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on 5 October 2012
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I'm a huge Paul Auster fan and was excited to be given a proof of Winter Journal by Faber at this year's London Book Fair. My love for Auster is so intense that, a bit like anyone you love, you forgive them their occasional abuses because you love them so much. There have been a few books over the years that I have liked less then others but I forgive him those for his astonishingly good books such as `In The Country of The Last Things' (which is pretty much my favourite book ever). Thankfully, I needn't have worred, Auster took very good care of me with Winter Journal.

This book was written over Auster's sixty-fourth winter. Deeply personally but written in the second person we the reader flit back and forth over time as if we were living Auster's experiences. This book doesn't have a narrative arc or chapters or even sections, we only become aware that time has passed towards the end when Auster notices that New York is still cold in March. However once we let go of a need for story we learn so much about Auster, including key emotional experiences such as the effect his mother's death had on him and also how watching a dance performance just before his father's death freed him from a crippling writer's block. In addition to these key experiences we also learn so much more about Auster for example: about his relationship with his body including, the last time he was `permitted' to wet himself as a child; his passion for women, including the many prostitutes he slept with, and then his key relationships. These relationships include his first wife, the writer, Lydia Davis, whose writing style is definitely mirrored here with his intense interrogation of some subjects, and then the deep and profound love he has for his current wife, novelist Siri Hustvedt.

We also learn about all the places he's lived and his constant battle, despite on occasion limited resources, to keep writing. The writing process is a key theme of this book for me, and as it is written in the second person one really feels as though Auster is writing this book for you, whoever you are, as if you were a writer. One feels as though we are all connected to Auster, who describes himself as an `Everyman' - to use a line of Walt Whitman's, Auster `contains multitudes'. Also like Whitman, writing for Auster is a physical activity, he explains how important walking is for him, for that is where his ideas start to percolate, he tell us, `writing begins in the body, it is the music of the body'. Well I for one could listen to his music every single day of my life, I truly believe this man is a genius.

If you are a Paul Auster fan, enjoy beautiful prose, or want to learn more about being a writer, I suggest you make you sure you read this book.
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on 26 September 2012
A keen fan of Paul Auster, his Winter Journal came from Amazon much earlier than I expected, and struck an instant chord with me. Young reviewers and critics may not realise that as you approach the winter years of your life you are very aware that you are going to lose your best friend, your constant companion through good times and bad - your own body and your own history. Your mind ranges over your life in no particular order and that is what Winter Journal does for Auster. A jewel of a book, joining his other non-fiction jewels. Read and think! Read and reflect! Enjoy and weep!
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VINE VOICEon 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.
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on 29 October 2012
I loved this book. I didn't like all of it, the 'houses I have lived in' became rather tiresome, and the occasional unnecessary attempt at brutal honesty wasn't always to my taste, but the sincerity and integrity of the writing was compellingly moving throughout. A stream of conciousness narrative as if a whole life was brought into perspective in a single process of thought: no chapters, or headings, just occasional flights of fancy as one thought replaced another temporarily. It was a book about thought and feeling. There were 'events' but it was their effect and their memory that was the writer's theme. Especially intense were the episodes concerning his mother, wife, and father-in-law - whose tacit love was clearly an acknowledgment of the heroism of ordinariness, the importance of the normal, and the tenderness of gesture. It was also about moments. Those fleeting pages of a life where a door might have opened to a different life, and the ever burning question of whether the path I chose was the right one. In Auster's case there is no doubt. If you want to understand why we feel as we do about people we love, read this book.
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on 5 August 2014
It is such a great book I can't even start to write a review for it. I would encourage anyone to read it. It pushes you to reflect on your life in a gentle and subtle way, while also giving you a intimate insight into the life of amazing people.
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on 12 December 2015
My Favourite writer by a long way, I have been captivated by his novels and now got to read about the man himself, this was a simple and heartfelt reflection on his life and reaching the brink of old age picking out moments that would have no doubt happened to everyone else at some point so it's easy to relate to with his Mother being someone who he had so such love for, and there are moments that have clearly influenced his storytelling. Honest, compassionate and well written, if your a fan of Auster then this is a must.
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on 15 October 2013
The very mature Paul Auster in a retrospective summing up of the hows and whys of his life. Touching and enlightening. All--or very nearly all- of what a good autobiography should offer.
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on 17 April 2016
This is a somewhat unorthodox approach to a memoir and maybe not for everyone with its shifting back and forth in time. As ever Auster is affable and agreeable company and this is a highly engaging read. It has it’s duller moments where he seems to lose focus for small spells but this is the very habit that bears so much fruit elsewhere. Overall this is a dark, eloquent, frank, meditative look back on his life and memories and is certainly worth a read. It's filled with well crafted recollections, often poignant and crammed with so much intensity and feeling and carries many of the hallmarks that have made his fiction so enjoyable. I look forward to reading the next instalment.
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on 24 February 2014
I liked this autobiography presented in an informal journal fashion, where the author looks back over his life. The author writes about dealing with many of the important events we all face, such as love, marriage, kids, growing up/old, death, sickness. I found it at times funny, at other times moving.
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on 24 October 2012
"Winter Journal" is replete with Paul Auster's exceptional prose; a memoir that will remind his most devoted fans of his fiction. However, for those seeking to understand his literary craft, they won't find it in this mercifully terse memoir. In a year that has seen the publication of very good to great autobiographical essay collections from the likes of Rick Moody ("On Celestial Music: And Other Adventures in Listening") and William Gibson ("Distrust That Particular Flavor"), "Winter's Journal" reads as a work of nonfiction in which the author seems more intent in displaying his literary craft, not in offering readers something fascinating and profound of note with regards to understanding that author's entire body of work. Both Moody and Gibson's recently published books give readers ample opportunities to understand them both as people and as writers; instead, I think some will be as bewildered as I was upon finishing "Winter Journal", which I must regard as an enigmatic work of nonfiction written by someone often hailed as among our finest contemporary American writers of fiction. In stark contrast with Auster, I have derived better understanding of the personal motivation behind the literary craft of writers as diverse as Michael Chabon ("Maps and Legends"), Jonathan Franzen ("The Discomfort Zone"), and Pete Hamill ("A Drinking Life"), as well as Rick Moody and William Gibson, from reading their memoirs and nonfiction. Without question, Auster is at his best in recounting the life and death of his mother, in writing that will resonate with those readers familiar with Frank McCourt's "Angela's Ashes"; Auster is at his worst in offering a chronological history of his current and former residences that often read as passages almost devoid of emotion, instead of using those pages as a means of providing readers ample insight into his raison d'etre for writing. Needless to say, "Winter Journal" is a memoir not worthy of comparison with "Angela's Ashes", but rather instead, remains but a poor shadow of it.
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