Travels In the Scriptorium by Paul Auster – A Book Review

Here’s the thing: if you’ve been reading Paul Auster for a long time, you’re going to love Travels In the Scriptorium because it was written for you.  Meaning, this little devil is so full of Easter eggs from Auster’s past works that longtime readers will have a field day.

Because I’ve read many of Auster’s works, it’s hard for me to disassociate what I’ve read before and look at Travels In the Scriptorium objectively as a stand-alone project.  If I were going to recommend this book to new Auster readers, I would say it is once again a captivating story that makes expert use of metafiction.  Auster often submits stories-within-stories in his writings, and Travels In the Scriptorium is no exception.  Furthermore, Auster explores his classic themes of isolation, identity, and self-analysis.

To the experienced Auster fan, I would say that yes, while Auster once again presents a story-within-a-story, and while he once again delves into ideas of isolation and ambiguous identity, he does so in a fresh, enjoyable manner.  I compare Auster’s talent to that of Michael Jordan.  Sure, when Jordan played, there came a time when we’d seen most of it all before, yet we still couldn’t take our eyes off of him because he made each dunk, each three-pointer, and each cross-over a thing of beauty, something far and away better than anything anyone else could ever hope to do.

Such is Auster.  I’ve read all of these themes before and seen most of the techniques, but he makes it all seem original with each new outing.  Consequently, though I won’t spoil the book, Travels In the Scriptorium covers new metafictional ground for Auster, and I think if anyone deserves to try something like what occurs in this book, it’s Auster.

I wouldn’t recommend Travels In the Scriptorium as a first read for someone new to Auster, but to those loyal Auster fans, it was a real delight for reasons you’ll notice almost immediately.

Stranger Than Fiction – A Movie Review

I love metafiction when done correctly, and Stranger Than Fiction is a prime example of metafiction delivered well. 

Metafiction is when the story has some element that is acutely aware it is a story or else there may be a work of fiction within the work of fiction; in other words, it goes beyond the normal structure and style of traditional fiction into some experimental realm.  When executed soundly, metafiction can be thought provoking and illuminating.  When delivered poorly, it can seem gimmicky and amateurish.

I’m happy to report that Stranger Than Fiction is absolutely a work of art and a success.  In this film, Will Ferrel plays an IRS auditor named Harold Crick who begins to hear someone narrating his very life.  He eventually realizes that he is the character in someone’s story and this someone is planning to kill him off at the end.  Harold soon meets his author and tries to talk her out of killing him, but only after growing into a person he always wanted to be.  I won’t spoil the ending for you, but let me say that I wanted Harold to live so desperately that I couldn’t stand it, yet I also knew that his death would be the death most of us would want (if not by old age, of course).

This all doesn’t sound like a work of art, does it?  Trust me when I say it is.  Unlike Jim Carrey’s many attempts, Will Ferrel skillfully pulls of a sensitive and understated role.  You literally care about this man, and it is purely by Ferrel’s unassuming acting.  I don’t want Ferrel to give up comedy, but it is nice to know can he play a role like this.  There was a depth in his eyes I previously didn’t think existed. 

This movie had me laughing as much as it had me fighting back tears, and I’m not a crier.  I was most pleasantly surprised at how much I loved this movie.  I strongly suggest you check it out.

On a side note, I bought the soundtrack to this film some weeks ago after hearing it was awesome.  I didn’t care for it at the time, but now that I have the actual movie to associate with it, I love it!  Isn’t that strange?