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True Tales of American Life Paperback – 7 Oct 2002

4.3 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (7 Oct. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571210708
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571210701
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 376,333 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

True Tales of American Life is a collection derived from a project launched by Paul Auster on US National Public Radio. Auster credits his wife with the idea of having listeners send in their own short pieces of true-life writing, from which Auster would choose half a dozen to be read on air each week. But, for all the success of the radio programme, as Auster writes, "you can't hold the words in your hands". Here, then, is the fully "holdable" book. Auster has selected 179 pieces from the 4,000 plus he had received by October 2000. Split fairly evenly between male and female authors, with an age range of 20 to "pushing 90", the collection revels in its multifariousness: the contributors include "a postman, a merchant seaman, a trolley-bus driver, a gas-and-electric-meter reader, a restorer of player pianos, a crime-scene cleaner", and so on. The biographical detail is relevant because inevitably most of these true stories draw on the rawest of raw materials, the writers' own experience.

Auster wanted "true stories that sounded like fiction". In an age where talk shows (think Jerry Springer and Ricki Lake) demand that we tell our life stories as fiction--and encourage us to live our lives as fiction--it's a particularly timely and potent meeting place of reality and art, or in Auster's words, "an archive of facts, a museum of American reality" in fictional form. Unlike Auster, who regularly has to wade through 60 of these tales in a day to meet his weekly radio deadlines, the regular reader can dip in and out. And at a rate of, say, one story per day, this book will keep you fascinated with (and occasionally horrified at) American's true life tales for just about six months. --Alan Stewart --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

Fantastic stuff. -- The Face, December 2001

It is difficult to think of another book published this year ... that is ... so excellent in intention and so elegant in its execution. -- Guardian, December 2001

Paul Auster’s astonishing anthology … Where truth and beauty conflict or compete, Auster has opted for elegance of form, or measure of performability. -- Sunday Herald, December 2001

This is writing at its very finest - done by a bunch of amateurs. -- Independent, December 2001

Unforgettable. The 179 stories are beautifully written and intensely emotional. -- Dazed and Confused, December 2001

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

By Rich on 30 April 2003
Format: Paperback
I was bought this book as a present, by someone who had only read the first story about the chicken. The great thing about it is that you can stop wherever you like in the book, and carry on later. Its an ideal book to be reading alongside your novel.
The best part is that some of the stories you instantly want to tell the first person you see about, and others remind you of tales of chance, coincidence or just quirkiness from your own or your friends experiences.
All in all a thoroughly worthwhile and enjoyable book
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Format: Paperback
Paul Auster once said 'stories happen to people who can tell them.' Here he has taken his words at their face value and produced an amazing document - an anthology of 200 true stories sent in to the National Story Project by ordinary yanks. Synchronicity, destiny and slapstick combine to make fantastic reading.
Paul Auster is an amazing writer and here he has tried an amazing experiment and it doesn't just work - there's something almost scary and magic in the result. Read these stories one a day for six months or gobble them down... - either way I think something in this book might change your life. Highly recomended.
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Format: Paperback
Norman Mailer once said that the average American's attention span was fifteen minutes - as that was the time until the next commercial.
This collection of stories is perfect for anyone who fits into this category.
Paul Auster has a peculiar knack of giving anything associated with him an 'Austerian feel', and these stories are no exception. Many are sentimental, a few are badly written, some are fantastic, but each one deserves its place and gives something unique to the book.
It has the same fascination for a Englishman that road movies have. Somehow, trivial events just count for more in America. Somewhere in that vastness, the magic that these writers imply just may be possible. And 'possibility' is the key to all of Auster's work. You might not get your wish, but keep your eyes open and you might get something better.
'True Tales...' isn't about writing style, cinematic sweep, or literary prizes, it is about a feeling, an attitude, a humanity. Something that fifteen minutes of television just doesn't give you.
You want a breakfast cereal, watch t.v.; you want to feel that life can be a bit more than that, buy the book.
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Format: Hardcover
As usual I was looking for something new by Auster when I found this one. When I saw on the cover that it was only edited and intruduced by PA I hesitated for a couple of seconds but decided to give it a go anyway, to trust him one more time. Now I'm so happy that, as usual, he didn't let me down. I was hooked to the book from the very first story, The Chicken. Now the more I read the stories the more I like it. The stories are short and arranged by cathegories: Aninals, Objects, Families, Slapstick , Strangers, War, Love, Death, Dreams and Meditations. Most of the stories I've read have the Auster element of coincidence, which in turn is a strong message of hope. Someone asked me if these stories could be verified as coming from the public, from normal folk, and that made me think that it doesn't really matter. Even if the whole radio project wasn't true and the whole thing was an invention by Auster, I would still enjoy it as much as I do now. It'd make me even happier to see this Borgean side of Paul Auster.
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Format: Paperback
After the stresses of a long break from University, a relaxing Christmas and an amazing New Year, and the stress of not having a single exam I was in need of a week in the sun. Four friends joined me on a trip to Spain.
The talking point of our holiday however wasn’t the weather, it wasn’t my mates sunburn, nor was it the cheap food and alcohol. It was a book.
‘True Tales Of American Life’ had us all transfixed. It is a collection of stories submitted by listeners of America’s national public radio, and it has the ability to make even the coldest of hearts shed a tear. There are some wonderfully happy stories that will make you laugh out-loud, there are stories to make you cringe and grimace and some to question or confirm your belief in fate. This book is unique. It works really well on a personal level, different stories will mean different things to different people, but I’m sure that at least one will strike a chord with the reader. The writing is open, frank and honest, none of the authors are professional, just everyday people with interesting stories to tell.
While we were away, everyone picked up the book, even those who don’t usually pick up books struggled to put it down. I no longer have my copy, it’s been passed from friend to friend, and I’m yet to hear a bad thing about it.
True Tales of American life gets my full recommendation, go out and buy or borrow it now, unless you have mine of course, and in that case I’d like it back!
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Format: Paperback
This book was almost never written. If it had not been for a chance remark by the author's wife these real life stories would have remained in the minds (and hearts) of the American people and we would be the poorer for it.
As part of the National Story Project the public were asked to send in their real life stories. They could be about anything, no restrictions applied apart from keeping them short and those selected were to be read on air. Inundated with over 4000 submissions Paul Auster realised that he had to share more than the select few that were to be read out on air. Recording them in a book was the logical thing and so 180 were chosen to form True Tales of American Life.
The book is divided into 'category' style chapters, which does mean that the stories in each section all have a similar theme. Despite each story being original this can be at times become a bit monotonous and maybe the best way to read the book is to dip in from time to time rather than start to finish.
The stories are captivating, simple, and straightforward and always thought provoking. As you start reading the book you have to remind yourself that these are about real life. Some of them are so extraordinary that you would naturally assume they were works of fiction. Others are so painful that they can be nothing but true. If you have ever thought that fate plays a part in our lives then this book will confirm it and if not then it might just make you start thinking about it.
An absolute must read.
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