I have probably mentioned this before, but there are writers I like to read when I am lost from literature and nothing is appealing. They are not the writers closest to my heart (Bolaño, Camus, Proust, Borges, Bellow), and nor are they the difficult writers I admire (Gaddis, Joyce, Pynchon, Lobo Antunes, Perec). Instead these writers are the ones who have carved out a very particular space for themselves, who write at a consistently high quality, and who, for lack of a better term, make me feel good about literature. I like them, but I don’t love them. I am excited by their works, but it’s excitement of the head, never the heart.
Coetzee is one. Kundera is one. Tavares is one. Flaubert is one. Tolstoy, if his books were shorter, would be one, too.
Paul Auster is one.
I have read a lot of Paul Auster at this stage. There are a few books left, but most of it has been read by me. I have enjoyed each book, and read most of them multiple times, but, as noted above, my heart is never quite set to racing. Sunset Park is no different in this respect. For me, it’s minor Auster, which still means very good, but I think that it will not be a book I return to when I want a cool glass of literature. That will instead be, say, Mr Vertigo, or The Music of Chance.
So, Sunset Park is about a young man who is drifting through life. He falls into a relationship. Things happens, perspectives shift, details are analysed, summaries are provided. It’s Auster. It’s good! But I wouldn’t, I know, recommend it to anyone as such. Not this one. His other books – yes. He has two memoirs about his father, and both are sad, touching and complete (even if we admit that no biography of anyone else can ever be complete).
To summarise an Auster novel is to miss the point. The book is filled with melancholy yearnings, its characters have their obsessions, and the author intrudes to let in on his, too. And I read it and it was good, and after reading it I felt more enamoured with literature than I had been in a little while. Thanks, Mr Auster.
The Books, Read page contains a list of all of the books I have read over the years.