Thursday, February 15, 2007

Paul Auster Reads from His New Novella

Tuesday night, Paul Auster read from his new book Travels in the Scriptorium to a dedicated audience at 192 Books. The proprietor of the tiny bookstore on Tenth Avenue was kind enough not to turn anyone away at the door. The boutique size of this bookstore bravely accommodated the shifty-eyed crowd that showed up. Although the audience was cramped, the body heat provided cozy shelter from the severe February weather. The most intense winter storm so far was on the rise; what better way to spend the cold evening than listening to a silver-haired writer read his work aloud in a tiny bookstore?

Natasha attended the event. She hadn't made a reservation earlier that day, but they put her name on the list. That's the name she gave the bookstore’s proprietor, anyway—Natasha. She liked that name because it sounded like the name of a tragic heroine from some classic Eastern European romance. The name made her feel like her whole life was more interesting than it really is. Natasha, in reality, is one of those less-than-stoic heroines who forgets to call to make reservations for a free event (but come to think of it, her information source had never mentioned anything about making reservations for this event). Natasha sat on the floor with her feet tucked under her. She felt like a little kid, but then she whispered the name Natasha in her mind, and that made a bit of a difference. Then Paul Auster started reading, and she became absorbed. The floor, the bookshelves, the shifty-eyed listeners, and the woman pretending to be Natasha may as well have dissolved.

The reviews of Paul Auster’s latest book have been less than glowing. Some readers found it “hard work.” A blogger named Condalmo claims Auster’s latest is a disappointment, mostly because there are not any themes that Auster has not explored before. Natasha hasn't read the novella yet. She is always careful not to allow too much negative reception of a book to influence her reading choices. Sometimes negative reviews make her want to read that book all that much more. She merely wants to feel sure that Auster’s latest book will provide a familiar pleasure she herself has come to know through Auster’s style. To her, there’s no question he is a great storyteller. Reading Paul Auster’s work guides her mind through philosophical inquiry in the ways that a storyteller can stomach. Besides, the man's got a sense of humor. Entertainment Weekly appreciated Auster’s latest work, but recommended that readers that don’t know his other books should not start with Travels…

Natasha started reading Auster with his sixth novel Mr. Vertigo, about an orphan from the Midwest. Mr. Vertigo is still Natasha's favorite. Natasha credits that book with saving her from despair at a time when she was feeling low. She promised herself that she wouldn’t give up the ghost until she finished reading and solving all the riddles in all of Paul Auster’s work. So, she’s glad he’s still writing enigmatic tales. Maybe Natasha will never have to give up the ghost.

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