Sombre treatise on the winter of life
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.),