Paul Auster, Man in the Dark

August Brill, a retired (and now crippled) film critic is living with his daughter and granddaughter, both of whom have their own private griefs. He’s unable to sleep and entertains himself by making up a story about Owen Brick, a man trapped in an alternative version of the USA in which neither 9/11 nor the Iraq war ever happened, although it is hardly a paradise. Intertwined with August’s made-up story are reminiscences from his own life.

Man in the Dark felt perfunctory, as though Paul Auster had himself had an insomniac night and decided to scribble down whatever thoughts came through his head regardless of whether they formed a cohesive plot. And the ending was really not good at all, a sort of trite attempt at “healing” that I think Auster did better in Brooklyn Follies. I was particularly disappointed because I’d very much enjoyed reading Auster’s The Book of Illusions in which a man in deep mourning for a loved one ends up creating/finishing the story of another man’s life.

(Read January 26-27, 2010)

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