Saturday, September 12, 2009

Paul Auster and Siri Hustvedt in Dun Laoghaire

Writing any poetry at the moment? I asked American novelist Paul Auster last night as he signed my copy of his selected poems. I'm afraid not, he replied I wish I could. He had just read from his next novel at the Mountains to Sea dlr Book Festival in Dun Laoghaire.

He and his wife, novelist Siri Hustvedt, read from novels which have just been finished (Paul) or almost finished (Siri) to a packed Pavilion Theatre. I'm very familiar with Auster's work having read quite a number of his novels but have never read any of Hustvedt's work. I was very impressed by what she read. The novel is to be called A Summer without Men. She explained that her last two books were written from men's point of views so the narrator in this one is a woman.

The narrator has just recovered from a breakdown following her husband's request for a "pause" in their marriage. The "pause" is his female co-worker. The woman who is a poet leaves the city to go back to spend the summer in her home town where her mother still lives. A bright witty style (of writing and reading) and a narrative of self analysis without self pity contributed to a fascinating introduction. A book to watch for when it comes out.

By the way if I remember rightly in the extract she read the poet tells us she won the Zimmer Award for Experimental Poetry - a fictitious award I presume. Interestingly her husband has a character called Zimmer who becomes fascinated with a silent movie actor in his novel Book of Illusions and Zimmer is also is mentioned in Moon Palace. Also Siri Hustvedt is from Minnesota as is Bob Dylan whose real name was Zimmerman.

Auster read the first two chapters of his next novel. The familiar straightforward prose style but the usual eccentric situations and narrative shifts. A young man from New York is working in South Florida trashing out, that is clearing out and repairing houses which have been abandoned or repossessed because of mortgage arrears. He has developed a hobby of photographing the things left behind by the previous occupants. He is also involved with an under-age girl and he has to deal with an emotional crisis in his past. You almost feel that in the first two chapters Auster has gone too far, told us too much - shouldn't he have kept some of that stuff for later. But that's the attraction of an Auster novel - the unexpected and the unusual.

Anne Enright who reads herself later in the festival was there and wasn't that John Boorman, the film director, I saw in the front row. The full festival programme is here.


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Anonymous said...

Nice picture of the event. Missed it myself but what can you do indeed? Auster reads very well and his words have a certain magnetic appeal/midas touch. JF