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Monday, December 11, 2006

Travels in the Scriptorium

Paul Auster's new novel "Travels in the Scriptorium" is an intricate story which questions the power of authorship. Auster is simply a magician that can command not only the reader's attention, but also immerse the reader into the thin line between fiction and meta-fiction. The protagonist is an old man that sits in a room receiving the visits of people he does not remember. The story itself is brought into question when the reader discovers that the people who come visit the old man are old characters in previous Auster novels. They claim that they are the creation of the old man, thus leaving us to believe that the old man is Auster himself now being held to account on his creation and "manipulation" of these same characters. The novel does not suffer lineal breaks despite being experimental (not so much a la Joyce, but in a more post-modern way). As I was reading the novel the question of "what is" became more and more demanding of me. I was quick to turn to Heidegger and his concept of "what is is." If Auster is the old man--which is a conclusion too easy to accept--then what consequence does the author has in producing yet another character which he controls (the old man never leaves the room). Auster runs the risk of being held accountable by the old man in the not-so-distant future. I realize this may all sound like mumbo-jumbo, but the novel itself is a tour through the surreal. I love all of Paul Auster's novels and this one is no exception.

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