Thursday, April 28, 2005

Auster’s Brilliance

I must now use this blog to plug my new favorite author, Paul Auster. I recently read The New York Trilogy, which is made up of three novellas, all set in New York City. He uses the mystery / detective genre to explore language and the narrative style. The three stories are connected in that the characters are exploring identity and the self (and coming to some startling conclusions). His characters are mysterious, but very exciting and real. He often uses authors as characters in his stories, and by doing this, the exploration of the art of writing becomes one of the themes (although not a central theme). These three stories stay with you long after you have read them and continue to make you think, which is the mark of great literature.

Before I read the New York Trilogy, I read Auster’s The Book of Illusions. That has remained one of my favorite books. The character he created, Hector Mann, is by far one of the best characters in modern fiction. There is not another character that I have read that comes to life as fully as Hector Mann does in this story. Hector Mann and the narrator are also exploring their own identities – and while Hector tries desperately to remain forgotten, the narrator tries to create a legacy for both of them.

The true mark of Auster's brilliance is his writing style. A college professor once told me that the most important component of any good writing is the voice of the author – and Auster has an incredible voice. He uses the full spectrum of the English language, but does this while remaining very readable and without sounding verbose. As a reader, you will find yourself pulled into stories that lack the drama and suspense of pop-fiction – and this is because his voice is so powerful. Some reviews on his works call him a post-modern writer. I can't tell you if that is true (or what that means) but I can tell you his work is brilliant.