Paul Auster reflects on the winter of his life

"Winter Journal" (Henry Holt and Co.), by Paul Auster

Thirty years ago, a struggling poet and translator of French poetry published a memoir of his father that marked him as a writer worth watching. "The Invention of Solitude" ended a bleak few years in Paul Auster's life when his first marriage had disintegrated, he was suffering from writer's block, and he could barely eke out a living.

After its publication, Auster threw his considerable energy into prose, producing a stream of novels, essays and screenplays — including the 1995 Wayne Wang film "Smoke" — that, in the years since, have won him acclaim.

Now 65 — just old enough to collect Social Security but to his way of thinking, almost at death's door — Auster gives us "Winter Journal," a bookend to "Invention of Solitude" and a somber meditation on growing old.

Amid some lovely observation and a few distracting literary devices, the book is roughly organized as a catalog of "what it has felt like to live inside this body." Thus, the scars on his face trigger memories of childhood accidents. We learn about a false heart attack, other curious psychosomatic ailments and the inevitable, and predictable, "years of phallic obsession."

Memoir writing is hard — unless the author is a recovering addict, former president or aging rock star — and readers may well wonder why they should care. Fans of Auster's postmodern fiction will, of course, and so might the bohos of Brooklyn, where Auster put down roots long before that borough became trendy.

But readers who aren't as familiar with Auster's work may find themselves put off by his intensely self-conscious mannerisms, especially his unfortunate decision to write this in the second person.

In an interview before publication, Auster says it "would have been too hermetic, too egocentric" to use the traditional "I'' voice. In fact, it's just the opposite.

Readers are so used to the first person that it goes almost unnoticed, while the "you" continually calls attention to itself. Even worse, the cumulative effect is one of an unseemly self-regard, as though he is admiring himself in a mirror.

Although it's a given that writers are unusually interested in their own artistic process, Auster is best when he steps outside himself and observes the world around him. He has a good eye, a long memory and an elegant way with words, and these skills, without all the gimmicks, often combine to produce memorable results.

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Couple married 67 years holds hands in final hours together
    Couple married 67 years holds hands in final hours together

    FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — After spending 67 years together as devoted husband and wife, there was no question how Floyd and Violet Hartwig would end their lives — together. …

  • Lupita Nyong'o's $150,000 Oscars dress stolen from hotel
    Lupita Nyong'o's $150,000 Oscars dress stolen from hotel

    The $150,000 pearl-studded, custom-made Calvin Klein dress worn by Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong'o at this year's Academy Awards has been stolen, police said on Thursday. The gown, embellished with 6,000 natural white pearls, was stolen from Nyong'o's room at the London Hotel in West Hollywood, during the day on Wednesday, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department in West Hollywood said. "Ms Nyong'o was not in the room at the time of the theft," Deputy John Mitchell …

  • US-led strikes on IS after group seizes 220 Christians
    US-led strikes on IS after group seizes 220 Christians

    The US-led coalition has carried out air strikes against the Islamic State group in northeastern Syria, where the jihadists have launched a new offensive and kidnapped 220 Assyrian Christians. The raids on Thursday struck areas around the town of Tal Tamr in Hasakeh province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, without giving information on possible casualties. The town remains under the control of Kurdish forces, but at least 10 surrounding villages have been seized by IS, along …

  • 3 Pinays on Forbes power women list
    3 Pinays on Forbes power women list

    Three Filipina executives, who are all daughters of known business tycoons in the country, made it to Forbes’ list of the 50 most powerful businesswomen in Asia. Teresita Sy-Coson, vice chairman of SM Investments and chairman of BDO Universal Bank, was included in the list for the fourth year in a row since its inception. “Under her (Sy-Coson) lead SMIC became the largest listed company on the Philippine Stock Exchange by market cap. Also in the 2015 list is 70-year-old Helen Yuchengco-Dee, …

  • Militants want US Marines pulled out of Negros
    Militants want US Marines pulled out of Negros

    The militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) is calling for the pullout of US Marines who arrived in Sagay City, Negros Occidental last Wednesday to train Special Action Force (SAF) commandos and members of the allied forces. The SAF commandos and the allied forces will secure the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) ministerial meeting in this city. Bayan-Negros secretary general Christian Tuayon said the US troops might violate the human rights of activists, especially those …

  • Militants abduct more Christians, smash ancient artifacts
    Militants abduct more Christians, smash ancient artifacts

    BEIRUT (AP) — Islamic State militants seized more Christians from their homes in northeastern Syria in the past three days, bringing the total number abducted by the extremist group to over 220, activists said Thursday. …

  • China subs outnumber US fleet – admiral
    China subs outnumber US fleet – admiral

    China is building some “fairly amazing submarines” and now has more diesel- and nuclear-powered vessels than the United States, a top US Navy admiral told US lawmakers on Wednesday, although he said their quality was inferior. Vice Admiral Joseph Mulloy, deputy chief of naval operations for capabilities and resources, told the House Armed Services Committee’s seapower subcommittee that China was also expanding the geographic areas of operation for its submarines, and their length of …

  • 13 of 15 SAF survivors to leave PNP hospital
    13 of 15 SAF survivors to leave PNP hospital

    Thirteen of the 15 Special Action Force (SAF) policemen who survived the bloody firefight with Muslim rebels in Mamasapano last month are ready to go home after a month of medical treatment, a police official said yesterday. Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesman Chief Superintendent Generoso Cerbo Jr. said the two remaining survivors will have to stay in hospital for further treatment, one of whom has shrapnel embedded near his spine. One of the two SAF commando survivors is still …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options