Beyond the Red Notebook

Beyond the Red Notebook: Essays on Paul Auster

Edited by Dennis Barone
Copyright Date: 1995
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Beyond the Red Notebook
    Book Description:

    The novels of Paul Auster-finely wrought, self-reflexive, filled with doublings, coincidences, and mysteries-have captured the imagination of readers and the admiration of many critics of contemporary literature. In Beyond the Red Notebook, the first book devoted to the works of Auster, Dennis Barone has assembled an international group of scholars who present twelve essays that provide a rich and insightful examination of Auster's writings. The authors explore connections between Auster's poetry and fiction, the philosophical underpinnings of his writing, its relation to detective fiction, and its unique embodiment of the postmodern sublime. Their essays provide the fullest analysis available of Auster's themes of solitude, chance, and paternity found in works such as The Invention of Solitude, City of Glass, Ghosts, The Locked Room, In the Country of Last Things, Moon Palace, The Music of Chance, and Leviathan. This volume includes contributions from Pascal Bruckner, Marc Chenetier, Norman Finkelstein, Derek Rubin, Madeleine Sorapure, Stephen Bernstein, Tim Woods, Steven Weisenburger, Arthur Saltzman, Eric Wirth, and Motoyuki Shibata. The extensive bibliography, prepared by William Drenttel, will greatly benefit both scholars and general readers.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0668-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction: Paul Auster and the Postmodern American Novel
    (pp. 1-26)
    Dennis Barone

    Before the publication of The New York Trilogy, Paul Auster was known primarily for having edited the Random House anthology of twentieth-century French poetry and for having written several insightful literary essays. In the short time since the publication of the Trilogy (1985–1986) he has become one of America’s most praised contemporary novelists. He has frequently been compared to authors ranging from Nathaniel Hawthorne to Alain Robbe-Grillet. Yet, perhaps because of the speed at which his novels have appeared and his reputation has grown, there is little scholarship available on his work. One has the sense, however, that just...

  4. Paul Auster, or The Heir Intestate
    (pp. 27-33)
    Pascal Bruckner

    The Invention of Solitude is both the ars poetica and the seminal work of Paul Auster. To understand him we must start here; all his books lead us back to this one. Novel-manifesto in two parts, “Portrait of an Invisible Man” and “The Book of Memory,” this work immediately sounds the theme of remorse.

    Paul Auster was able to become a writer because his father left him a small inheritance that spared him a life of poverty. The father’s death not only liberated his son’s writing but literally saved his life. The son would never stop repaying this debt, would...

  5. Paul Auster’s Pseudonymous World
    (pp. 34-43)
    Marc Chénetier

    In City of Glass, Quinn, who writes popular detective novels under a pseudonym, is waiting for his train. Seated next to him, a sheep-like young woman grazes one of his books: “He did not like [her] and it offended him that she should be casually skimming the pages that had cost him so much effort” (85). In Ghosts, Blue feels at first little inclined to share Black’s reading, but he eventually enters chapter 3 of Thoreau’s Walden with great attention: “Books must be read as deliberately and reservedly as they were written” (48). Let us read, then, not casually, but...

  6. In the Realm of the Naked Eye: The Poetry of Paul Auster
    (pp. 44-59)
    Norman Finkelstein

    Paul Auster the novelist came into print later than Paul Auster the poet, essayist, and translator, and presently eclipses all of his other personae, at least in the eyes of a general literary audience. The New York Trilogy has tantalized readers for some time now; more recent novels have also been well received. But while Auster notes that the poet and the writer of prose grew up together (personal correspondence, 15 October 1988), perhaps like the protagonist and Fanshawe, his alter ego in The Locked Room, the last book of the Trilogy, we can say with equal confidence that Auster...

  7. “The Hunger Must Be Preserved at All Cost”: A Reading of The Invention of Solitude
    (pp. 60-70)
    Derek Rubin

    The future of Jewish-American literature has been a controversial issue for some time. It goes back at least to the publication of Philip Roth’s Goodbye, Columbus (1959), when Irving Howe argued in a review of the book that Roth “is one of the first American Jewish writers who finds ...almost no sustenance in the Jewish tradition” (“The Suburbs of Babylon,” 37). Howe suggested that, since for a younger writer like Roth memories of the Jewish-immigrant culture and way of life were fading, “[i] t is possible that [his book] signifies ... the closing of an arc of American Jewish experience”...

  8. The Detective and the Author: City of Glass
    (pp. 71-87)
    Madeleine Sorapure

    Readers of detective fiction typically admire the interpretive skill of the detective, who, in the midst of mysterious, misleading, and disparate clues, is able to discern logical and necessary connections leading invariably to the solution of the mystery. Part of the strong appeal of detective fiction, critics have suggested, is that readers can identify with the detective and achieve interpretive victory alongside him, or closely on his heels. Glenn W. Most, for example, comments that the detective serves as “the figure for the reader within the text, the one character whose activities most closely parallel the reader’s own” (348). In...

  9. Auster’s Sublime Closure: The Locked Room
    (pp. 88-106)
    Stephen Bernstein

    In The Locked Room, as in the other novels of Paul Auster’s New York Trilogy, the path the reader follows diverges considerably from what might be expected in conventional detective fiction. This is due to what are, by this stage in the trilogy, predictable recourses to narratorial unreliability, epistemological uncertainty, and existential contingency. As these strategies come into play in the trilogy’s final volume, the trail leads neither toward nor away from a corpse, but instead into postmodern meditations on subjectivity, sexuality, sublimity, and silence. By engaging with the text’s thematization of these concepts, we can begin to understand both...

  10. “Looking for Signs in the Air”: Urban Space and the Postmodern in In the Country of Last Things
    (pp. 107-128)
    Tim Woods

    “Space is for us an existential and cultural dominant.” So concludes Fredric Jameson, having described postmodernism’s dependence on a “supplement of spatiality” that results from its depletion of history and consequent exaggeration of the present (365). Indeed, recent years have seen an increasing interest in the politics of place, the cultural function of geography, and the reassertion of the importance of space in any cultural study. The territory of these arguments is marked out in diverse areas in the work of people like Michel Foucault, Gaston Bachelard, David Harvey, Edward Soja, Doreen Massey, Fredric Jameson, Pierre Bourdieu, and Michel de...

  11. Inside Moon Palace
    (pp. 129-142)
    Steven Weisenburger

    This epigraph is lifted from Andrei Codrescu’s 1989 essay, “The North American Combine: Moloch and Eros,” first published in Columbia magazine. Columbia University is also the alma mater of Marco Stanley Fogg, narrator of Paul Auster’s Moon Palace, a 1989 novel saturated with references to 1492 and Cristoforo Columbo, to the systematic westwarding domination of the Outside after Columbus, and to the crisis of that progressive, modern, imperialistic ethos during the sixties—Codrescu’s topic as well. In his essay Codrescu critiques the many sixties radicals who naively believed they could recuperate a “natural” and presumably regenerative “free speech” whose daisies,...

  12. The Music of Chance: Aleatorical (Dis)harmonies Within “The City of the World”
    (pp. 143-161)
    Tim Woods

    In a poignant moment of gradually dawning consciousness in Paul Auster’s novel Ghosts in The New York Trilogy, the quasi-detective figure Blue begins to reflect upon the circumstances in which he finds himself:

    The picture is far more complicated than Blue ever imagined. For almost a year now, he has thought of himself as essentially free .... Now, after the incident with the masked man and the further obstacles that have ensued, Blue no longer knows what to think. It seems perfectly plausible to him that he is also being watched, observed in the same way that he has been...

  13. Leviathan: Post Hoc Harmonies
    (pp. 162-170)
    Arthur Saltzman

    The detective novel provides some of literature’s most durable endowments. Its sureties constitute a method and a message: mystery condenses then lifts like the day’s weather; seemingly encouraged by the very conventions of his context, the hero patiently debrides whatever wound to propriety summons him; cases wind up tight and smooth as spools. Gordian plots are only, are always, temporary distractions at worst, or prods to appetite, and thanks to logic’s stacked deck, these regularly succumb to investigation. As the detective whittles raw circumstance into habitable sense, he is secure in the conviction that at the core all incidents and...

  14. A Look Back from the Horizon
    (pp. 171-182)
    Eric Wirth

    Between the completed overrunning of the earth by humankind and the future spread of the species or its successors to other planets, it may be that the slough Paul Auster and the rest in the hiatus explore had to open. That we have filled up the world eliminates the world or (this amounts to the same thing) itself becomes the world (the new world of Moon Palace). The equation that leaves us solitary cancels us out.

    The cataclysm I’m getting at is the loss of the nonhuman, of a contrast to the human. This event can be related to a...

  15. Being Paul Auster’s Ghost
    (pp. 183-188)
    Motoyuki Shibata

    The attempt to discuss the experience of translating Paul Auster is a slightly discouraging task, since one cannot help feeling that such experience has already been given a perfect expression by Auster himself. I am referring to a memorable passage in The Invention of Solitude:

    He sits at his desk reading the book in French and then picks up his pen and writes the same book in English. It is both the same book and not the same book, and the strangeness of this activity has never failed to impress him. Every book is an image of solitude .... A...

  16. Paul Auster: A Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 189-198)
    William Drenttel
  17. List of Contributors
    (pp. 199-200)
  18. Index
    (pp. 201-204)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 205-210)