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The Red Notebook: True Stories Paperback – June 17, 2002

3 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The arresting stories in this slim collection by Auster (The New York Trilogy, etc.) go a long way toward answering the perennial question "Why write?" The book contains four short narratives: "The Red Notebook," "It Don't Mean a Thing," "Accident Report" and "Why Write?" All the tales and vignettes, hovering somewhere between fact and fiction, feature amazing little coincidences or linkages. In one brief chapter, Auster (as protagonist) loses a dime in a gutter in Brooklyn only to look down and find a dime later the same day. In another, he checks into a hotel room in an obscure hotel in Paris and finds a crumpled message from the desk to a close friend the previous occupant of the room. The most affecting stories, however, recount a more ineffable sense of connection: Auster makes it to the foot of a staircase to catch his little daughter just in time to keep her from sailing through a window; as a boy at summer camp, he is on a group hike when the boy next to him is struck by lightning and killed. What all the stories have in common is not a fixed outcome or meaning but a sense of the patterned meaningfulness of life. Readers will glimpse here how the act of witnessing itself provides the punch line. As Auster learned the hard way when he met Willie Mays one day and didn't have a pencil to get an autograph, the sense of wonder burgeons when we can record its source on paper.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Review

“A literary original who is perfecting a genre of his own.” (The Wall Street Journal)

“Our pre-eminent novelist of ideas.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Auster has added some new dimensions to modern literature and―more importantly even―to our perspectives on the planet.” (Boston Globe)
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Product Details

  • Series: New Directions Paperback
  • Paperback: 104 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions; 1st edition (June 17, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811214982
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811214988
  • Product Dimensions: 4.8 x 0.4 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #457,274 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Paul Auster is the bestselling author of Travels in the Scriptorium, The Brooklyn Follies, and Oracle Night. I Thought My Father Was God, the NPR National Story Project anthology, which he edited, was also a national bestseller. His work has been translated into thirty languages. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is going to sound really odd, almost like I am aping one the stories in the Mr. Auster's book, but I have to tell it, because it really is true and I think it bespeaks the delight of this small book. The night I read this book, I was helping my friend, Therese, with a short film she was shooting. The final scene in the film centered around a dinner party the main character throws, bringing together a number of ex-lovers.

Like most New Yorkers, Therese's apartment could barely handle eating dinner, much less filming the eating of dinner. So we were filming at Therese's friend Leah's apartment, a jaw-droppingly big loft. I'd never met Leah, or the several other people recruited for the shoot. This I suppose lent an air of authenticity to the awkwardness of having ex-lovers at a dinner party.

All through the dinner, Leah, our host, appeared mildly distracted, her laughter always coming a moment too late. Her boyfriend, with whom she lived was away in Mexico and I simply assumed that she missed him.

On the subway up to the dinner, I read the first forty pages of the "Red Notebook". Like all of Mr. Auster's books it reads marvelously well. The plainness of his prose masks how quickly he draws you into his world of coincidences and meta-fictions. As I set the book down when I arrived, I mentioned how wonderful the little stories it contained were.

When I arrived at dinner, after first being struck by the size of the apartment, I was taken aback by Leah's cat, Felix. Even at first glance, you could tell Felix was no ordinary house cat, she was too long and slightly too tall. After innocently reaching my fingers down, offering my scent to Felix, Leah warned, "Oh, I wouldn't pet her, she's not really friendly.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In "The Red Notebook" Auster does something that is both whimsical and tremendously captivating. Most readers remember when they first read Charles Dickens and found his 'Deus Ex Machina' technique and his coincidences just too ridiculous to believe they actually happen in real life. However, they do. Everyone has some incredible coincidences that are basically one in a million chances, but just happen to take place.
Auster seems to have noted these incidents through his entire life, and then compiled them in this book. The coincidences are extraordinary, but not things that are impossible, just things that are extremely improbable. Auster enhances his style, by the use of "Kafkaesque" elements. His use of initial names is something that Kafka did all the time. And his ironic twists are also in the vein of Kafka, but instead of being novelistic, they are real and true stories.
The book is sure to captivate virtually any reader, and its conciseness both in writing and in length makes it an easily absorbed and quickly read piece of literature.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I just failed to be interested in Auster's experiences or memories. For me, it wasn't worth either the time or the cost.
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Format: Paperback
This short little book is a collection of two-to-four page stories about coincidences Auster has experienced or heard about. It sounded kind of intriguing when I first read about it, but in reality, I found this book kind of, well, I guess the best word for it would be the most simple one: just plain ol' dumb. Had it been written by anyone but Auster, a well-known and highly esteemed author, I can't imagine it ever having been published. Because, honestly, these stories are just laughably lame. For example, there's one that essentially goes like this: one day, I lost a dime. A few hours later, I was walking down the street and, gasp!, there was a dime on the sidewalk! And here's another one: one day my wife and I were really, really hungry, and the next thing we knew, a friend came and took us out to dinner! Whoaaaa! How exciting! How curious! How philosophically intriguing! How . . . utterly inane!

If there was supposed to be a point to this collection of stories, some kind of deeper meaning to it all, I sure didn't get it. It either went way, WAY over my head, or else. . . borrrrrrrring! But go ahead -- give it a try yourself. And then you can let me know which one you think is the bigger idiot -- me or the guy who told Auster he'd love to publish this brilliant, insightful book. I know which one my money's on: one, two, three, NOT IT!
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