Auster writes of “the obsessive story that has wormed its way into your soul and become an integral part of your being.”...

INVISIBLE

Many readers familiar with the work of Paul Auster consider him to be one of the most profound and provocative of contemporary novelists, a literary magician, a master of making fiction about the art—or the sleight-of-hand illusion—of making fiction.

Auster attracted a loyal following in the mid-1980s for what was subsequently known as his New York Trilogy—an elliptical trio of genre subversions and meditations on identity—but his reviews have been mixed in the two decades since the subsequent Moon Palace and The Music of Chance. Now comes Invisible, a novel of such virtuosity and depth that it should not only unite the faithful in a hallelujah chorus, it deserves to draw legions of converts as well. More than a return to form, this might be Auster’s best novel yet, combining his postmodern inquiries into the nature of fiction and the essence of identity—the interplay between life and art—with a thematic timelessness in its narrative of virtue and evil, guilt and redemption. If this isn’t quite Auster’s Crime and Punishment, it could be his Notes from the Underground. It’s also a novel he couldn’t have written a couple of decades ago, during what was previously considered his peak. Though it concerns a 20-year-old, literary-minded student at Columbia University in 1967—when the literary-minded Auster was the same age at the same university—its narrative reflects the autumnal perspective of four decades later, with a protagonist whose life has taken different turns than Auster’s. In fact, there are three distinct narrative voices, as sections employ the first-person “I,” the second-person “you” and the third person “he” in relating the story of how the student’s encounter with a visiting professor from Paris and his silent, seductive girlfriend changes the lives of all three and others as well. The labyrinth of plot and narrative also includes the student’s beautiful sister, a mother and daughter in France through whom he seeks atonement and a fellow Columbia alum who has become, like Auster, a successful writer. There are sins, obsessions, a corpse and a thin line between fantasy and memory. To reveal more would rob the reader of the discoveries inherent within this novel’s multilayered richness.

Auster writes of “the obsessive story that has wormed its way into your soul and become an integral part of your being.” This is that story.

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9080-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2009

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Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

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NORMAL PEOPLE

A young Irish couple gets together, splits up, gets together, splits up—sorry, can't tell you how it ends!

Irish writer Rooney has made a trans-Atlantic splash since publishing her first novel, Conversations With Friends, in 2017. Her second has already won the Costa Novel Award, among other honors, since it was published in Ireland and Britain last year. In outline it's a simple story, but Rooney tells it with bravura intelligence, wit, and delicacy. Connell Waldron and Marianne Sheridan are classmates in the small Irish town of Carricklea, where his mother works for her family as a cleaner. It's 2011, after the financial crisis, which hovers around the edges of the book like a ghost. Connell is popular in school, good at soccer, and nice; Marianne is strange and friendless. They're the smartest kids in their class, and they forge an intimacy when Connell picks his mother up from Marianne's house. Soon they're having sex, but Connell doesn't want anyone to know and Marianne doesn't mind; either she really doesn't care, or it's all she thinks she deserves. Or both. Though one time when she's forced into a social situation with some of their classmates, she briefly fantasizes about what would happen if she revealed their connection: "How much terrifying and bewildering status would accrue to her in this one moment, how destabilising it would be, how destructive." When they both move to Dublin for Trinity College, their positions are swapped: Marianne now seems electric and in-demand while Connell feels adrift in this unfamiliar environment. Rooney's genius lies in her ability to track her characters' subtle shifts in power, both within themselves and in relation to each other, and the ways they do and don't know each other; they both feel most like themselves when they're together, but they still have disastrous failures of communication. "Sorry about last night," Marianne says to Connell in February 2012. Then Rooney elaborates: "She tries to pronounce this in a way that communicates several things: apology, painful embarrassment, some additional pained embarrassment that serves to ironise and dilute the painful kind, a sense that she knows she will be forgiven or is already, a desire not to 'make a big deal.' " Then: "Forget about it, he says." Rooney precisely articulates everything that's going on below the surface; there's humor and insight here as well as the pleasure of getting to know two prickly, complicated people as they try to figure out who they are and who they want to become.

Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984-82217-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Hogarth

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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This book sings with the terrible silence of dead civilizations in which once there was valor.

THINGS FALL APART

Written with quiet dignity that builds to a climax of tragic force, this book about the dissolution of an African tribe, its traditions, and values, represents a welcome departure from the familiar "Me, white brother" genre.

Written by a Nigerian African trained in missionary schools, this novel tells quietly the story of a brave man, Okonkwo, whose life has absolute validity in terms of his culture, and who exercises his prerogative as a warrior, father, and husband with unflinching single mindedness. But into the complex Nigerian village filters the teachings of strangers, teachings so alien to the tribe, that resistance is impossible. One must distinguish a force to be able to oppose it, and to most, the talk of Christian salvation is no more than the babbling of incoherent children. Still, with his guns and persistence, the white man, amoeba-like, gradually absorbs the native culture and in despair, Okonkwo, unable to withstand the corrosion of what he, alone, understands to be the life force of his people, hangs himself. In the formlessness of the dying culture, it is the missionary who takes note of the event, reminding himself to give Okonkwo's gesture a line or two in his work, The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger.

This book sings with the terrible silence of dead civilizations in which once there was valor.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 1958

ISBN: 0385474547

Page Count: 207

Publisher: McDowell, Obolensky

Review Posted Online: April 23, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1958

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