Magazine

Journey of a lonely mind

With this memoir, composed, like his letters, with “love and fatigue,” Auster takes another, admittedly imperfect, step toward that elusive goal.

Children play with log cabin toys, known to generations by the brand name Lincoln Logs.of children
Photo by: Reuters
Paul Auster launched his career three decades ago with a memoir. In The Invention of Solitude (1982), he began his literary search for identity and personal meaning with an affecting account of his hardworking, emotionally distant father. Recently, after completing more than three dozen volumes of fiction, non-fiction, essays, poetry, screenplays and translations, Auster has returned to autobiography. In Winter Journal (2012), he offered a homage to his mother, an examination of the end of his first marriage, and “a catalogue of sensory data” designed to document the fragility of his aging physical self. In Report From The Interior, Auster tries to recreate his perceptions of the outside world, from his birth in Newark, New Jersey, in 1947 to his relationship with his middle-class Jewish parents and his graduation from Columbia University during the tumultuous 1960s. Written in the second person, the memoir has its moments. At times, however, Auster does not delve deeply enough into the interior to engage his readers in his quest to understand his journey into the lonely mind.

Report From The Interior often has the ring of authenticity. For young children, Auster writes, “boredom must not be overlooked as a source of contemplation and reverie.” Alone, “uninspired and at loose ends, too listless or distracted” to set up his Lincoln Logs or Erector Set or “fill in a page in his stupid coloring books,” and too young to read or call a friend on the telephone, Paul often sat by the window, wishing he owned a horse or a dog and musing on eternal questions, like why do we exist and where do we go when we die.



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