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Conversations with Paul Auster

James M. Hutchisson

Publication Year: 2012

Paul Auster (b. 1947) is one of the most critically acclaimed and intensely studied authors in America today. His varied career as a novelist, poet, translator, and filmmaker has attracted scholarly scrutiny from a variety of critical perspectives. The steadily rising arc of his large readership has made him something of a popular culture figure with many appearances in print interviews, as well as on television, the radio, and the internet. Auster's best known novel may be his first, City of Glass (1985), a grim and intellectually puzzling mystery that belies its surface image as a "detective novel" and goes on to become a profound meditation on transience and mortality, the inadequacies of language, and isolation. Fifteen more novels have followed since then, including The Music of Chance, Moon Palace, The Book of Illusions, and The Brooklyn Follies. He has, in the words of one critic, "given the phrase 'experimental fiction' a good name" by fashioning bona fide literary works with all the rigor and intellect demanded of the contemporary avant-garde.

This volume--the first of its kind on Auster--will be useful to both scholars and students for the penetrating self-analysis and the wide range of biographical information and critical commentary it contains. Conversations with Paul Auster covers all of Auster's oeuvre, from The New York Trilogy--of which City of Glass is a component--to Sunset Park (2010), along with his screenplays for Smoke (1995) and Blue in the Face (1996). Within, Auster nimbly discusses his poetry, memoir, nonfiction, translations, and film directing.

Published by: University Press of Mississippi

Series: Literary Conversations Series


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pp. 1-9


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pp. ix-11

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pp. xi-xx

Paul Auster has granted a lot of interviews, more so perhaps than most contemporary writers and most writers like Auster, who seems to present a persona to the public of a brooding, philosophical artist, so devoted to his art as to be willingly cut off from the world. When one questioner in 2003 asked him if he’d prefer just to stay “locked away somewhere” and write, he responded that he would rather “not say...


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pp. xxi-xxiii


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pp. 3-4

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Interview with Paul Auster

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pp. 5-12

It seems that everything comes out a little strangely and my books don’t quite resemble other books, but whether they’re “new” in any sense, I really can’t say. It’s not my ambition to think about it. So I suppose the answer is yes and no. At...

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An Interview with Paul Auster

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pp. 13-39

Sometimes. I often wonder why I write. It’s not simply to create beautiful objects or entertaining stories. It’s an activity I seem to need in order to stay alive. I feel terrible when I’m not doing it. It’s not that writing brings me a lot of pleasure—but not doing it is worse...

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Memory’s Escape—Inventing the Music of Chance: A Conversation with Paul Auster

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pp. 40-49

There is a wonderful obsession with space in your work which begins with early prose writings about Sir Walter Raleigh and the arctic explorer, Peter Freuchen, continues through your most recent novels, and seems to have distinguished you from many of your contemporaries. Your characters vacillate from boxed-in...

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The Making of Smoke

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pp. 50-63

Yes, it all started with that little story. Mike Levitas, the editor of the Op-Ed page, called me out of the blue one morning in November of 1990. I didn’t know him, but he had apparently read some of my books. In his friendly, matter-of-fact way he told me that he’d been toying with the idea of commissioning a work of...

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The Manuscript in the Book: A Conversation

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pp. 64-94

I don’t think I ever have. I’ve looked at manuscripts in books, facsimiles, and they have always attracted me. I’ve always been fascinated to see how any particular writer, especially a writer I admire, went about composing his work. But I have never studied a manuscript, no...

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An Interview with Paul Auster

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pp. 95-99

That’s a great mystery to me. I don’t know where it came from. For years I’d been walking around with a tale of a master and a disciple in my head, never very clearly defined, and never much of a story, just a situation. When I sat down to write it, I thought it would...

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The Futurist Radio Hour: An Interview with Paul Auster

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pp. 100-105

It’s true, I did work for about six months on an Esso oil tanker. I got the job after I left college. I didn’t know what I wanted to do in life. I didn’t want to be an academic, which is probably what I was best suited for, but I just didn’t want to be in school...

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Paul Auster: Writer and Director

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pp. 106-124

Three years ago, when you were working on the postproduction of Smoke and Blue in the Face, you did an interview with Annette Insdorf and the last question she asked you was, “Now that you’ve caught the bug, do you have any desire to direct again?” You answered her, “No, I can’t say that I do.” Obviously, you’ve had...

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Off the Page: Paul Auster

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pp. 125-131

Hello, booklovers. Welcome to “Off the Page” and welcome to Paul Auster, whose latest novel, Oracle Night, was just released (and is slated to be reviewed by Michael Dirda in Book World this Sunday). We have a geographically diverse group of questioners today, and..

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Paul Auster: The Art of Fiction

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pp. 131-148

I’ve always written by hand. Mostly with a fountain pen, but sometimes with a pencil—especially for corrections. If I could write directly on a typewriter or a computer, I would do it. But keyboards have always intimidated me. I’ve never been able to think clearly with my fingers in that position. A pen is a much more primitive..

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Jonathan Lethem Talks with Paul Auster

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pp. 149-162

The usual. I got up in the morning. I read the paper. I drank a pot of tea. And then I went over to the little apartment I have in the neighborhood and worked for about six hours. After that, I had to do some business. My mother died two years ago, and...

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A Conversation with Paul Auster

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pp. 163-178

Midway through The Brooklyn Follies, Nathan’s nephew Tom asks him about his work in progress, “The Book of Human Folly,” and Nathan responds that he is “charging ahead with no end in sight,” that each story he writes seems “to give birth to another story and then another story and then another story.” Would you say that this...

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The Making of The Inner Life of Martin Frost

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pp. 179-192

The Inner Life of Martin Frost has had a rather complicated history. In 1999, I was approached by a German producer to make a thirtyminute film for a series she was putting together of twelve short films by twelve different directors on the subject of men and women, so-called Erotic Tales. I was intrigued by the proposal and decided...

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Interview: Paul Auster

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pp. 193-197

It’s always a mystery to me, I have to confess. I’ve never been able to witness the birth of an idea. It’s as if one second, there’s nothing going on, and the next second, something is there. Stories come up out of my unconscious, up from places that are inaccessible...

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A Connoisseur of Clouds, a Meteorologist of Whims: The Rumpus Interview with Paul Auster

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pp. 198-202

There are two kinds of typical days. There’s the typical day when I’m writing a novel, and there’s the typical day when I’m not. I just finished something new, so I’m unemployed again, which means that I had a pretty lackadaisical day. When I’m writing a novel, I stick to a rigid routine. I get up between seven and eight, I have...

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Interview: Paul Auster on His New Novel, Invisible

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pp. 203-212

I can never say “why” about anything I do. I suppose I can say “how” and “when” and “what.” But “why” is impenetrable to me. Stories surge up out of nowhere, and if they feel compelling, you follow them. You let them unfold inside you and see where...


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pp. 213-220

E-ISBN-13: 9781621039266
E-ISBN-10: 1621039269
Print-ISBN-13: 9781617037368

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Literary Conversations Series