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WINTER JOURNAL by Paul Auster Kirkus Star


by Paul Auster

Pub Date: Aug. 21st, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-8050-9553-1
Publisher: Henry Holt

The acclaimed novelist (Sunset Park, 2010, etc.), now 65, writes affectingly about his body, family, lovers, travels and residences as he enters what he calls the winter of his life.

Written entirely in the second person and, loosely, using the format of a journal (undated entries), Auster’s memoir courses gracefully over ground that is frequently rough, jarring and painful: the deaths of his parents, conflicts with his relatives (he settles some scores), poor decisions (his first marriage), accidents (a car crash that could have killed him) and struggles in his early career. But there are summery memories, as well: his love of baseball (begun in boyhood), his fondness for Campbell’s chicken noodle soup, his relationship with his mother, world travels (not all cheery; he recalls a near fistfight with a French taxi driver), books and friends. Most significant: his 30-year relationship with his wife, writer Siri Hustvedt (unnamed here), whom he continually celebrates. Some of the loveliest sentences in the text—and there are many—are illuminated by love. Near the end, Auster recalls visits with her family in Minnesota, a terrain so unlike what he knew (he lives in Brooklyn). Here, too, are moments of failure (not speaking up when he should have), of illness and injury, of sly humor. The author follows a grim description of a bout with the crabs with a paean to nature that begins, “Ladybugs were considered good luck.” Auster indulges in the occasional rant—he goes off on the crudities of contemporary culture—and delivers numerous moments of artful craft.

A consummate professional explores the attic of his life, converting rumination to art.