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Monday, December 8, 2008

Man in the Dark, a Novel

So, I'm done with my reading of the new Paul Auster’s novel – Man in the Dark. I must confess that I have approached this book with uneasiness, taking it in my hands with a slight tremble, and expecting it to be another disappointment, like the last tree or four novels of his have certainly been for me.

Moreover, just when I was about to think that Auster really has nothing more to say, something changed.

Man in the Dark proved as a correct novel, with correct in the meaning of precision and measure, a peace of work that corresponds with its time in successful manner, and finally, with a promise that something extraordinary can still be expected from the writer. And - that’s all in my view of course. This novel is not extraordinary, but as I said it gives hope that something like that might occur again.

With stories within a story, as we got already used to from Auster, complex but yet very approachable and easy to follow narrative, and with a picture of changed, alternated past - of the America sinking into the tragedy of civil war, after the New York state has declared its independence from the rest of the States – novel tells about badly hurt and disoriented people, seeking for what is left of human side of their lives in the only relationships they have got left – between the father and daughter and grandfather and grandchild, family ties that, however fragile, are hardest to break. (Well, this is the most generalized spoiler I can think of). Personal tragedies only reflect the state of social and wider catastrophes and blunders. An individual is just a receiver – and not the initiator, every attempt in that direction fails miserably. Auster does not seek here for the dizzy postmodernists’ narrative twist, like he did in the most promising and the most disappointing novel of his – Oracle night. Such twists are there, in his newest book too, but their main function is to support well constructed stories, and nothing else, just as it should be.

I was right to not give up on Auster. Some friends asked me why I have to buy every book of his (that comes out annually like following some mysterious clock) during the last more than a few years, and why am I doing that in spite of the fact that I didn’t like the last tree or four novel of his? My answer would be that for a man who wrote In the Country of the Last Things, Moon Palace, Leviathan, The New York Trilogy, Hand to Mouth – more than four or five novels-immortal masterpieces - for such writer we need always to pay attention on what he has to say next. It looks like I was right.

I also remember an anecdote, told by Auster in one of his interviews - about the man who survived Sarajevo’s siege and somehow got hold of his novel In the County of the Last Things, and was reading it while everything around him was burning in flames and disintegrating and also having the strange feeling that he was reading the very essence of what he was just experiencing in the city forgotten by world. That novel deals with the people who are trying to survive surreal, dehumanized and post apocalyptic society – and something very similar, if not worse, has been lived out by many during the Sarajevo siege.

Man in the Dark is a novel that talks about something similar – of a magical, literary reality that is too fantastic to be true, and yet, not so fantastic and surreal as the real world we are living in may be.



Sounds like an interesting read. I don't read as many books as I should, but I tend to read books I love dozens of times, studying how a particular author approaches plot, character development and so forth. I have no desire to emulate any author and tend to read much different genres than I write. I write horror, but rarely read it. I'm not a huge fan of Stephen King, though he is considered the most famous horror writer.

I'm starting to read much more literature from Europe. I read Crime and Punishment - not an easy read for me. The author changes perspective often when dealing with different characters, but there is an astounding order and overall construction to that story.

To write an epic novel is beyond me at this point, and I must finish my first one before I could ever even attempt something extremely ambitious. I sometimes feel like an inept fool in my When I finish my first novel, you will get a free copy. The stuff on my blog is just junk I write for fun. I cannot understand how any writer can write an entire book in a few months. Mine has taken well over 3 years and is still incomplete. I read that Flaubert took five years to write Madame Bovary - some individual pages taking up to a full week to complete. On the other hand, I found that book too excruciating to read and lost interest half way through.

J. C.said...

Hi Bobby, thanks for your opinion. I do not know why but there are a couple of writers out there that I am always coming back to. Like Kundera, Auster, Rushdie. Also, I have read all by Dostoevsky when I was still a teenager, and he is magnificent author.


From the authors you mentioned, please recommend the one book from one of the authors you think I should read, and I'll read it:)

J. C.said...

Bobby I would like to recommend Auster's novel "Moon Palace", I liked it very much.

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