From American author and blender of absurdism and existentialism comes the Paul Auster of the day -- "Winter Journal." This time, unlike his moving memoir-esque book about fatherhood "The Invention of Solitude" that started his career, it’s all about his mother. The focus on his mama’s life and then death and the body as its extensive free flow kind of metaphor -- "That is where the story begins, in your body, and everything will end in the body as well."
But it is Auster’s 2005 "The Brooklyn Follies" what seemingly truly raised the eyebrows of critics and readers -- and with so much glee. The novel is a perfect lament on where to go just to pass the time, as you’d call it, and then to perish completely. But this was nearly 10 years ago when Brooklyn was still Brooklyn and the literati hadn’t arrived, nor had the picklers and Amish-imitators. But Auster still manages to hold his hat down in a blowing Brooklyn with this new book.
But then there are parts that feel boring, deathly so, where he analyzes film for pages and pages. Things pick up again when Auster delves into the theme of aging. He knows age, he knows the demise and the joy of aging -- and so he writes about it. Oh, and his Jewish stories and references are by far the highlights of the book. (I won’t spoil it by giving an example.)
What "Winter Journal" does best is tell us a story. That is Auster’s gift after all. It’s not as wondrous and marvelous as his fatherhood lamentation, but it is just as relevant. The man is an intellectual; he cogitates over life and death, and that feels truthful and buzzing all in one bite.
Some have called the man narcissistic and his book a "narcissistic wet dream," but I see it differently. It’s a gently thought out whisper about his life, and small, seemingly insignificant details are used as tools to understand something even he hasn’t quite figured out yet. But writing is exactly that: A way for the artist / writer / creator to gain self-knowledge. Auster rightfully uses this memoir as a way into himself, even if he has no idea where that is actually going to take him.