When you pick up a Paul Auster novel, a spell descends over you. As if you are in a funhouse car, you are hooked onto the tracks of the story and pulled into its depths. Invisible
begins, "I shook his hand for the first time in the spring of 1967." You learn many things from that sentence. The story will be told in an intimate, first-person address, as if the narrator is leaning over a dinner table toward you. The story happened in the past, so what you will hear is the narrator's reflection on those long-ago events. And it will be the story of an encounter with an extraordinary man. In just one sentence, Auster has created incredible suspense. It is the spell of a master storyteller.
The narrator is Adam Walker, a bookish but otherwise undistinguished college student, and the hand he shakes belongs to Rudolf Born, an older Parisian man who singles Walker out and...
Beyond the Book
Frame Narration and Ekphrasis
Paul Auster frequently employs two particular literary techniques which, when combined, turn his novels into multi-layered stories with internal echoes and reverberations.
The first is a frame narrative
, in which the main plot is a story, usually in the form of a manuscript, which is discovered and introduced by someone else. This device paradoxically helps establish the reality of Auster's world at the same time that it highlights the book's flagrant fictionality as mere words on a page. On the one hand, the embedded story's status as a text prevents the reader from getting fully immersed in it. On the other hand, the context that is built around the embedded story becomes a kind of self-referential world. It is the...