We're so deep into fall reading that we've hardly had time to blog. Already there are several stand-out titles worth mentioning. Let's start with Paul Auster's excellent new novel, Invisible.
We're glad to see Auster back in top shape. After a few arguable misfires, his latest contains the immaculate prose, cunning storylines and provocative twists that have made him one of our finest contemporary novelists.
Auster's usual preoccupations are here — stories within stories; truth vs. fiction; impassioned storytellers who are stricken either physically or emotionally. The novel is divided into four parts, and from the start, we are lulled into believing this is a typical coming-of-age story. The first act concerns a young college student at Columbia University who falls under the sway of a fatalistic French professor and his mysterious, sensual partner, who may or may not be his girlfriend. After various intriguing propositions and a shocking turn, their relationship founders. But it is certainly not the end of the road for these three. And don't think for a minute you know where it's all going.
As we explore this young man's life, both out of sequence and from varying perspectives, Auster has darker surprises in store, taking us to Europe and back, into the beds of unlikely lovers, through the heights of decadence to the depths of suffering. Rarely have we seen such a twisting plot pulled off with such effortless grace. The bounding narrative is never difficult to grasp because Auster's staging is so impeccable, and his prose hypnotizes through its clarity and psychological depth.
Auster is famous for his sleight-of-hand narrative tricks, which are, at best, never gimmicky and illuminate the magical potential of stories. So if you enjoy the occasional intellectual college romp — complete with lots of sex, alcohol and literature — without the usual pretensions, you should sit down with Invisible. Like his best recent work (The Book of Illusions, Oracle Night), it makes us want to go back and delve into Auster's rich backlist, from Leviathan to the now-classic New York Trilogy.