Paperback review: Winter Journal, By Paul Auster

 

Paul Auster began this memoir one month before his 64th birthday; it is the meditation of a man about to enter old age, looking back on his life.

Those who admire Auster's novels will find all his usual virtues on display here: the bright, lucid style, the emphasis on the concrete, the decent, liberal sensibilities, the fascination with art, the profluence that pulls you along through the story, desperate to learn what is going to happen next. Auster tells his story largely through the experiences of his body: the foods he's eaten, the walks he's taken, the wine he's drunk and the cigars he's smoked, the accidents and injuries he's had, his sexual experiences, the sports he's played, the fights he got into as a boy (until he learned that he could end any fight in seconds by kneeing his opponent in the balls). He writes of houses that he's lived in, quarrels he's had, the love of family and friends, and the slow march of age. It is a personal memoir, but much of what he relates is universal, and bears out Pope's dictum that true art lies in saying "What oft was thought, but ne'er so well-expressed".

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