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Paul Auster-o-rama

May 17, 2009 | 10:50 am

Come November, novelist Paul Auster will have a new book out: titled "Invisible," it begins in 1967 at Columbia University. On his publisher's website, there's a recording of him reading the first chapter on radio station KQED, and an excerpt appears in the new Granta Magazine. Above, Granta's U.S. editor, John Freeman, interviews Auster at his home in Brooklyn. In the video -- which reveals that I'm not the only one with stacks of books everywhere -- he talks about emotional intimacy in his books and the strange clarity of reading. "You're just somehow in what the words are saying," he says, "but you're not even thinking about the words anymore." 

This is especially interesting in light of the fact that Auster's work is known for drawing attention to the artifice of storytelling, in contrast to traditional fiction that creates, as John Gardner wrote, "a vivid and continuous dream." In an insightful 2007 survey of Auster's work at the California Literary Review, Garan Holcombe wrote:

Postmodern game playing and the juxtaposing of the supposedly real with the imaginary are marked aspects of Auster’s style; and there are those critics who dismiss him for what is usually termed metafiction, that is, fiction engaged in a dialogue with itself, a story which calls attention to the telling of the story.... Yet for those readers who share Auster’s worldview, his belief in the quixotic fluidity of existence, its chaos, its lack of order, its inherent reliance upon the unpredictable, upon the twists and turns of fate, chance and coincidence -- as he says in Oracle Night, "randomness stalks us every day of our lives" -- will find within his work a speculative restless center, around which an undoubted belief in the tragic beauty of life turns.

"Oracle Night" (2003) has now been reissued by Picador, in a matching set with "Man in the Dark" (2008) and  "Timbuktu" (1999). Two more of Auster's books -- "The Brooklyn Follies" (2005) and "The Book of Illusions" (2002) -- are scheduled to be added to the set in the fall.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

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