Page count: 180
The back says: Seventy-two-year-old August Brill is recovering from a car accident in his daughter’s house in Vermont. When sleep refuses to come, he lies in bed and tells himself stories, struggling to push back thoughts about things he would prefer to forget – his wife’s recent death and the horrific murder of his granddaughter’s boyfriend.
August imagines a parallel world in which America is not at war with Iraq but with itself – a world in which the Twin Towers did not fall but instead a brutal civil war erupted after the 2000 election. As the night progresses, August’s story grows increasingly intense, and what he is so desperately trying to avoid insists on being told.
I say: What an utter disappointment this turned out to be. After starting out and progressing as a mind-
meta novel about August inventing a story about Owen Brick; a magician who has
been transferred to an alternative universe where a dystopian America is
dealing with civil war and he is told he has to kill the creator of this war in
the alternative universe or he and his wife will be killed. The twist being
that the creator of the civil war is August. So Owen is transferred back to his
normal universe to track down August, which he refuses to do and the military
has to pay him a visit.
Dun dun dun dun...
I was ridiculously excited to find out how that story was going to pan out when it ended with inane abruptness and we were slung back into August’s boring world where he spends his day watching films with his grand-daughter in his daughter’s house that they all live in after various tragedies. I had zero interest in this story and merely trudged along because I’d already started reading and might as well.
Spoiler: the story grows more boring with each page.
I don’t have any commentary on Auster’s writing; it got the job done. I have a couple more of his works stashed somewhere and was actually looking forward to this read as I’ve only heard good things about him, but meh. Perhaps his other works are less disappointing.
So yeah, 5/5 for the initial meta madness and 2/5 for the story (that wasn’t really that bad – it just bored me to tears having expected something completely different). It all evens out to a total of 3/5 and a serious scowl.