Report from the Interior: Paul Auster's Grand Voice Becomes Our Own
Paul Auster's "Report from the Interior" is the continuation of his biographical chronology (or non-chronology) and it covers the very early years of his life. Certainly, I am not objective in my review of this volume due to my absolute fanaticism about his work. Yet, I found the book so personally and tenderly rendered that I will suspend my lack of objectivity and surrender to a new level of love for Auster's words. While being a companion to "Winter Journal," this book holds its own very much the same way that Auster's stories hold their own orbit in "The New York Trilogy."
The book is written in the second person, as Auster offers the reader the opportunity to participate in the investigation of extremely early age. It is, however, a literary device that can be misused or poorly applied. In Auster's case, his experience as a writer and thinker reconciles the line between the narrative technique and the metaphysical levels of "who's writing/narrating this." There are so many universals about the narrative that it touches everyone who reads it. One doesn't have to be a Jewish kid growing up in New Jersey, or a teenager hopelessly full of angst trying to find his way or even an early college student full of ambition and confusion to fall in line with the "you" of the narrative. One tends to appropriate a narrative voice regardless of the grammatical construct, but Auster's masterpiece technique is one that does more than simply drawing the reader into the narrative. The "you" in this book allows the reader to breach the lines between author and reader, narrator and listener. The universality of life in full development can be a daunting, giant border to overcome. How can a writer "hook" the reader (a description of this technique that I despise), keep her interested in the narrative, making her wanting to forgo all other things vying for her attention, and how can that writer assume the reins of direction without intruding in the "you" that constantly appear on the page? And, in addition, how can he do that without falling into literary trickery? The answer to this comes as an omnipresent voice at the start of the book, “In the beginning, everything was alive. The smallest objects were endowed with beating hearts, and even the clouds had names. Scissors could walk, telephones and teapots were first cousins, eyes and eyeglasses were brothers. The face of the clock was a human face, each pea in your bowl had a different personality, and the grille on the front of your parents’ car was a grinning mouth with many teeth. Pens were airships. Coins were flying saucers. The branches of trees were arms. Stones could think, and God was everywhere.” This passage sets the tone that illustrates the mind of the very young, the Kantian apriori, or, say, for example, the opening passage of "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man." This does the "trick" rather well without losing the effect of the second person voice which appropriates the narrative shortly thereafter.