Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Winter Journal by Paul Auster

Winter Journal by Paul Auster ( to be published August 21, 2012, 240 pages)

Paul Auster is one of the highest regarded of contemporary American authors. Winter Journal is a brilliant deeply moving and very honest feeling memoir looking back on his life as he nears sixty five, entering the winter of his life.    Among his highly regarded best sellers are Travels in the Scriptorium, The Brooklyn Follies, Oracle Night, I Thought My Father Was God and his previous personal memoir from thirty years ago, The Invention of Solitude.

I have wanted to read a work by Auster (1947) for a very long time and I was elated when I was offered a pre-publication review copy by the publisher.    As I began to read the book I admit I did not know anything about the life of Auster other than the fact that he was a very successful author and that he lived in Brooklyn.   The memoir is not told in the first person but it is written as if the memoirist was speaking to himself, instead of say I lived in Paris in 1971, he says you lived in Paris.   Once I accepted this I liked it a lot.   

I loved this book.   The prose style of Auster is magnificent, he is completely honest and open about his life, his loves and his relationships with women, including his experiences with prostitutes.  The scope of the memoir begins with the very first things he can remember and ends with the very last things he did while writing the memoir itself.    It is the story of the development of a Jewish man living in Brooklyn as he progresses to become one of the world's highest regarded writers.   If you did not know this was a memoir it would be a perfectly credible work of fiction in which you felt you knew the central character deeply.

Women are very important to Auster.  I think it maybe safe to say he prefers their company to men.  (My apologies if I am wrong in this.).   He details all of his relationships with women from his first fumbling teenage kiss up to his long term marriage with some failed relationships in the middle.   I liked him so much I was elated to read of his success.

Winter Journal is partially structured through an account of where he lived and what is life was like in his various abodes and who his woman was at the time.  Other than a few prostitutes, he seems to feel a need to have an emotional bond with a woman before he can enter into an at all satisfying sexual relationship with her.  We learn of the books he loved to read and I could imagine myself sitting in his house with thousands of books and knowing the comforting feeling that must bring.  (I have a huge number of books on my Ipad but somehow it is not and never will be the same feeling as having 1000 of books.  I way prefer reading on Ipads to books but I understand well what a room full of beloved and not yet read books means and Auster does a wonderful job evoking this feeling.)

Hanging over this book is the age of Auster.   It is a book by a man who is calm and accepting of his age, not one who hates " the dimming of the light".   He has lived a good life and he knows it.  

There are lots of interesting facts about Paris, Brooklyn, Manhattan, being Jewish in America, the life of struggling writers (kind of like a long extension of college on a shoe string budgets constantly moving from one place to the next.)   

I am very glad I was given the opportunity to read Winter Journal.  I can think of no better account of a writing life than this book.  

You can learn more about this book and Paul Auster at the web page of his publisher Henry Holt and Company.

In the interest of full disclosure I was provided a free E-book by the publisher.

Please share your experience with Auster with us-what are your favorites among his many books?

Mel u


Jinky said...

I've heard wonderful things about his books but just haven't gotten around to them yet. Love your review of this book and come to trust your options ..I'll have to put it on my wishlist.

Take care.

Jinky said...

Oops! I forgot, I did read one of his books ..Man in the Dark. So make that, I'll read more of his work. ;)

JoV said...

I only read Sunset Park and I admit there is something haunting about the way Auster writes. I look forward to read his New York Trilogy and so forth. Good to know there is a new book coming up. His wife is also a publishing author named Siri Hustvedt.

Mel u said...

Jinky-thanks very much-I hope to read more of his work soon also

JoV-I want to read the New York Trilogy also!

WordsBeyondBorders said...

'New York Trilogy' is a very intriguing work, blurring the conventional boundaries of so called mystery fiction, noir resulting in an engrossing work that puzzles, disturbs and engrosses you in equal measure

Laura said...

I love Auster so so so much, and I'm really looking forward to this now! I think my favourite of his books is The New York Trilogy (sort of indescribably brilliant) but all those I've read have been amazing.

shaunag said...

I've read New York Trilogy and Invisible. I love his writing and will pre-order Winter Journal now! thanks for the review, Mel.