7 Jul 2011

Paul Auster and Sunset Park

This is not in fact the cover of the edition that I have just read of this novel by Paul Auster, but that doesn't matter a lot.

Auster is a writer whose work I have for some years much enjoyed reading, and this book can be added to the list of my recent good to excellent reads. Although I usually find Auster very easy to read, with the stories he tells (because he is a very good storyteller, as well as often being profound) somehow gripping depite (or on account of) the sometimes strange atmospheres that can add a kind of edge to them, this book is one of the easiest and fastest reads that I have met so far in his work. Perhaps this is because I had two 2 hour plane jouneys in one day to fill out this week, and reading is just the thing for me whilst sitting in a plane and in those endless queues to get to the thing that seem to take up almost as much time as the flight itself these days. 

I won't tell you anything about the story of the book in case you decide to read it yourself. Suffice it to say that it is, at least partly, about redemption and finding your own way in life, and also about the complexity of relationhips between members of the same, albeit "molecular" (ie often separated and/or recomposed) families.

I enjoy and admire the style of Auster's writing. It seems to have become increasingly pared down over the years, seemingly matter-of-fact but always elegant and to the point. His art of mingling a story well told with acute observations of people and their behaviour is remarkable. Nothing is ever "weighty" or pretentious, despite the subjects dealt with. Auster is a true craftsman, respecting words but not letting them get in the way of his purpose. Words are tools, but not the finality of a book. The result is a successful fusion between form and substance.

Auster also manages to look at people's behaviour and, sometimes, their motivations as well whilst removing himself from any judgment. Behaviour is sometimes explicable, when it suits the story, but sometimes not. So the part of mystery  and irrationality that can shroud so much human activity remains, hanging on like a veil of remnant fog. And tragedies are usually around the corner, either in the past or imminent, without being over-dramatised. I suppose this balance between psychology and plot is akin to that which he achieves in his writing style.

Sunset Park is a fine, unpretentious and surprisingly profound novel.

so read on...