What Is Left Unseen — Invisible by Paul Auster

“He is gifted at making the intellectual life sexy.” D.T. Max said of Paul Auster in the New York Times Book Review.   It is the single greatest blurb I have ever seen on a book cover and I couldn’t get that quote out of my mind as I read Auster’s latest opus, Invisible.

The first sixty pages serve as an advertisement to live a life of the mind. Beautiful, older French women dressed like exotic vultures will throw themselves at you. Men of wealth will respect and sponsor your quick wit and thoughtfulness. Everyone in your circle will have so many layers of depth. Kindred spirits out there will appreciate your intellect and your secrets.

But then in Part 2 of Invisible comes the dark side of intellectualism.  The ability to rationalize just about anything. To be smart and creative enough to create your own reality so that any wrong might be right.

Invisible is archetypal Auster. All of his traditional ingredients are there. The stories within the stories, the men with names that are way too apt, the literary references, the chitchat and sex talk that are awkward enough to make you wince, the one big event that wouldn’t seem so big in a Hollywood movie, but have a way of rocking everyone’s world in his novels, the question marks left at the end leaving you wondering what actually happened.

Although he digs into familiar wells for the plot and the characters, Auster plays around stylistically throughout Invisible. Quotation marks for dialogue he decides are passe. What you think is a first person novel, flips you on your head.

The prose as always is a facile pleasure to read. Just as punk rock made everyone think they could form a band, Auster’s breezy matter of fact voice makes you think anyone could write a novel.

The dark depravities of his characters make this book not for everyone. If you’re looking for something a little more playful  check out his, The Brooklyn Follies. But if you do dare to dig into Invisible I for one would like to know what you make of it. For it’s a cloud whose shape is subjective to the reader.

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