Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Auster's 'Winter Journal' Isn't Dreary; Elegiac, Not Angry, Memoir Is Marked by Clear, Inventive Prose; MEMOIR - BOOKS

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Auster's 'Winter Journal' Isn't Dreary; Elegiac, Not Angry, Memoir Is Marked by Clear, Inventive Prose; MEMOIR - BOOKS

Article excerpt

Judging by the giant slashed "X" on the cover of this memoir, which looks like it was swiped into a snow-covered windshield, you might think that Paul Auster has written of a life filled with rueful memories.

But "Winter Journal" is far more elegiac than angry, more wistful than soaked in regret.

Although written as he approached his 64th birthday, you don't exactly hear echoes of the Beatles singing a jaunty tune about whether their partners will still need them and feed them when they reach that seemingly distant number.

Still, when you read Auster's final page, you will feel you have been in the company of a man whose life has had more ups than downs, more times to celebrate than memories to drown.

Added pleasure will come from the clear, inventive prose that has marked Auster's equally inventive novels through the years, from his New York trilogy to more recent books like "Invisible" and "Sunset Park."

This is his second memoir, following "The Invention of Solitude" 30 years ago. "Winter Journal" isn't a straightforward account of how Auster lived and what he did. Rather, it is more stream of consciousness - one story reminds him of another, which leads to a third and, sometimes, winds back around to where he started.

So the reader learns of the series of physical accidents he had as a child, his panic attacks as a grown-up, his devotion to his mother and why he recoils at the sight and smell of bananas and hasn't eaten one in 60 years.

The inevitable sections about sex are neither lurid nor ribald, but they may bring a smile to your face, as in the vision he carried after learning as a child about where babies come from:

"You instantly see an image in your head: your father dressed as a farmer, a cartoon version of a farmer in blue overalls with a straw hat on his head, and he is walking along with a large rake propped against his shoulder, walking with a jaunty, insouciant stride out in some rural nowhere, on his way to plant the seed. …

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