Top critical review
3 people found this helpful
A ramble of memories, musings and minutiae.
on 2 August 2013
Count me in as a longtime follower of Paul Auster's work, hoping that his latest book at 64 years old, a memoir "Winter Journal", would signal a return to form for Auster following the post-modern jiggery-pokery of Travels in the Scriptorium and Man in the Dark and the mediocre Sunset Park. Sorry to report, it was not to be. Winter Journal, though smoothly written, is not one of Auster's best books (IMO). In Winter Journal, Auster observes his own life. What follows is a rambling account of Auster's impressions about any number of things that have touched his life at various stages. The reader does gain some insight into Auster the man - a man not afraid to publicly voice his opposition to America's continuing overseas misadventures, a man who speaks out his "manifold grievances against the evils of contemporary American life ... the senseless wars, the barbarism of illegal torture" and the CIA's 'torture-taxi' extraordinary rendition flights.
In Winter Journal, Auster breaks down his life into chronological stages and from each stage - from childhood, onwards into young adulthood, then mature adulthood, and on again into late middle-age - presents the reader with Auster memories, Auster musings about all sorts of things and masses of Auster minutiae arranged into lists.
Auster memories: some extremely emotional as in Auster's recollection of the death of his mother.
Auster musings: a ramble of musings about all sorts of things (eg, ten pointless pages rambling on about an obscure 1950's movie).
Auster minutiae: an overload of minutiae dredged up from different stages of his life eg, the swallowing of a fish bone that stuck in his throat/ details of cuts, scrapes, injuries sustained in the rough and tumble of boyhood/ three pages of the minutes taken from the board meetings of his co-op apartment in Brooklyn.
Be prepared to work through a mass of minutiae detailing very ordinary/ mundane Auster experiences many of which are arranged into long (and short) lists eg, a list of examples of food Auster ate as a young boy. Lists, and then more lists - a stylistic touch that was an annoyance (for this reader). Top of my hit list among Auster's overuse of lists must surely go the list of 'the houses I have lived in', comprising Auster's chronological description over some fifty pages of all twenty-three residences, houses or apartments, where he has ever at one time lived.
No, Winter Journal is in many ways a big disappointment, containing lots of padded out material and including all sorts of mundane stuff and masses of minutiae (everything, it seems, apart from Auster's kitchen sink is thrown into the mix). Winter Journal is a lightweight effort from Auster that fails (IMO) to captivate the reader like the old Auster magic of his younger days displayed in such novels as Moon Palace, The Music of Chance, The Book of Illusions, Mr. Vertigo and The New York Trilogy. Moreover, when measured against other Auster books in which Auster recollects his relationship with his father and recounts grim revelations about his family's past (The Invention of Solitude) and his early struggles with poverty (Hand to Mouth), Winter Journal falls far short. A final word on lists. For all its lists... and more lists, Winter Journal fails to make my list of favourite Auster books. Hopefully, his next book will! Count me out on this one.