Paul Auster

Top Ten contributor Paul Auster earns a rave from Sarah Manguso in tomorrow’s New York Times Book Review.

Here’s the opening: “Writing multiple novels is generally considered a triumph, writing multiple memoirs a somewhat shameful habit. Still, I’ve never heard anyone sniff about Paul Auster’s autobiographical recidivism; perhaps his 16 acclaimed novels compensate for it. In any case, on the basis of his five memoirs alone, Auster should be recognized as one of the great American prose stylists of our time.

Report from the Interior is a companion text to the 2012 Winter Journal. Where that book was a history of the author’s body, this one is a history of his psychological development, from childhood through early adulthood. Both use second-person narration, which is easy to label a gimmick, but here it feels natural, inextricable from the rest of the prose.”

Here’s the ending: “Auster’s first three autobiographical works are jewels perfectly cut, luminous little books. It is as if he had been audacious enough, as a younger man, to resist the 350-page Serious Book, but has in late middle age begun to relax. Or perhaps after perfecting the vivid and instructive novella-length essay, he has diverged from it to escape the boredom of his facility. Never mind; the best parts of “Report from the Interior” are as excellent as one could hope. It would not be inaccurate to describe the first section, which gives the book its title, as perfect.”


Paul Auster’s Top Ten List


1. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes (1605, 1615).

2. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (1869).

3. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1851).

4. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1866).

5. In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust (1913–27).

6. Ulysses by James Joyce (1922).

7. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1850).

8. The Castle by Franz Kafka (1926).

9. Molloy, Malone Dies, and The Unnamable, a trilogy by Samuel Beckett (1951–54). 10. Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne (1759–67).