Som­bre trea­tise on the win­ter of life

Calgary Herald - Calgary Herald New Condos - - Weekend Life - ANN LEVIN

by Paul Auster, $29.99

Thirty years ago, a strug­gling poet and trans­la­tor of French po­etry pub­lished a mem­oir of his fa­ther that marked him as a writer worth watch­ing. The In­ven­tion of Soli­tude ended a bleak few years in Paul Auster’s life when his first mar­riage had dis­in­te­grated, he was suf­fer­ing from writer’s block, and he could barely eke out a liv­ing.

Af­ter its pub­li­ca­tion, Auster then threw his con­sid­er­able en­ergy into prose, pro­duced a stream of nov­els, es­says and screen­plays (in­clud­ing the 1995 Wayne Wang film, Smoke) that have won him ac­claim.

Now 65 — just old enough to col­lect So­cial Se­cu­rity but to his way of think­ing, al­most at death’s door — Auster gives us Win­ter Jour­nal, a book­end to In­ven­tion of Soli­tude and a som­bre med­i­ta­tion on grow­ing old.

Amid some lovely ob­ser­va­tion and a few dis­tract­ing lit­er­ary de­vices, the book is roughly or­ga­nized as a cat­a­logue of “what it has felt like to live inside this body.” Thus, the scars on his face trig­ger mem­o­ries of child­hood ac­ci­dents. We learn about a false heart at­tack, other cu­ri­ous psy­cho­so­matic ail­ments and the in­evitable, and pre­dictable, “years of phal­lic

Win­ter Jour­nal (Henry Holt and Co.),

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