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Man in the Dark: A Novel Hardcover – August 19, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Auster, a man of diverse creative achievements, defies convenient labels with regard to genre and the divisions between literary fiction and the mainstream popular marketplace. Given his experiences with such multimedia endeavors as National Public Radio's Story Project, it's not surprising that Auster has a flair for dramatic narration when performing his own work. As he gives voice to ailing retired book critic August Brill, Auster milks the story-within-a-story structure to full effect. Impatient listeners may wonder exactly where this disparate tale of revisionist history, war, marital disappointments and grief might be headed. But with the nuanced—yet palpable—use of inflection, Auster compels his audience to await the twists and turns. As an invalid with an active imagination and time on his hands, Brill makes his frailties tangible and emotionally compelling without descending into full-blown pathos. A Henry Holt hardcover (Reviews, May 26). (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From The New Yorker
A car accident and the death of his wife have left the retired book critic August Brill a physical and spiritual invalid. Virtually confined to his house with his recently divorced daughter and a twenty-three-year-old grandchild stricken with grief after the murder of her ex-boyfriend, Brill, an insomniac, attempts to stave off thoughts of death by telling himself bedtime stories. His tired mind weaves a tale that combines details of his life with more fantastic flights'such as the story of a man who, waking up in an alternate universe where 9/11 never happened and the 2000 election led to civil war, is sent on a mission to destroy the very person who has imagined him into existence. The narrative juxtapositions and the riddling starkness of Auster's prose create an absorbing if mildly scattershot effect, breathing life into a meditation on the difference between the stories we want to tell and the stories we end up telling.
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Top customer reviews
Auster's unique style is evident in this novel. However,I would not characterize it as his best work.
There are some really cool "ideas" in the novel.
For some reason I felt like they were not developed to their full potential.
For the purpose of keeping the suspense, I will give an example by using somewhat vague labels.
The section where the main character writes a story and we are able to read the first-hand account of what goes in that story could be developed further in detail.
I thought the setup had a lot of potential for many different storylines but it ends abruptly.
I think the section reflects Auster's genious but somehow I felt like it was rushed like the rest of the novel.
My overall recommendation: If you have not read any of Auster's work,I would not recommend starting with this novel.
However,if you're an Auster fan like me,then it's definitely worth your time.
As one would expect from a Paul Auster novel, Man in the Dark is elegantly written. Like most of Auster's characters, Brill is isolated, and not only (or primarily) because of his limited mobility is limited by a recent traffic accident. He has difficulty connecting with both his daughter and granddaughter; the reader suspects he had the same problem with his wife before her death. The main characters are all working their way through pain. The story Brill creates to combat his insomnia is telling: Brill seems to want to cast himself as the abducted man (relatively young, happily married) who is charged with killing the old, destructive man Brill imagines himself to have become. Ultimately he confides something of his life to his granddaughter, who is also unable to sleep, and by doing so perhaps starts coming to terms with the person he has become.
All of this is heavy stuff and yet, at the end, I was left with an "is that all there is?" feeling. I was hoping for a bit more substance to emerge from this thin novel. Still, I found it worth reading just for the enjoyment of Auster's prose: the writing is sharp and poignant. For that I gave it 4 stars, although I would probably give it 3 1/2 if I could.
So whenever the Brooklyn-based author releases a new book, expectations run higher than the Tower of Babel in City of Glass from Auster's New York Trilogy. So what about his latest, Man in the Dark?
To keep this short and concise, let's say it's a mixed bag. Man in the Dark has moments of brilliance and Auster's signature touch for moving, deeply human stories. But newcomers to Auster's work may find this novel somewhat inaccessible.
A lot of this has to do with the book's plot: The hero, an average Joe by the name of Owen Brick, unwillingly finds himself in a parallel world, an alternate version of America where a civil war has gripped the entire country. His mission: Kill a Seventy-two-year-old writer named August Brill, an insomniac who is imagining the whole mess in his own head. Shoot Brill, it all ends.
While this may sound like the premise for a Kurt Vonnegut novel - like Billy Pilgrim becoming "unstuck in time" in Slaughterhouse Five - there is more to the story than this play on parallel worlds and the question whether a universe can exist without an observer. Or if it is the very nature of a universe to bring forth observers, who in turn create their own worlds. And if an apple falls from a tree and nobody sees it, did it really fall?
Literature professors all over the place are donning their finest turtle necks to ponder these questions in colleges and university classrooms, right now.
However, what makes Man in the Dark really shine is all the episodes of human life it contains. Two lovers meeting randomly on the streets of New York to forge a life-long connection. The loss of loved ones and the wounds that remain. All that with Auster's signature twists, like a Cold War spy destroyed by his past just as the Cold War ends, or a son being evicted by his mother twice - in life and death, respectively.
"Coining phrases in the middle of the night, making up stories in the middle of the night - we're moving on, my little darlings," narrator August Brill says.
But ultimately, Man in the Dark is more than just a play on imaginary worlds and touching stories that may or may not be made up. It's also a wake-up call to reality. On the last ten pages, Auster achieves to bring us face-to-face with the horrifying reality of an ongoing war and the atrocities it brings. And this revelation alone, despite the at-times confusing story line, is well worth the read.
Most recent customer reviews
Though Paul Auster's...Read more
Easy reading for a flight or short trip. It's not his best work but i recommend it.