Sunday, February 28, 2010

Paul Auster's Travels in the Scriptorium

Travels in the Scriptorium
by Paul Auster

(10: 10/50)

"Tomorrow? Mr. Blank roars, both incredulous and confused. What are you talking about? Tomorrow I won't remember a word I said today."

The entry below will openly analyze Paul Auster's Travels in the Scriptorium and address specifically its possible themes, symbols and intent. No plot-related spoilers will be divulged.

Auster is an author that is relatively new to me. My experience with him before now is limited to the graphic novel adaptation of City of Glass which, though fabulous, isn't exactly like reading Auster himself. Despite limited exposure, his influences aren't allusive. It's evident he's the progeny of writers such as Beckett, Sarte and Pinter.

The work of the absurdests and the existentialists also proved to be the major inspiration for much of Television's The Twilight Zone (Five Characters in Search of An Exit, anyone?) and Travels reads more like the bubblegum-take of The Twilight Zone than it does their common forebears. The narrator, whose identity is fascinating to consider given the context of the work, periodically reads like good old Rod Sterling and that certainly doesn't help matters.

As far as Auster's thematic objectives, I won't go any farther than to say that he's concerned with notion of characters and authors. As with most pieces of this nature (and Twilight Zone episodes!), any semblance of plot is tied to the thematic concerns, so I'll refrain from further elaboration. And if I can dwell on the Twilight Zone for just a minute more, I'd like to point out that even the structure of the narrative resembles episodes of the show.

In the process of looking up the author and novel, as I tend to do, I actually saw this referenced as the "worst" book to start reading Auster. But a great familiarity with Auster apparently isn't much help to the novel either. The novel's principle characters are also those that haunt Auster's other work. With this in mind, it's much easier to see why the work is so heavily criticized, and arguably why it makes for a poor start. An Auster enthusiast, or general literati will make textual connections far before recent arrivals.

Either you're reading something that feels lowbrow-highbrow or you're reading what I imagine suffers from crushing obviousness and-- possibly-- foul self-indulgence. If I had to guess, that is. I suppose the ultimate idea here is that all-round you're best just avoiding the book, unless, you know, you happen to really love the Twilight Zone.

Up Next: Woody Allen's Side Effects

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