Beyond the Book: Background information when reading Invisible

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Invisible

by Paul Auster

Invisible by Paul Auster X
Invisible by Paul Auster
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Oct 2009, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2010, 320 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Amy Reading

Buy This Book

About this Book

Beyond the Book

Print Review

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 resonance between the textual layers that begins to feel real to Auster's readers. In Invisible, we get to experience Jim Freeman's perception of Adam Walker, and this invests Walker with a flesh-and-blood dimensionality that a straightforward autobiography has a hard time conveying.

The second technique is ekphrasis*, which is when a work of art depicts an artwork from another genre, such as a painting of a sculpture. In literature, it refers to an extended description of a visual object, and perhaps the most famous example is John Keats' "Ode on a Grecian Urn." For Auster, the most common object of his ekphrasic reveries is cinema, and he frequently pauses the forward thrust of his novels in order to linger on a film frame by frame, describing its plot but also its camera angles and changes in mood. It pays to sit up straight and pay extra attention to a book at such moments, because authors use ekphrasis to clue readers in to larger themes. What he chooses to describe, how he describes it, what role the object plays in the larger story - these are highly selected and crafted details that reveal the author's literary values. Thus a film that Adam Walker sees in which a dead woman comes back to life has meaning in Invisible not only because of how emotionally moved Walker is by the film's climax, but also because the film's aesthetic style tells us something crucial about Auster's own.

*from the Greek verb ekphrazein, to recount or describe.

This article was originally published in November 2009, and has been updated for the June 2010 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This article is available to non-members for a limited time. You can also read these articles for free. For full access, become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Call Me American
    Call Me American
    by Abdi Nor Iftin
    As a boy growing up in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, Abdi Nor Iftin loved watching action ...
  • Book Jacket
    Driving Miss Norma
    by Ramie Liddle, Tim Bauerschmidt
    In my cultural life, I've met and been awed by two Normas: The demanding, clueless, fiercely ...
  • Book Jacket
    Driving Miss Norma
    by Ramie Liddle, Tim Bauerschmidt
    In my cultural life, I've met and been awed by two Normas: The demanding, clueless, fiercely ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Last Ballad
    by Wiley Cash
    A hundred years ago or so, farming land west of Charlotte, North Carolina was given over to giant ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

A nuanced portrait of war, and of three women haunted by the past and the secrets they hold.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    A Place for Us
    by Fatima Farheen Mirza

    A deeply moving story of love, identity and belonging--the first novel from Sarah Jessica Parker's new imprint.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win If You See Me, Don't Say Hi

If You See Me, Don't Say Hi by Neel Patel

Patel's stories introduce a bold and timely new literary voice.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

A P Saved I A P E

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.