Monday, 18 March 2013

Man in the Dark by Paul Auster (3/5)

First published: 2008
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-fucking annoying 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.


  1. I haven't read a Paul Auster book in a good few years. I enjoyed the couple that I read at the time but the stories have sorted of melted away. I don't think they are the kind that stay with you. Or at least my memory is worse than I thought.

    What puts me off this one is the magician. I hate magicians and magic tricks. They annoy me to the point that it's irrational. So as soon as a book mentions magicians or magic tricks I have an automatic prejudice and I must really love the author just to pick it up. Is that wrong? Or is he the fantasy type magician (those I like). Just realised I was making assumptions but it's Auster who is very un-fantasy-magician like.

    1. I probably should have specified in the review that he's a magician at children's parties (not really all that relevant to the story), so it's not a "real" magician - I hate them too - as well as fantasy magicians. I just hate magicians.

      There I said it.

      So you're save to read this one. I was thinking of crossing out that he is a magician, to save further confusion, but no... I like confusion :)

    2. Confusion just makes life all the more interesting ;)

      I did think it was just a average joe magician. Auster is not really the fantasy type. Plus, I am sure the fantasy kind now like to think of themselves as Wizards rather than magician or sorcerers. PC madness. I also hate Derren Brown. I am a feak among friends for that. I am sure he is a nice person really but he also considers himself to be a magician therefore I dislike him.

    3. Ha ha ha, I saw some live show thing he had some years ago on TV (I think it was him) and it annoyed the shit out of me. Magicians are so cheesy and lame - esp the ones with the female assistants. And that David Blaine - ugh. Like Chris Rock says: "He's a trickless magician!"

      Yeah, I like the word and implications of wizard; it sounds ancient and cultural. Magician is just a silly man in black cape pulling a rabbit out of a hat.

      Wow, this quickly turned into a we hate magicians club :)

    4. I would happily join a we hate magicians club. I bet you we would get loads of people joining!

      David Blaine! I blocked him from my mind. Yes, for my next trick I will stay in a box for a long time. Everyone seems to love Derren Brown though. Fairly intelligent people too. I don't get it.

      This is going to sound so sterreotypical but I always picture these people as the type that took up magic to try and impress girls. Then failed.

    5. Ha ha, when I first moved to England I rode on the tourist bus into London and the bus driver made a detour so that we could see Blaine in his box. Silly, silly boy.

      I see magicians the same way - or little nerdy kids who were genuinely interested in magic and then grew up to be jerks just because they can do tricks that nobody cares about.

      *goes off to we hate magicians dot com*