Monday, January 25, 2010

Invisible



Once upon a time, about ten or more years ago, Paul Auster was one of my favourite authors. I eagerly devoured all his books that I could get my hands on. But during the last few years I've been sorely let down with his newer novels, each one more disappointing than the last till I finally stopped reading his books altogether. However, when I recently read the description for his latest, Invisible, I was interested to give it a shot. It sounded like a classic Auster novel but with a new twist. I thought maybe, just maybe, he was back in form.

Invisible is set in New York City in 1967. Twenty-year-old Adam Walker, a student at Columbia University meets a charming yet dangerous Frenchman, Rudolf Born and his quiet and attractive girlfriend, Margot. Walker is soon caught in their sinister web leading to an act of violence that changes his life forever. Doesn't it sound like vintage Auster? I was intrigued and it does deal with the themes Auster constantly explores in all his books namely coincidence, the role of chance in our lives, identity and memory.

It's not a bad book but because I'm familiar with his work, I would say this isn't one of his best. Don't get me wrong, I still admire him and think he's one of the best contemporary American authors. Funnily enough he's more known in Europe than in his native country. They love him in Spain where he's been awarded the highest award for literature, the Prince of Asturias Prize in 2006. His daughter Sophie Auster is a famous singer in France and is now the model for the Spanish fashion label Mango. In press releases and magazine articles, they never fail to mention that she's Paul Auster's daughter. I do think he doesn't get the recognition he deserves in the United States.


The writer Siri Hustveldt (Auster's wife) with daughter Sophie and Paul.


I think about the past, the old days, that long-ago year(1967) when so much happened to me, happened in me and around me, the unexpected turns and discoveries of that year, the madness of that year, which pushed me toward the life i wound up living, both for good and bad.   (page 87)

I loved delving back into Auster's writing style which is really one of a kind. So unique and pitch-perfect that it's almost like music, it just pulls you in. I'm sure if this was my first Auster I would have probably been quite impressed. It's very obvious that he has a brilliant mind. Like all his protagonists, Auster is an intellectual and he's very cultured. He is knowledgeable about different subject matters such as politics, film, poetry, art, books and languages. He'd make a wonderful dinner guest. But I digress....Invisible had some disturbing elements. Incest plays a big part in the book and in fact there are graphic sex scenes between Walker and his sister. I thought it was unnecessary to the main story and actually very distasteful. I'm not really sure why Auster put that in. In spite of that, the book was still very readable and engaging. I think it's probably his best work in years. He's definitely back in form. However, I still wouldn't recommend this book if you're an Auster novice. Try Leviathan (my favourite) or The New York Trilogy first.

12 comments:

  1. I've never heard of him! The shame! I have heard of his wife, though, but I've never read any of her books. As I'm obsessed with all things New York I'll have to check out the New York Trilogy.

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  2. Auster is an author I've been wanting to read... will take note of your recommendations - thanks!

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  3. I read my first Auster, The NY Trilogy, last year and I was really impressed. I've only read that one book by him, though, so I have nothing to compare it to. I just thought it was really a one-of-a-kind book and did so much to challenge my preconceived notions of what fiction is. He's definitely an author I'd like to read more of!

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  4. I've never heard of him : ( It's sad that he's not recognized in the US, hopefully in time he will catch on. I'll try to do my part!

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  5. Thanks for this post. I had no idea Siri Hustvedt was married to Auster. I have only read Brooklyn Follies (which I loved) and Man in the Dark which I also loved, but it was almost as if they were by different authors. I have a real problem reading incest themes, even the rather tame one in Penelope Lively's Moon Tiger, so I don't think I will delve into this Auster anytime soon.

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  6. That last comment from A Small Garden Obsession was really from me. I am on my hubby's computer and didn't realize he was signed in.

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  7. I'm really surprised most of you have heard more of Siri Hustvedt than Paul Auster! He's quite famous in continental Europe rather than the UK I think. Hustvedt did write one fantastic book, What I loved. I highly recommend that one.

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  8. @Thomas - I also am turned off by incest in books. It makes me cringe and that's why this book wasn't perfect.

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  9. The incest in this book made me cringe too. This is not my favourite Auster at all. I prefer Oracle Night and The Book of Illusions. And I think Sri Hustvedt's What I Loved is just wonderful.

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  10. This is my first Auster and I am impressed! I was hooked after the first chapter. I keep wanting to hide in the bathroom to read the book during working hours. Really like his crisp and brisk writing style.

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  11. We are discussing Invisible in bookclub tomorrow so I thought I'd check out your review. It was my first Auster book and I must say I was left rather confused! I honestly cannot say what I thought about it which is just strange. I always thought Auster would be an entertaining read, with quite commercial themes seeing that he's such a best-seller...! Nevertheless, the writing was good and crisp and I wouldn't be surprised that his early works are fantastic... so I'm gonna try again. Kisses, Daniela

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  12. This was my first Auster book- I loved it! I stumbled upon it at the library and couldn't have been happier. I loved his writing style. And it was very different, so it was refreshing.

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