Invisible by Paul Auster – A Book Review

Invisible spoke to me more potently than many of Auster’s other recent works.

Don’t misunderstand, Auster again explored themes of identity, chance, and reality, but this novella in particular struck me as being far more concerned with character.  Moreover, though the story jumped around in time and made use of several perspectives, it was one of his more linear stories in quite some time—that is, it definitely had a clear beginning, middle, and end.

I also appreciated the format in which he chose to deliver the story.  Auster is always one to experiment with narrative technique, and Invisible’s endeavor succeeded.  Sometimes such fiddling can distract the reader, but not with Invisible.  The shifts felt organic and added to the overall story, making it far more interesting than had it been written conventionally.

Perhaps the most electrifying aspect of Invisible was the pure mystery involved.  I don’t want to go into detail for fear of spoiling any plot points, but Auster did a magnificent job of providing enough evidence to make you scratch your head and question your allegiances.

The only complaint I have—albeit a minor one—is that the book ended rather abruptly, even by Auster’s standards.  It had to conclude somehow, I suppose, and it’s always better to leave the reader wanting more, but I think a very interesting discussion could ensue analyzing why Auster chose to end the book with the specific scene he did.  I was also surprised by the sexual explicitness in this work.  I’ve never read anything quite so sexually descriptive from Auster, but the scenes ended up playing a very important role in the question of character and were absolutely warranted.  He even added a line about writers having to be willing to make themselves uncomfortable if they wanted to be any good, and I wonder if that was a nod to the gratuitousness.

All in all, if you’re an Auster fan, I think you’ll find this outing enjoyable and challenging.  If you’ve never read Auster before, you have to accept him as a writer who demands much from his readers and offers few answers in return.  However, he is a superb writer and he will make you think, which is unusual in today’s books.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield – A Book Review

I’d heard good things about this book, and, after my mother insisted I read it, I finally gave in.  I’m happy to report that The Thirteenth Tale was indeed a fantastic read.

I must admit that I was a little skeptical at first.  A book about a culture’s greatest writer is dangerous ground, for what if the character of the greatest writer is badly written?  But, Setterfield pulled it off nicely.  Setterfield also blended well-written, formal language with believable dialogue in such a way that it was very pleasant to read.  In fact, she straddled the line between good description and over-indulgence to the point I was afraid she would teeter over the edge, losing me forever, but she kept her imagery pertinent and never veered off into ramblings.  Her myriad allusions, thorough characterization, and complicated, rewarding plot made The Thirteenth Tale a fast, enjoyable experience.

The story itself has the makings of a classic.  Vida Winter, England’s greatest writer, is about to die from natural causes and she wants her story taken down by an amateur biographer, Margaret Lea.  A mystery soon emerges as Lea listens to Winter’s tale and she must piece together a tapestry that discerns fact from fiction.  A tale of incest, fire, death, ghosts, and trickery ensues, all while Lea is struggling with her own inner demons.

Personally, I found the climax and resolution rewarding and consistent with the rest of the book.  Some feel that Setterfield left things too ambiguous, but I think the reader must take an active part in the story and make up his or her own mind.  I don’t mind a little elusiveness in a story such as this.  I especially appreciated that many details Setterfield included early on in the novel played an important role as the mystery unveiled.

I think you’ll find The Thirteenth Tale both a well-crafted novel by a capable author and a flat-out exciting story.  Enjoy.

Manhood For Amateurs by Michael Chabon – A Book Revie

I feel like this book was written for me.  Seriously.  Just me.

As you’ve probably guessed, I loved Manhood For Amateurs.  Chabon is really just a far more successful, talented version of me.  He’s a stay-at-home dad; he does the cooking; he’s a writer; he digs pop culture and comic books; he’s not especially talented at home improvement; he’s not ever totally sure on how to be a perfect father.

That’s me.

Chabon writes a brutally honest book of essays in Manhood For Amateurs that delves into all the business I mentioned earlier, as well as his takes on religious holidays, the theft of our nation’s children, the importance of creativity, star gazing, comic book characters and how they influenced his life, David Foster Wallace, and myriad other topics.  Though the subjects are wide-ranging, his pleasant writing voice ties them all together and creates a thoroughly insightful and enjoyable experience.

I love Michael Chabon’s fiction, but I’m beginning to think I enjoy his nonfiction even more so.  At one minute, he’s discussing political trends with words even I don’t recognize, and then the next moment he’s talking about the chaos of taking his children grocery shopping.  Not only do I feel like I can relate to him, I feel as though I can learn from him.

If any of the above sounds interesting to you, then I implore you to buy Manhood for Amateurs.  I’m not exaggerating when I say it was a delight.

November Is National Novel Writing Month

Have you always wanted to write that novel but just couldn’t work up the gusto?  Well, no more excuses come November.  We’re celebrating National Novel Writing Month with the good people at NaNoWriMo!

The concept is simple: by the end of the month you need to have written at least 50,000 words.  Quality is not an issue; spelling and grammar are for later concerns; this is purely an exercise in letting your imagination loose.

At the following website:

you can add your name to a list of participants and get your own little space.  There is a place for you to plug in your daily word count, and no, no one is actually checking that you’re being honest.  You can also find out about “write-ins” where other writers in your region are gathering to meet, write, and maybe even socialize a little.  NaNoWriMo offers many free graphics to decorate your various social networking sites with, and they also offer many fun items for purchase that helps fund several non-for-profit plights.

Many agree that the hardest part of writing a novel is sitting down and actually getting started.  This is just the sort of fun, care-free contest that can light a fire under people and get them tapping away at the old keyboard.  Do you feel that warmth on your rump?  You know that that means!

I’ve almost participated in National Novel Writing Month for several years, but never found the discipline to stick with it.  I’ve actually been working on a novel since before I found out about NaNoWriMo, and this seems like the perfect opportunity to crank the whole thing out.  Though I’m already 10,500 words into it, I’m going to subtract that amount of words to keep things fair.  After all, where’s the fun if you cheat?

I hope you’ll take part in this event to celebrate writing and pass the news along to your friends.  In just a few short hours, it’s off to the races!