Paul Auster’s Winter Journal speaks to us of who we are – and who he is – as he turns 64. Auster elegantly, and with great vulnerability, describes the bodily changes of aging, the life and death of his mother, and contemplates his life in youth as the beginning of “becoming older.” The only other memoir that I have read that treads so beautifully into the depths of being who we are is May Sarton’s “A Year of Solitude,” for writers are observers, and Auster’s elegiac prose and ability to create a novel out of his experiences leaves us stepping into our own humanity. Auster’s salutation of himself is never ego driven, but universal to us all. And his writing lures and tempts us – every word lingers.
Because Mr. Auster is a brilliant and devious writer (devious in that he slaps us with every page, effortlessly) what we read is viscerally alive, to us as well as him. With hungry passages about the history of his body, his experience as a human being, life’s horrors and great joys, the acclaimed novelist is funny, moving and thought provoking.
Auster intermittently details his childhood, every residence he has ever lived in, the motions of his mother’s sickness and death, and touches with great integrity of feeling on occasions he has endured. Each experience is tinged with an observer’s passion, the effects of loss and grief, the joy of his marriage, the ways his body has let him down, the feelings he has felt, and as always, Auster’s writing is magical. Most memoirs solicit distance. With Auster, we are right there, amongst the farting, the sexual bodily fluids, the immense ambivalence we feel about – our feelings. Death, divorce, remarriage, aging, hate, sadness, joy and anguish are not just words. They come alive and place us right amongst the middle of our own lives, our own emotions, our own observations. Sometimes meditative, always piercing.
“You are thinking only about the car and the forty or fifty minutes it will take you to reach your house in Brooklyn, and now that your wife has calmed down and no longer seems concerned about your driving, you are calm as well, and nothing out of the ordinary happens as you cover the miles from the bridge to the outskirts of your neighborhood. It is true that you have to pee, that your bladder has been sending out signals to you for the past twenty minutes, ever more rapid and dire signals of distress, and therefore you drive a little faster than perhaps you should, since you are doubly eager to get home, home for the sake of home, of course, and with it the relief of being able to emerge from the stuffy confines of the car, but also because getting home will allow you to run upstairs to the bathroom and relieve yourself, and yet even if you are pressing a little more than you should, all is well, and by now you are just two and a half minutes from the street where you live…but now, because you are desperate to empty your bladder, or because a pill has affected your judgment, or because you are tired and not paying close attention, or because you have turned into a debilitated wreck, you impulsively decide to take a chance, which is to say, go on the offensive. A brown van is coming toward you. Going fast, yes, but no more than forty-five miles an hour, you think, fifty at most, and after gauging the distance of the van from where you have stopped in relation to the speed of the van, you are certain you will be able to make the left turn and get through the intersection without any problem – but only if you act quickly and step on the accelerator now.” (He crashes into the van)
Auster’s writing is so present, so full of what we think and do, the mistakes we make because we THINK – I don’t now another writer who has this ability so utterly, so true. A book that will make you think, make you feel, realize that you are just another human like Auster, a book that you cannot miss – it’s just that good.
Winter Journal is available on Amazon.com and other booksellers.
Ratings are based on a 5-star scale
Review by Broad “A” – Ava
We received a copy of this title for our book review. All opinions are our own.