In 2003 Paul Auster published an autobiography called Hand to Mouth: A Chronicle of Early Failure. You could judge that book by its title as it was about a man’s struggles to make it. Because we knew the ending where Auster became (in my mind) the greatest living novelist, it was a happy and inspiring book. A memoir where roadblocks seemed like exercises in character building and devastations only served to be the foundation for fantastic literature.
I became a fanatic for Auster’s work. I read all the books as I had for no other author since Kurt Vonnegut. I watched all the movies he directed or wrote the screenplays for or were based on his writing. I went to hear him speak when I lived in Los Angeles (Which was the only time in my history of attending q and a events where I asked a question from the audience. “Have you ever started writing a book and not finished it?” “Only once.” he said without elaborating.) At that event Auster revealed his writing technique. He eschewed computers and only wrote with his pen, notepad and trusty typewriter.
Because of his Luddite ways, Auster must have missed out on this new fangled invention called blogs. For his new autobiography Winter Journal is nothing more than a printed and bound blog. Whereas Hand to Mouth had a theme in that it discussed the myriad of ways that he attempted to make a buck before he established himself, Winter Journal is a random stream of consciousness of Auster’s memories. While Hand To Mouth is rosy about a life getting started, Winter Journal is grim over a life nearing its end.
Auster is a hell of a wordsmith. He can make any subject captivating. And so in Winter Journal I found myself reading lists of foods he enjoyed as a child, residences he once called home, and maladies he once suffered. I suppose a book really is a tell all when the author recounts his travails with crabs and the clap. But unless you’re an Auster obsessive you might not make it that far. Thus I can only recommend this book if you already made it through the rest of the Auster oeuvre.