Sunday, December 2, 2012

Paul Auster, a self-deluding author?
The Invention of Solitude

I like Paul Auster's writing.  He always seems dogged in his efforts to clearly explain thoughts that a lot of us take for granted.  He comes across as very rational, very focused on reason.  And sometimes, reading between the lines, his predilection for the rational seems to push him toward remarkable levels self-delusion.

Here's an example I came across in his book THE INVENTION OF SOLITUDE (I should mention, for those who aren't familiar with this book, that it's autobiographical in nature; when Auster mentions "A." he's talking about himself):

A. returned to the apartment overlooking Columbus Circle, [...] his marriage now at a permanent standstill.  These were probably the worst days of all for him.  He could not work, he could not think.  He began to neglect himself [...].  Lying on the couch, smoking cigarette after cigarette, he would watch old movies on television and read second-rate mystery novels.  He did not try reach any of his friends.  The one person he did call--a girl he had met in Paris when he was eighteen--had moved to Colorado.
One night, for no particular reason, he [...] walked into a topless bar.  As he sat there at his table drinking a beer, he suddenly found himself sitting next to a voluptuously naked young woman.  She sidled up to him and began to describe all the lewd things she would do to him if he paid her to go to "the back room."  There was something so openly humorous and matter-of-fact about her approach, that he finally agreed to her proposition.
Maybe it's just me, but I don't think Auster agreed to pay the woman for sex because of the "openly humorous and matter-of-fact" way she approached him.  And I don't think he walked into a topless bar "for no particular reason" either.  I think he went to a topless bar and paid a woman for sex because he was horny.  Or maybe I'm crazy.

But when I encounter something like the above in Auster's work, I find myself wondering if he really doesn't realize what's actually going on.  Does he actually think he just wandered into that topless bar by accident?  Is he really surprised to find a naked woman sitting beside him once he's in the bar?  Is he deluding himself?  Or is he just trying to delude the reader?  And if he actually knows all along why he went to that topless bar, why put on pretenses?  If he's worried of being judged, why mention the encounter at all?

In any case, where Auster goes next also serves as an example of why I like his writing so much.  After the "voluptuously naked young woman" seals the deal with her "openly humorous" manner, we get this:

The best thing, they decided, would be for her to suck his penis, since she claimed an extraordinary talent for this activity.  And indeed, she threw herself into it with an enthusiasm that fairly astonished him.  As he came in her mouth, a few moments later, with a long and throbbing flood of semen, he had this vision, at just that second, which has continued to radiate inside of him: that each ejaculation contains several billion sperm cells--or roughly the same number as there are people in the world--which means that, in himself, each man holds the potential of an entire world.
Far out, man.