Discussion Topics

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Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 143

Where does Paul Auster generally draw the names of his characters from, and why are his choices relevant?

How does Auster employ elements of horror and mystery?

What is the importance of place in Auster’s work?

Consider the general symbolic significance of Auster’s work. What comment on American society is...

(The entire section contains 958 words.)

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Where does Paul Auster generally draw the names of his characters from, and why are his choices relevant?

How does Auster employ elements of horror and mystery?

What is the importance of place in Auster’s work?

Consider the general symbolic significance of Auster’s work. What comment on American society is he making?

How does Auster examine the connectedness of things?

Auster, like Fanshawe in The Locked Room, shows a fondness for little anecdotes or parables in his work. How do these asides, which often deal with historical and literary figures, help one to understand the characters?

Auster seems to be preoccupied by chance, circumstance, and choice. Do his characters follow realistic paths, or is what happens to them represented in a fantastic way?

What, in Auster’s work, is the relationship between the actual world and the world of the imagination?

Other literary forms

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As a young man, Paul Auster (AW-stur) distinguished himself in the literary forms of translation and poetry. His well-received translations of the works of French poets Stéphane Mallarmé, Jacques Dupin, Joseph Joubert, and André du Bouchet led to his editing a bilingual anthology titled The Random House Book of Twentieth-Century French Poetry, published in 1982. Beginning in 1974, his own poetry was published in reviews and by small presses. The poetry collections Disappearances: Selected Poems (1988) and Ground Work: Selected Poems and Essays, 1970-1979 (1990) were published after Auster made a name for himself in fiction. His nonfiction prose collection The Art of Hunger, and Other Essays and his memoir The Invention of Solitude were originally published in 1982, and a later memoir, Hand to Mouth: A Chronicle of Early Failure, appeared in 1997, after Auster had published eight novels. Scriptwriting is another genre for which Auster is noted. He wrote the screenplays for the films Smoke (1995), Blue in the Face(1995), which he also codirected, as well as for Lulu on the Bridge (1998). I Thought My Father Was God, and Other True Tales from NPR’s National Story Project (2001) is another edited volume for which Auster received critical notice. Auster has also been involved in musical recordings and writing song lyrics, notably for his daughter’s 2005 album with the New York band One Ring Zero titled Sophie Auster. In 2007, Auster’s film The Inner Life of Martin Frost, which he both wrote and directed, was released; it stars his daughter Sophie Auster as the character Anna James. He adapted his novel In the Country of Last Things for a 2008 feature film in English and Spanish, directed by Alejandro Chomski and filmed in Argentina.

Achievements

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Paul Auster’s works of fiction have earned him significant recognition. City of Glass was nominated for an Edgar Award for best mystery novel in 1986, and The Locked Room was nominated for a Boston Globe Literary Press Award for fiction in 1990. In 1993, Auster received the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and also won the French Prix Medicis Étranger for foreign literature, for Leviathan. In 2006, he was awarded the Spanish Prince of Asturias Award for Letters.

Bibliography

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Auster, Paul. “Interview, 1989-90.” Interview by Larry McCaffery and Sinda Gregory. In The Art of Hunger, and Other Essays. Berkeley, Calif.: SBD, 1982. Long interview is a rich resource for readers interested in Auster’s approach to writing.

Barone, Dennis, ed. Beyond the Red Notebook: Essays on Paul Auster. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1995. Collection of critical essays on Auster’s poetry and prose, some previously published in periodicals, addresses many different aspects of his work. Includes a detailed bibliography of works by and about Paul Auster.

Barone, Dennis, ed. “Paul Auster/Danilo Kis Issue.” Review of Contemporary Fiction 14, no. 1 (Spring, 1994): 7-96. Special issue devoted to the works of these two authors includes essays by scholars such as Charles Baxter, Sven Birkerts, Paul Bray, Mary Ann Caws, Robert Creeley, Alan Gurganus, Mark Irwin, Mark Osteen, Mark Rudman, Katherine Washburn, and Curtis White.

Birkerts, Sven. American Energies. New York: William Morrow, 1992. Contains a short chapter on Auster that describes several of his writings and his position in relation to American literary currents.

Bloom, Harold, ed. Paul Auster. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2004. Collection of sixteen critical essays includes discussion of The New York Trilogy and the themes of fear of identity loss, chance, and confinement in Auster’s novels. Literary critic Bloom provides an informative introduction.

Bradbury, Malcolm. The Modern American Novel: New Edition. New York: Viking, 1993. Includes a chapter on The New York Trilogy.

Brown, Mark. Paul Auster. New York: Palgrave, 2007. Offers extended analysis of Auster’s essays, poetry, fiction, films, and collaborative projects. Traces how Auster’s representations of New York and city life have matured from a position of urban nihilism to qualified optimism.

Donovan, Christopher. Postmodern Counternarratives: Irony and Audience in the Novels of Paul Auster, Don DeLillo, Charles Johnson, and Tim O’Brien. New York: Routledge, 2005. Explores the role of Auster and three other major contemporary ironic novelists amid questions of social realism and morality in the twenty-first century.

Drenttel, William, comp. and ed. Paul Auster: A Comprehensive Bibliographic Checklist of Published Works, 1968-1994. New York: W. Drenttel in association with Delos Press, 1994. An exhaustive bibliography of Auster’s works.

Martin, Brendan. Paul Auster’s Postmodernity. New York: Routledge, 2008. Theorizes that in creating fictional protagonists who appear to be versions of himself, Auster constructs postmodern autobiography.

Shiloh, Ilana. Paul Auster and Postmodern Quest: On the Road to Nowhere. New York: Peter Lang, 2002. Discusses Auster’s work from the perspective of the narrative of the quest, focusing on eight novels written between 1982 and 1992.

Springer, Carsten. A Paul Auster Sourcebook. New York: Peter Lang, 2001. Outlines many of the real-life sources for Auster’s fictions. Also contains an extensive bibliography of his writings and further secondary sources in print, including an extensive list of interviews, newspaper articles, and Web sites.

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