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Thursday, October 09, 2008

"Man in the Dark," & The Case for Prophesy

Paul Auster has done it again. Not only has he created a fiction that is more real that the current state of affairs in the United States, he has done so with the keen and exceedingly sharp eye of a modern-day prophet. Of course it sounds like I am exaggerating, but taking into consideration that a certain presidential candidate has an extravagant Messianic charisma I guess I can declare the best "pound-for-pound" writer in the world a modern-day prophet. (Of course I should also make the disclaimer that I aim for humor and a dash of sarcasm when I refer to the presidential candidate, lest I offend anyone).

One of the main characters of "Man in the Dark" refers to the election 2000 as a turning point, the seminal moment in which the destruction of the noble experiment of democracy in American came to an end. The events that followed November 2000 were not so much related to 9/11 but rather the overwhelming discontent of our polar-opposite ideologies. Eventually, Auster makes his protagonist plot the tragic story, people begin a movement to end the Electoral College process, there's civil unrest and states begin to leave the Union as a second Civil War engulfs the United States.

Now, could this happen in real life? All one has to do is to look at the presidential campaign today, not to mention Wall Street and what appears as the end of our high standard of living to realize that Auster's protagonist and his conception of the story within the story is not as far fetch as one thinks. Add a dash of media-generated "Culture Wars" and generational divergence, and moral absolutism versus relativism and we are literally inside Paul Auster's new novel.

"Man in the Dark" has already been labeled "not the best by Auster." If you read my blog you know I have gone into great detail to examine the opposition to Auster's last two novels. But people missing the point of this excellent novel are perhaps not ready to embrace a Master who has moved on from his traditional plot building skills. So critics call all of this meta-fictions.... I call it simply brilliance and the guts to take chances with fiction. These are not easy times in which to produce literature that breaks out of the norm. The media has created entire generations of people who need stories told in much the same way we spoon feed an infant. Literature that is too hard to read is deemed not good literature. I see Paul Auster as perhaps many people saw James Joyce in 1922 when Sylvia Beach helped him release "Ulysses." The problem today that Joyce didn't have to concern himself with back in 1922 is that of audience. Paul Auster's literature is so far ahead into the future (or I should say into the past if you're standing in the post-post-modernist stand) that people are not bound to understand it. Joyce literally became an overnight literary god simply based on the fact that those "in the know" read Joyce's challenging novel and were able to immediately recognize its genius and uniqueness. Unfortunately for Auster, the few critics that read him are perhaps also writing novels of their own, and if you tell me jealousy is not a factor here I have a bridge I want to sell you. To create literary uniqueness is to take a chance with the corporate bottom line that allows for that publication to hit the market. We can almost hear, "uhm, who's the target audience? How are the demographics for this novel divided? Age group? Is there potential film contract value to the story?"

This weekend I am gearing to finish "Man in the Dark" and make my final comments on it. It's sad, you know, how one reads a book by one's favorite author, wondering and hoping and praying and wishing he or she has enough health and peace of mind to produce another one... Paul Auster is that author. Let's start the countdown to the next novel by this genius/prophet. :-)

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