16 March 2011

Paul Auster, Man in the Dark, 2008

August Brill, an insomniac and retired book critic, composes in his head a story of a parallel America to fill the early morning hours. It’s a world in which 9/11 never happened and the US never went into Iraq (instead being preoccupied by the bigger nightmare of a secessionist civil war), and it’s a world in which he himself plays a remote but defining role. The science fictional element can’t be ignored but for the book to work in the way Auster probably intended, it ought to be (and of course others have done this particular kind of parallel world thing so much better). It’s just August Brill’s particular distraction, while his real preoccupation is his fractured family, defined by divorces and the violent death of his granddaughter Katya’s boyfriend in Iraq. Another sizeable part of the book is taken up with August and Katya’s eloquent discussions of movies – another deliberate distraction. If not set in darkened rooms or out in the night, most of this book takes place at least with a dark aura of regret and atonement, with everyone wishing to be somewhere else, and the distractions are coping mechanisms that help them occasionally look away from painful truths. I wouldn’t say this a brilliant book by any stretch of the imagination – the parallel world thread isn’t rigorous enough, for one thing – but I like the fact it’s not burdened by too much structure, feeling loose and improvised instead even though Auster clearly knew where he was going with it. It’s also a book that offers up many of the wisdoms of hindsight, and is all the better for that.  PY


1 comment:

Loraine said...

I've just read the book. I like your review! Here's mine: http://lorxiebookreviews.blogspot.com/2012/07/man-in-dark-by-paul-auster.html

Have a nice day!