Thursday, January 14, 2010

Nowhere man

On Paul Auster's Invisible

Paul Auster is nothing if not readable. I mean this as a compliment, but it could also serve as a rather unkind gesture towards his limitations. Beyond his knack for spinning superficially compelling plots, Auster doesn’t have many conspicuous strengths as a novelist. His prose can sound a bit robotic, and it’s far from cliché-proof. His characters are types. His dialogue can be radically unconvincing. You could take the view that Auster keeps these things flat deliberately, because he wants his novels to have the texture of fables. Or maybe his novels read like fables because he has no style. I don’t think we can rule this explanation out. 

But let’s stay with Auster’s virtues for a moment. He’s in touch with the excitements of old-fashioned story-telling. He employs multiple narrators, Chinese-box structures. He gives you enigmatic strangers, femmes fatales, books within books, other books within those ones. He’s also good at beginnings ... [read more]