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Winter Journal by Paul Auster

Winter Journal (2012)

by Paul Auster

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
In which Paul Auster demonstrates that, at 64, he is totally in control of his craft. A masterly, and engrossing account of what should be quite personal material not necessarily interesting to anyone outside his family. I found it hard to put down.

This is an non linear memoir, not quite autobiography, but more his memories of significant parts of his life. The section where he describes every address he's ever lived at, is particularly moving. As are the recollections of his mother who sounds like an enormous influence (his father, not so much). There is a lot of honestly in there as well, although whether some of the people mentioned, such as his first wife, would necessarily appreciate that honesty, is another matter.

Auster's fiction has not been as sharp, at least for me, as when at is peak (which for me is about 10 years ago at the time of The Brooklyn Follies, The Book of Illusions and Oracle Night). Perhaps he will never write outstanding fiction again. But as an autobiographer he's outstanding. I shall now go and buy the companion volume, Notes From The Interior ( )
  Opinionated | Jul 5, 2014 |
Paul Auster's Winter journal is more like a note-book than a journal. In the book, author writes that he began this journal when he was 64 years old. The Winter journal is neither chronological, nor does it have dated entries.

The Winter journal is a contemplative autobiography. Auster goes over his life, step by step, creating lists of, for example, all the addresses he has lived at, all illnesses he had and all near-misses with death. The book is a bit morbid in the sense that it contemplates life as much as it contemplates death. It is a modern memento mori, as seemingly so many are published these days.

While the Winter journal has some boring parts, there are also some very impressive sections, with outstanding prose; for instance, the episode about the swallowed fish bone is captivating, while Auster's description of his visit to the site of the former concentration camp Bergen-Belsen is chilling.

Reiteration and parallels, as in one's own life, and comparison with other lives, reveals the element of chance in one's survival. Diseases, a car accident, the famous "small accidents around the house", they all occur when one least expects it. The solid oak leg of the table can be the banal cause of death of the one, or a near miss to another.

While many books on this theme are pessimistic or mainly appeal to an older readership, Auster's Winter Journal offers as much to older as to younger readers. Firstly, the Winter Journal gives readers an peek from an unusual perspective into the author's life. The many described details are of the kind usually left out of official biographies. Not much autobiographical material has been published about Auster so far. It is actually interesting to discover through reading the Winter Journal that some of Auster's novels which seem so totally fictional do include references to real life which caused irritation on the part of his relatives.

Another optimistic outlook Winter Journal permits is the sense that 64 is not that very old, and although the author tends to see 64 as a high age, there are several suggestions that at 64 one is just at the threshold of a next stage in life, and that the contemplative, brooding mood is something like a mini-"mid"-life crisis, which marks the transition to the next stage. This optimism should appeal to readers of all ages, as does the book ( )
  edwinbcn | Jan 4, 2014 |
Ordinary reflections on his life. Seemingly nothing profound, but the significance of ordinary occurences that make a life. ( )
  ghefferon | Oct 13, 2013 |
This book was lovely, insightful, and bored me half to death. I guess I just wasn't in the mood for it, although I wish I had been. ( )
  lisan. | Oct 4, 2013 |
This is a memoir that is unlike any other that I have read. Paul Auster examines his life from a multitude of seemingly mundane angles. First he thinks about all of the ways that he has experienced his body, the joy he felt in using his body to play baseball as a child, the ways his body has compensated for his inability to express grief by shutting down and causing him to endure panic attacks when his mother dies.

Auster then considers all of the addresses at which he has lived, and what the specific spaces have meant to him. My favorite was his description of a ramshackle farm house he purchased with his first wife in upstate New York that was previously owned by two ancient German sisters and still hosted their malevolent spirits.

I think that this non-linear approach to auto-biography reveals more about the author than any other I have read because his categorical lists of remembrance are the ways, I think, that most of us think about our own memories. Therefore, Auster's writing seems more real and vibrant than if he had chosen to fashion his life into a traditional, linear format.

I have read a couple of Auster's other books, but I don't think it is necessary to have any familiarity with him in order to enjoy this book. The interesting word pictures he makes and the unique point of view is enough to make this an interesting read even if Auster were a plumber instead of an award winning author. ( )
  elmoelle | Aug 9, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Paul Austerprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Vlek, RonaldTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Facing his sixty-third winter, novelist Auster sits down to write a history of his body and its sensations. He takes us from childhood to the brink of old age as he summons a universe of physical sensation, of pleasures and pains, moving from the awakening of sexual desire to the ever deepening bonds of married love; from meditations on eating and sleeping to an account of his mother's sudden death.… (more)

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