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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Paul Auster's "Invisible..." Taking My Time with a Jewel

Once again, the best writer pound-for-pound in the world delivers a jewel of a novel. While I have to admit "Invisible" is not for everyone, it is perhaps vintage Auster--the mature craftsman going back to the intricacies of prose that made him a literary fiction master. When I say that "Invisible" is not for everyone, I don't mean that only the "Austerites" of the world should be the only ones to read it, but not knowing the dimensions of Auster's previous works would prove a hindrance for someone trying to read him for the first time with "Invisible." I've made the suggestion on this blog again and again, that if one wants to start to read Paul Auster's work, one should stick to "The Music of Chance," "Leviathan," "Oracle Night," or "Moon Palace." Starting out with "Man in the Dark," or "Travels in the Scriptorium" won't do it for a beginner "Austerite."

"Invisible" is the type of novel that shocks and awes; that is to say, the twists and turns of the narrative (not a point A to point B format) makes the reader stop and re-read, trying to make sure of what exactly what it was that they've just read. As a long-time Auster fan, I've come to expect just about everything from the Brooklyn genius. When "Invisible" (a narrative told in four interlocking parts) turned to the protagonist's incestuous relationship with his sister, I realized that anyone else would have been turn off and disgusted. And this is where Paul Auster puts it all on the line. The artist needs (is obligated) to take risks in creating art; without those risks, the artist turns mundane and stale. I assume that there will be two types of interpretations, both of which, I believe, he took into account. First, the experienced literary fiction reader will understand the risks as an artistic "pushing of the envelope" to the very extreme of art. Secondly, the inexperienced literary fiction reader might consider the entire narrative obscene, and Auster as "just another dirty old man" distastefully showing the world what's on his mind. Again, it's difficult to understand the workings of an artist. I think Paul Auster took a great risk in writing so explicitly about the protagonist's relationship with his sister, but looking at it objectively, I have to say that Ars Gratia Artis carries the day in Auster's most powerful book yet.

Many people ask me about my obsession with Paul Auster's work. I have little to say to them other than only those who examine art deeply can be confounded when facing genius. If one doesn't take the time to appreciate everything to the maximum, whether it be Shostakovich's Complete Symphonies, Sylvia Plath Collected Poems, or Marcel Duchamp's theories of "Ready Made" art, one will miss the point altogether. Explain Shakespeare's works and how they evoke genius--there's a reason why Hamlet still resonates today. At any rate, I am not expecting generous or positive press for "Invisible" just as I didn't for "Travels in the Scriptorium," or "Man in the Dark." However, there's always a critic out there with the objective and sharp eye for quality literary fiction: "I don't think people read Auster because he's beautiful, although his spare, exact language has always reminded me of Mozart minus the emotional colors. He's a good read because he's confounding. Many writers are sure they've got the answers, but it's often more honest to admit there's no answer at all." This is from "The San Francisco Chronicle's" Laurel Maury.

I have nothing but praise for Paul Auster's work. I think he is the most generous writer today--generous in the sense that he has confidence in the reader and, as a result, he surrenders the narrative to the reader completely, without explanation, and the reader will make her own decision. Austerites everywhere are already waiting for the next masterpiece from the one and only American literary master.

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At 1:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The ending of the novel really irritated me. I'm not a fetishist for convenient endings, but really, a barrel of loose ends is not my idea of fun or exciting either.

What was the central message of the book? And if it doesn't have one, even inadvertently, isn't a book ultimately a failure?

I thought that Spring and Summer were excellent but thereafter felt more and more that the narrative would collapse, and it did.

I persevered, waiting for the final genius twist, but it never came.

Music of Chance is 100x the book that this is.


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