What a treat to read two new books from two of my favourite living authors back-to-back. Paul Auster is perhaps a more philosophical writer than Tóibín. His stories can be brain-bending, both personal and abstract and he plays constantly with structure.
I always feel Auster's own hand in his characters, in how he wields the story. And there are times I feel that he winks at us, the reader. Auster has written a reference to Beckett in most of the novels I've read and I always take that personally and feel it's our little moment. I know that's silly, but that's the sense of intimacy he gives me as a reader.
I deeply identify with stories of familial estrangement. And I understand how insufficient any explanation can be. As such, I loved Sunset Park and all it left unsaid or insufficiently explained. I adored the structure, how the novel zoomed in on its hero for the first section and then zoomed out to the world around him in the second. Auster managed to convey the dependencies and relational complexities between this strange cast of characters all the while giving them each their own autonomous voice.
And reading this book after Tóibín was fortuitous. It too features characters on that threshold between adolescent potential and adult reality. The characters try to kick start their lives, but they end up blandly failing. The psychology of those failures is not investigated by Auster. I thought the facile voices of these characters, the dull tautologies and hyperbolic conclusions were deliberate on Auster's part. And they seemed real. I truly flinch when I think of some of my twenty-something cocksureness.
But I've read reviews of this book where the reviewer understood these as failings on Auster's part, and clumsiness in his writing. I guess I don't trust my own impartiality when it comes to Auster. So, I would love to hear what you think, if you've read it.