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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

"Man in the Dark" by Paul Auster, Part 001

The religious communion of self with self has begun. "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running" by Haruki Murakami and "Man in the Dark" by Paul Auster are the central books of my literary well-being and mental health at the present time. And while I have placed "Great Expectations" on hold, and "The Midnight Disease" on temporary leave, the joy I am getting right now from reading both Auster and Murakami at the same time is only equaled by the fact that this is my second experience in which both my favorite authors have new books out at the same time. (Two years ago, Murakami and Auster also published weeks apart). I am lost--despite my tendencies to feeling guilty about work--in a meta-world where only literature is once again "the great escape." There are other challenges that occupy my mind, some far more serious than others, but all in all, I am in a place far away from all of the mundane.

"Man in the Dark" received terrible reviews from the now defunct "New York Times Book Review." I will have to say that while some of the criticism was mostly ad hominem in nature, the difficulty of understanding this masterpiece by one of the top (if not the top) pound-for-pound best writers in the world today stems from the fact that "this is not for everyone." Paul Auster is beyond money-making plot-boilers. Hats off to Henry Holt and Faber & Faber (his European publishers) for keeping Paul Auster out there. They know that there is a strong following of readers out in the real world that live off substance rather than plain thrilling entertainment. Case in point: "Man in the Dark" is as surrealist as it gets. The lines between reality get tripled and made to run layered on top of one another. An old literary critic (a Pulitzer Prize winner in criticism no less) is recovering from an accident. He realizes he is in his last years, and suffers from terrible insomnia. All the while, he has created the story of Owen Brick in what becomes an alternate reality rather than a fiction. Make a long story short (since I haven't finished reading it, and I am savoring every single word), Brick needs to return to "this" reality and "kill" August Brill (the book reviewer/literary critic) because the story deals with a second Civil War in America in which millions of people have already died. Kill August Brill, end the war and the suffering. Owen Brick has little or no alternative. Why him? Why not? The action goes back and forth between "Second Civil War America" and present time. The narrative is not straight forward, and perhaps this is the reason why people who are used to the vintage Auster (Leviathan, Music of Chance, The New York Trilogy, etc.) cannot handle this type of confusing yet highly artistic narrative. I used to be one of them, although I worship everything "The Great White Jewish One" writes. "Man in the Dark" is a revolutionary book dealing with blends in time and narrative, vision and imagery that makes people think they've just walked into a Salvador Dali painting (a comment I usually reserve for Murakami). I am off to finish some work for this week... I've got tons of grading to do and some prep for this coming week. Other news are keeping me down and not being quite myself, but I will struggle on.

NaNoWriMo begins in exactly 31 days. I already signed up for it again, and I am hoping that despite the fact of a busy schedule, I can complete my project again this year. 2007 taught me a great deal in terms of writing, and I want to build upon that. It is a magical thing to turn out a 50,000+ word draft, even if it's in desperate need of a life-line of revision. They've got some new exciting things planned around the NaNoWriMo central idea, and it's a community thing.

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