Tuesday, June 29, 2010

WHY PAUL AUSTER SHOULD HAVE STOPPED WRITING AFTER HIS FIRST BOOK

It was bad enough last week to discover in the bookstore next to McDonald’s on Vitosha Boulevard in Sofia that Faber in London had published the complete works of Paul Auster in a multi-volume hard cover edition as here it sat on the shelf awaiting a buyer.

Later on the plane to New York I began to read the bound galleys of his most recent novel SUNSET PARK (to be published in the US in November). The novel concerns a man who is fixing up foreclosed houses in Florida. By coincidence his publisher is also publishing a non-fiction book about the same subject, EXILES IN EDEN, Life Among the Ruins of Florida’s Great Recession by Paul Reyes.

Of course anyone who could seriously consider Florida an Eden is probably beyond help… but by now it is all old news and there have been the long human interest stories in the quality newspapers… but book publishers seem to have an addiction to news that would not now be fit wrapper for dead fish…

But, Auster: SUNSET PARK. I will type out why exactly why I did not continue reading the novel that wants the reader to be interested in this guy Miles who has taken up with some jail-bait:

“The first time they went to bed together, she assured him she was no longer a virgin. He took her at her word, but when the moment came for him to enter her, she pushed him away a told him he mustn’t do that. The mommy hole was off-limits, she said, absolutely forbidden to male members. Tongues and fingers were acceptable but not members, under no condition at any time, not ever… Did he understand? Yes, he understood but war was the alternative? The funny hole, she said. Angela had told him all about it and he had to admit that from a strictly biological and medical standpoint it was the one truly safe form of birth control in the world. For six months now he has abided by her wishes, restricting all member penetration to her funny hole and putting nothing more than tongue and fingers in her mommy hole.”

But why stop? Isn't it obvious?: the deadness of the ear, the condescending vulgarity, the knowing nudge to the shoulder: I know these people are… and then the fact that most likely no one at the publisher even read the manuscript since they were just publishing another Auster book, another book that will be reviewed… and no matter the quality of the reviews SUNSET PARK is another bit of product to keep alive the brand, keep the brand in the marketplace, occupy the shelf space, provide an excuse to re-republish in paper some earlier equally forgettable books .

SUNSET PARK is a squeamish bit of rubbish from Paul Auster who is writing an old guy’s book about a lecher who wants to fuck a teenager who really only wants to get fucked in the ass…

AUSTER wrote one good book, THE INVENTION OF SOLITUDE and should have stopped right there in 1982. Nothing has been added to that book by all these subsequent books. He knows this...

11 comments:

C. Van Carter said...

Obviously Auster's head is deep up his own "funny hole".

Lloyd Mintern said...

What makes you think he knows this?

aisforanxiety said...

I can't agree. While you have a right to respond in a negative manner to his work - there have been thousands of readers, including myself who have taken great delight in stuff he has written since. Others have a right to respond differently. His financial success as a writer can not just be down to 'good marketing.'

Thomas McGonigle said...

PA is a populizer... according to the helpful categories of EP in the abc of reading... a diluter, a simplifier: the only value of his early work is that some money flows back to his original publisher Sun and Moon. For the real: CORRECTION by Thomas Bernhard...

whh said...

Auster is a phoney. I liked the James Wood review of "Invisible", which summed up my general feelings about his novels with the line: "The narratives conduct themselves like realistic stories, except for a slight lack of conviction and a general B-movie atmosphere."

Chris Shultis said...

The James Wood review was a disgrace! If you are going to criticize someone's prose you should take care to assure that what you cite as bad doesn't stand out as the best writing of the review. Invisible was not one of Auster's best books but certainly better than most of what Wood reviews positively. The continued privileging of American realism--pervasive from Howells until the present--is but one of the reasons many lauded American writers are ignored outside of their own country. Auster, a writer widely respected everywhere but in the US, deserves better than what I'm reading here. The Invention of Solitude his only good book? What about his Book of Illusions, in my opinion one of the best books of the last decade?

Pablo said...

I couldn't agree more with the comment above mine. You cannot write as badly as you did and criticise someone else's prose. I don't know why I get the feeling that these negative comments are not (originally) honest to their posters. It feels as if they've read somewhere else that PA is no good, and have just repeated it. Of course a line between literature and shit can be drawn, but different writers/novels/poems affect different people in different ways.

When a comment says "THAT'S WHERE I HAD TO STOP READING" it gives me something to think about. Specially knowing AUSTER.

Cheers!

ren said...

i agree the two above me.

Why did you have to stop reading after this paragraph? I personally felt a bit uncomfortable reading this, because im 18 and one always feels a identified.. But i dont think why it should be a point to stop reading, you stop watching movies just because theres a sex scene in it? Come on, is literature, we are all human beings, we eat, we make love, thats life! Id like to know what you think about haneke s film, what about the real perverse?
Besides, why did you feel so bad by reading this? Any personal experience? Therapy could help ;)

Anonymous said...

I too stopped reading Sunset Park after the cited paragraph, but it was just the straw that broke the camel's back. I was simultaneously reading the collected stories of Reynolds Price (recently deceased) and could not help noticing that Auster's narrative was extremely bland by comparison. So I was looking for an excuse to quit the book when Auster gave me one.

Priscilla. Queen of the Desert said...

Thomas Mc-whatever can't even spell, or type, so I don't know what makes him think he has the intellect or credibility to analyse the writing of a great author. Up yours, mate.

Anonymous said...

I'm somewhat afraid to admit it after reading some of the comments here, but I quite enjoyed the cited paragraph. I don't know which midwest state some of you come from, but to me this was nowhere close to being vulgar or shocking. I thought the disguised terminology for the female parts gave the whole scene quite an amusing undertone.