It's tempting, when reading the memoir of a novelist one admires, to spend time combing through the details of the author's life hoping to find the seeds of inspiration for his or her fiction. Certainly there are moments in Paul Auster's new memoir Winter Journal
where this project can bear fruit - such as the lengthy film synopsis which is one of Auster's trademarks, or the passage where he writes "that is how you see yourself whenever you stop to think about who you are: a man who walks, a man who has spent his life walking through the streets of cities." This passage will resonate with anyone who's read Auster's novel City of Glass
, which centers on the idea of walking through the streets of cities.
Sooner or later, though, it's worthwhile to put this project aside and instead focus on Winter Journal
for what it is, namely a thoughtful, elegiac...
Beyond the Book
Paul Auster is well-known as a Brooklyn writer. In Winter Journal
, he writes of first moving to Brooklyn in 1980 after enduring stints in suburbia and an overpriced rental in Manhattan: "Why hadn't you thought of this in 1976? you wondered
but the fact was that Brooklyn had never ever crossed your mind back then, for New York was Manhattan and Manhattan only, and the outer boroughs were as alien to you as the distant countries of Oceania or the Arctic Circle." Auster, of course, never looked back, living in a series of homes in Brooklyn, including the house in Park Slope he has shared with his wife, fellow writer Siri Hustvedt, for the past twenty years.
Reading Auster's descriptions of Brooklyn's tough, almost ugly, underbelly in the 1980s and early 1990s is...