TRAVELS IN THE SCRIPTORIUM Paul Auster
Paul Auster’s new novel is an unsatisfying metaphysical conundrum that leaves one wishing he hadn’t veered away from the more conventional form of The Brooklyn Follies.
A man referred to as Mr Blank awakens in a room that may (or may not) be locked. He has no memory of who he is and how he came to be here. He sees labels affixed to the table, lamp and the wall, spelling out what they are and, on the table, a sheaf of photographs and piles of pages.
The pages turn out to be the unfinished narrative of a person caught in a war instigated by “the Confederacy” in an alternative-universe America. One by one, people begin to visit Mr Blank; these, we realise, are characters from Auster’s earlier fictions. Ah, so this is a postmodern report on creativity and the writer’s condition.
It’s all very clever and tautly-written, as though Robbe-Grillet had decided to get inside a writer’s head with the same cool precision he brought to his description of surfaces. But it’s also rather dry and bleak -- leaving one perplexed rather than provoked.
Worth your while? Only if you plan on attending a seminar entitled “Postmodernism Isn’t Dead And Never Will Be”.