Thursday, June 17, 2010
Man in the Dark
I so enjoyed The Brooklyn Follies that I followed it up with another Paul Auster novel, Man in the Dark. This one is a short book at just 148 pages. While not one of his best, it's still a worthy piece of work filled with all the things I love about Auster.
August Brill, a seventy-two-year-old writer is recovering from a car accident at his daughter's home in Vermont. Confined to a bed, he makes up a story in his head. What if the 2000 election results had led to a secession so different states pulled away from the Union and a bloody civil war erupted? One man, Owen Brick, must do one dreadful thing to end this war. He must kill the man who made it up, the man named August Brill. Are you confused yet? Somehow Auster makes this work. It's a fantastic and thought-provoking little piece on the power of fiction.
Right now I'm reading Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami and maybe it's because I followed it up so closely after an Auster novel that I realize these two authors actually have a lot in common. Both have such a fluid and easy style. I can imagine both these writers sitting at their desks and composing their work continuously, never stopping to look up a better word in the thesaurus. Their prose feels like music, it's pitch perfect. Somehow their writing reads so easy, like it just flowed from their brain to their fingertips. That's one of the reasons why I love the way they write. They're naturals. Another thing they have in common is that they're both interested in many different things in life: literature, music, film, art, history, politics and culture. Their novels are peppered with various little references to all these things. Interesting anecdotes and factoids for example about foreign films, historical and literary figures. Whenever I read either an Auster or Murakami novel, I always have to note down certain books, films or musical pieces they mention. It's wonderful and that's another reason why their novels are so, so rich.They always lead to more things.
In Man in the Dark one of the characters is a film student. She mentions how a talented director can reveal a character's personality without dialogue. In the classic Italian film, The Bicycle Thief, the protagonist is on his way home when he suddenly walks by his wife who's carrying two buckets of water. From that scene alone, a viewer can conclude the nature of their relationship. Also, all their poverty and struggles are contained in those two heavy buckets. Auster goes on to mention other films in detail: Tokyo Story, The World of Apu and Grand Illusion. He mentions certain scenes and how these films are so beautiful in their simplicity that hardly any conversation is necessary. Directors can use inanimate objects and settings to convey different messages. They're all going on my 'To Watch List', that is if I'm lucky enough to find them.
So have you read both Haruki Murakami and Paul Auster? Do you agree with my comparison? If you like either one then I recommend you definitely give the other a try. Trust me, you won't be disappointed.