Like An Image From A Dream: Paul Auster’s “The Red Notebook”

The Red Notebook is a good starting point if you have never read anything by Paul Auster. At just over 100 pages, it is an enjoyable, quick read. I would also recommend reading a recent short story of his, available on Lit Hub, entitled The Wolves of Stanislav.

In Notebook, Auster tells a series of tales which he claims are all true. There are four stories, each of which is divided into two- to five- page chapters. As the author muses on events from his own and friends’ lives, these seemingly unconnected stories begin to intertwine in surprising, and sometimes humorous ways. Whether or not they are strictly “true” may be beside the point…

One early chapter in the collection takes place at a farmhouse in the south of France, where the author has a memorable experience baking “onion pie”.  In “Why Write?”, we learn how Auster became a writer after a chance encounter with Willie Mays as a boy.

But it is in “Accident Report”, when a fictional character meets their real-life counterpart (or is it the other way around?), that we discover this key passage: “A moment like that deserves to be prolonged, it seems to me—if only by a few seconds—for the thing that was about to happen was so improbable, so outlandish in its defiance of the odds, that one wants to savor it for a few extra seconds before letting go of it.”

As I read this book, I found myself looking up from the page with a smile on my face. This is one of Auster’s gifts as a writer—he allows us to savor the magical moments in life.

Paul Auster is the award winning author of The New York Trilogy, among many other works. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

The Red Notebook (New Directions, 2002) is available at Heights Libraries and the CLEVNET catalog.

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