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.


  1. I´ve actually only read one book by each of these authors, I read Murakami´s South of the border, West of the Sun and Auster´s Oracle Night. I found the Murakami quite good although I suspect his more famous works are also even better, and Oracle Night was interesting but somehow Auster´s books sound all so similar. But maybe you´ve got some recommendations for me? :)

    btw, I really like the cover of this book!

  2. @Bina - I recommend you read The Brooklyn Follies, The New York Trilogy or Leviathan. For your next Murakami, I recommend The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. I think that's his best but Kafka on the Shore might equal that. I'm in the middle of it now.

  3. Spot on! Auster and Murakami do have some commonalities - I had never really thought about it, but after you wrote about it I realized how right you are. And I agree with you on your description of how fluid their writing seems to be and how their prose is like music - so true! I loved that image of them at their desks that you mentioned! Thanks for the review on this Auster novel, which I have now added to my TBR pile. I'm reading some Murakami for the JLC4 and after reading your post today I'm excited! Thanks!

  4. I really want to read Paul Auster soon. I have loved reading your reviews of his books.

  5. Another great review! And it is a good thing that you have mentioned Murakami because I was looking for someon who would give me some tips as to which of his books I should begin with. So any tips that you might have for me would be a big help! :)

  6. Lovely review! Inspired by your reviews and recommendation, I got Paul Auster's 'The New York Trilogy' recently and read the first few pages! It got me hooked! Because I thought that if I read more, I will put aside the book I am reading now, I have restrained my excitement and am trying to finish the book I am reading now so that I can get started on 'The New York Trilogy'. Thanks for writing about Auster so glowingly - your affection for his books is infectious!

    I loved 'The Bicycle Thief' when I saw it. It is a wonderful movie and a classic of its era. Hope you get around to seeing it. I haven't seen 'The World of Apu' yet but I have it on my 'To Be Seen' list. Hope you enjoy watching all these great movies!

  7. What a great cover. Much different than mine.

  8. Oh thanks for the recommendations! I think I´ll go look for The Wind-Up Chronicle on my next library trip :)
    Have fun reading kafka on the Shore (that´s such a great title btw).

  9. @Nadia - so glad somebody agrees with me. They're both excellent writers. Some things are similar but they also have their own unique style.

    @Vishy - I hope you'll enjoy the New York Trilogy. Looking forward to your review. I have the film the Bicycle Thief but I haven't seen it yet. I have to watch it one of these days especially after reading what Auster had to say about it.

    @Vaishnavi - For Murakami I recommend one of these: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Norwegian Wood, South of the Border West of the Sun or the book I'm reading now which is very good so far, Kafka on the Shore.

  10. Though I didn't think of Murakami while reading Man in the Dark, I would agree that both authors have a nice, easy style. As for their books leading to other things, I attempted to read Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain after reading Murakami's Norwegian Wood, and it was a struggle. In fact, I think I gave up something like 16 pages from the end. I just hit a wall.

  11. @Charley - I've never made the comparison before. It was only because I read one author after the other. I can imagine Magic Mountain is a least you tried.


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