Tony, during his brief stop-over was in the civilised part of the Third World, made one throw-away comment, that went along the lines of So, Travels in the Scriptorium then. To which I responded, Well, now, I am a bit of an Auster apologist… and it ended there. But I decided to reread the erm, essay over the weekend, and regather my thoughts on it.

First up, I like the way he writes. Sure, he gets accused of being the writers writer, and in no way other than the most literal am I a writer, but even so, his prose appeals to me. I understand it doesn’t appeal to everyone, but that subset of everyone else is wrong.

But this short story then. No spoiler alert, but I shall talk about it in the abstract. If you are unaware of his obsession with names, of how they are subverted and changed, of how they are indicators of time and place, of how they swirl and bend, then I am suprised you have even got this far in this post. But TitS* isn’t the best place to start on an Auster journey, and it increasingly looks like an endpoint the more you read.

Did he think this some witty tie-up of all his previous works? Or is the obvious allusion to Mr Blank too obvious? While it doesn’t feel rushed, it doesn’t really start, and doesn’t really end. The classic I see what you are trying to do there… flits through your mind, and the annoyance that his books seem to be getting shorter as he gets older creeps in. (Although ‘The Brooklyn Follies’ wasn’t overly short, I don’t think. So that is just wrong of me to say so.) Maybe it is just the physical size that is getting smaller? ‘Oracle Night’ crouches beside the earlier novels on my bookshelf.

Or is this something for the fans? All the allusions to previous works, in a certain order, subplots and books with in books (or short(er) stories within a short story), all the boxes have been mechanically ticked. Maybe it is was meant for a fanzine, where after years of pestering, the author produces a piece for them? You could imagine it in the New Yorker or some other magazine, a stop-gap between his last novel and his next, perhaps commissioned by the editor. But given the, well, punchline, what comes next?

I still liked it, but I was bound to. It still feels a little clumsy, a little heavy-handed, but that doesn’t matter. It is still Auster.

*Now now.

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