (underrated aerosmith albums I have loved), Thursday, 1 July 2010 00:27 (twelve years ago) link

I knew a guy who referred to the vagina as the 'ha-ha hole'

obv. because it's polite for a child to refer to it as such but I like to imagine that when he finally entered one he chortled "ha-HA!"

got you all in ♜ ♔ (dyao), Thursday, 1 July 2010 00:28 (twelve years ago) link

Lord hear my prayer

In Nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen.

xyzzzz__, Friday, 2 July 2010 13:36 (twelve years ago) link

woulda preferred "mothering hole" tbf

INSUFFICIENT FUN (bernard snowy), Saturday, 3 July 2010 01:04 (twelve years ago) link

six years pass...

if anyone has a(n) LRB account i would gratefully read 3000 words trashing auster's latest

mookieproof, Thursday, 2 February 2017 01:22 (five years ago) link

thanks!

mookieproof, Thursday, 2 February 2017 14:03 (five years ago) link

five years pass...

Also:

In 1996, Daniel Auster played a minor role in a notorious nightlife murder case, in which the club promoter Michael Alig and an accomplice killed and dismembered a drug dealer, Andrew Melendez, also known as Angel, and threw his body in the Hudson River.

Mr. Auster pleaded guilty in 1998 to possessing $3,000 that had been stolen from Mr. Melendez and was sentenced to probation. He was not implicated in the killing.

The article describes Siri Hustvedt as his stepmother, which would mean Lydia Davis is his mother.

deep luminous trombone (Eazy), Sunday, 17 April 2022 04:05 (seven months ago) link

Yes to all of the above.

Ramones Leave the Capitol (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 17 April 2022 18:44 (seven months ago) link

I used to run into Paul Auster quite a bit in NYC and talked to him briefly sometimes and once even to SIri but the son never came up for some reason.

Ramones Leave the Capitol (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 17 April 2022 19:07 (seven months ago) link

Not sure if I understand the story
So this was not an accident?
This guy killed a baby…on purpose?

calstars, Monday, 18 April 2022 00:23 (seven months ago) link

Could have been some form of negligence. However you slice it, it’s not pretty.

Ramones Leave the Capitol (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 18 April 2022 00:26 (seven months ago) link

"Wouldn't stop cryin;, so I gave 'er just a little bit," maybe

dow, Monday, 18 April 2022 01:22 (seven months ago) link

Ugh

Ramones Leave the Capitol (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 18 April 2022 01:23 (seven months ago) link

Maybe the baby was digging around and came across heroin and fentanyl and chewed on it. Whatever happened, so damn grim.

deep luminous trombone (Eazy), Monday, 18 April 2022 02:29 (seven months ago) link

Dan is a childhood friend of one of my oldest and closest friends. We hung out a bunch of times before the Angel menendez thing. He seemed to have eventually turned his life around and my friend reconnected with him while his gf was pregnant with the baby. He was so happy.

Benson and the Jets (ENBB), Monday, 18 April 2022 22:56 (seven months ago) link

They spoke after her death and he was distraught. Said it was SIDS. This is all so horrific and fucked up. I think it was almost certainly accidental ingestion knowing what I know but fucking hell. And, yeah, his mom is Lydia D.

Benson and the Jets (ENBB), Monday, 18 April 2022 22:58 (seven months ago) link

many x-posts - I sincerely doubt it was on purpose. Horrific regardless though.

Benson and the Jets (ENBB), Monday, 18 April 2022 22:59 (seven months ago) link

I'm sorry. A social worker friend has told me about such things, but gratuitous speculation here, and an accident does seem more likely.

dow, Tuesday, 19 April 2022 02:45 (seven months ago) link

If his mom is Lydia Davis, why does the NYT article focus exclusively on his dad? (I had no idea that Davis and Auster had been married, though I see it was brief.)

jaymc, Tuesday, 19 April 2022 04:36 (seven months ago) link

Because Auster is more famous than Davis, I imagine.

Zelda Zonk, Tuesday, 19 April 2022 04:45 (seven months ago) link

Yes.

Wile E. Kinbote (James Redd and the Blecchs), Tuesday, 19 April 2022 04:48 (seven months ago) link

But still.

Wile E. Kinbote (James Redd and the Blecchs), Tuesday, 19 April 2022 04:49 (seven months ago) link

Just realized I wrote Menendez but obv meant Melendez. Yeah I assume because he’s more famous. Also - he’s written characters that are very obviously based on him and it’s been a very fraught relationship from what I can tell so maybe that’s why? And no need for sorries. I haven’t seen the guy since the late 90s and then only socially etc. It’s just an awful situation and my friend is so upset. I can’t stop thinking about it though. It’s just horrific.

Benson and the Jets (ENBB), Tuesday, 19 April 2022 07:15 (seven months ago) link

Daniel Auster is dead of an overdose:

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/28/nyregion/daniel-auster-dead-arrest-overdose.html

o. nate, Thursday, 28 April 2022 17:26 (six months ago) link

awful

BIG HOOS aka the steendriver, Thursday, 28 April 2022 17:31 (six months ago) link

Ugh

Eric B. Mash Up the Resident (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 28 April 2022 20:27 (six months ago) link

Yeah. The details surrounding it are fucking awful too but not anything I could/would share. Just unimaginably tragic.

Benson and the Jets (ENBB), Wednesday, 4 May 2022 21:31 (six months ago) link


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