Man in the Dark by Paul Auster: A Book Review

3136288It is weird that when I see Paul Auster’s works included on the list of best novels of all time according to a magazine site, I have the compelling hunch that they are nifty reads.Also, when I see his images on Google, his physical aura of literary skills , his deep stare at the camera tends to pierce me as if everything stops moving just like the two of us in a motionless world. It is as though staring back at him renders me powerless, frozen in awe. Thereby, I start having been borne upon the idea that whenever I spot his books heaped on a mountain of books, there is a feeling that the author is a sacred cow to whom every book vulture should pay homage. And me? I am wildly and outrageously glad to jump at them as if I should kowtow to them even if all book vultures milling around the place cringe at my losing sense of decorum. What do they know? They may be in the dark that the books I long to gorge myself on are freshly nutritious. How do I know? They may not know that I have wolfed on one of his works- Timbuktu. ( The title has nothing to do with the title of my blog.) The book gave me the appetite that Auster is a gifted writer. There is something in his style that left a good aftertaste in my mouth then. So, no need to wonder why perhaps I am one of those book vultures who bear that desire to scavenger on his other works.

In his Timbuktu, the first thing I noticed was his light sentence structure- very well-written and prosy. At the same time, the concept of the story is philosophically interesting. I apologize for the spoiler. Timbuktu is a dog who has deeply intimate relationship with a hard-pressed, terminally-ill writer. At the end , I assure that you will find it heart- breaking . Alas, I never got the chance to write my review of it ; at that time , I still was not active on Goodreads and was ignorant of blogging. You may find the story common, for you have seen it in movies or TV dramas, but you will be amazed at what I call ‘ Auster’s simply brilliant work’. If you have not started reading his other works yet, I believe that Timbuktu is the springboard for discovering his talent. Go for it!

Now I have given a try at his Man in the Dark. I was a little astonished to find out that his writing style in this novel bears complete resemblance to his Timbuktu. I do not have the foggiest idea if his other works do likewise. Here I felt the lightness of his sentence structures, how he must choose the right words, phrases, or sentence structures ditto. So I enjoyed reading the novel without cease, without putting it aside if there were odds and ends I had to futz around first. When I was done with them, I would throw myself into it forgetting the world I was in. No wonder I did finish it all at once given the fact that it only consists of 180 pages.

Concept of the story:
August Brill is a seventy-two-year-old widower. He recovers from a car accident at his daughter’s house in Vermont. To kill time, he watches films which he criticizes since he is a retired book critic. He does it with his granddaughter who has the same interest. When he cannot sleep, he lies in bed in the dark staring into the ceiling and trying to tell himself stories. At the same time, in doing so, he cannot remember his wife and the heinous murder of his granddaughter’s boyfriend, Titus.

I may be familiar with the setting that there is “a minor story in the story”, but for me, I do not look at that perspective; rather, I find the essence of the story mind-boggling. For instance, what is the relevance to the dystopian settings that the World Trade did not fall apart, that the U.S did not fight with Iran, instead the 2000 election results caused secession, that the state after state pulled away from the union and a bloody civil war broke out? I mused over this essence, on the way to work by bus, during my 10-minute break in school, or even during my processing inside a john. That is why it took me a few days to review it. Unfortunately, I was at my wits’ ends. Sorry, folks, I even have my hands full. Maybe you could help me squeeze it out of me. You may claim it not to be a brain surgery at all. ^^ Anyway, I may come to that literary epiphany sometime in the future. For this reason, therefore, Auster injected this enigmatic idea into this story that only he could expound what those ideas in question mean all about. Indeed, he is remarkable. I wish I had attended his launching this book ( Man in the Dark ) if I were American. In a pig’s eye!

Given that I found “the minor story” somewhat bothering, I could not divert my emotional attention from the main character’s role which may be the crucial part of the story. In that part, I immersed myself , feeling my tears welling up in the cups of my eyes, reminding me of two people whom I deeply love: my mother who already departed the world and my father, a widower too, whom I have been cold with. Likewise, in the end, it is all about life, life, life as famous writer Ethan Hawthorne’s sister Rose Hawthorne put it, “ As the weird world rolls on.”

Now I have devoured two of Auster’s books although I am still assimilating their substance thoroughly. When I visit the heap of books in the mountain, I will not hesitate to scrounge on his other works, notably The Book of Illusions and The New York Trilogy. I can’t wait for them! ^^

Rating: 4/ 5 stars ( I  really liked it.)

paul
My own paperback copy  published by Picador ^^
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