I have a love-hate relationship with the work of Paul Auster. Books like Oracle Night, The Book of Illusions and, most recently, The Brooklyn Follies — as patchy as they in places were — worked on a number of levels for me, pulling me into worlds that were at once crisply real and yet postmodern to the point of surrealism.
His most famous piece, however, The New York Trilogy, simply left me cold — as did In the Country of Last Things.
Reading this review in The Times Online website of his latest novel Man in the Dark, it struck me that this latest work might actually be worth taking a look at. Yes, he treads familiar ground — but that’s what Auster does. He is the master of metafiction and whilst I don’t in any way want to emulate that (been there, done it…), this review did help me see where I need to be going as a writer.
I want to play with form. I want to take the world as I know it — as I have known it — and reshape it, present it in a different light. I want to focus on the character driven, where my strength lies, but I want to skew the angles, present unusual juxtapositions in order to challenge preconceived notions.
In short, I probably want to do what Auster himself hasn’t really done in a long while. I want to tax myself. It isn’t enough to simply follow a familiar path. That was why the outline for We Are Watching/The Yesterday Tree didn’t work for me. I’d been there before, even though I didn’t realise it at the time. I need to write a novel that keeps me on my toes, something rooted in personal experience, like Children of the Resolution, but also something which presents it in a unique, previously unknown form.
Man in the Dark. If Auster hadn’t already used it, it might have been the perfect title for the novel I now have planned. For the time being, let’s simply call it…
… Through the Stormy Shades.
© 2008 Gary William Murning