REVIEW | Report From the Interior by Paul Auster

image via Strand website

image via Strand website

title: Report From the Interior [support an independent bookseller and buy at Strand]
by: Paul Auster
genre: memoir
pages: 341
published: 2013
source: I received an advanced reader’s copy via LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review

Last week, I shared with you my thoughts on Siri Hustvedt’s The Sorrows of an American, and this week, I’m talking about her husband’s new memoir Report From the Interior, though memoir doesn’t seem to be the correct term.  Scrapbook?  Exploration? Contemplation?  In Winter Journal, Auster tells the story of his physical self, whereas in Report From the Interior, he begins to map his intellectual, moral and emotional development: his childhood in New Jersey, his familial relationships, the movies and books that left their thumbprint in his consciousness, his time at Columbia and the letters he wrote to first wife Lydia Davis, who’s writing I also adore.  What drew me to this book?  I really enjoyed Auster’s novel Oracle Night, and was really interested in any insight into the creative development of the author.  Few things interest me more than peeking into the mind of an artist to try to gain any insight, no matter how small, into where the impulse to create comes from and what fuels that passion.

A few things I really appreciated about this book:

  • there was a part where Auster describes a movie that had a huge impact on him as a child, but he doesn’t just reference this movie.  No, he describes the action, scene by scene.  Now, movies are inherently visual creations, but Auster’s retelling is so vivid I left that sequence feeling as if I had seen the movie as well.
  • he includes his correspondence with Lydia Davis at the beginning of their relationship when he was at Columbia and she was in Paris. Auster relates that he recommended to her that she read the work of Flaubert and Proust.  Later in life, she went on to translate both Madame Bovary and Swann’s Way…and is my personal favorite translator of French literature.  Now, this inclusion…I can’t tell if he’s taking a bit of credit for her current literary success or not.  She is his ex-wife, and our exes are exes for a reason, and I think even the most generous among us are guilty of taking the low road from time to time as far as our mutual past is concerned…that said, I don’t pretend to know enough about their marriage or their current relationship to suggest I have any particular insight into this matter.  It’s merely an observation and a wondering…maybe Auster really was the impetus for a part of her writerly formation.
  • the last third of the book is a visual photo album of many of the references Auster makes, further aiding my visualization, really taking the internal journey and making it a bit more three-dimensional (especially for this child of the 80s).

Report From the Interior was my train read for about a week, and I averaged 30-40 pages a day…the pace and the flow just lent itself well to a 45 minute uninterrupted stretch of time.  That said, it was also easy to dip in and out of.  If you’re a fan of Auster’s work, it should prove to be an enjoyable, insightful read.

Rubric rating:  7.5   I am absolutely adding Winter Journal to my epic “to read” pile.

2014 goals:  I read this title in 2013, so in the spirit of honesty, I can’t count this book toward my 2014 goals.

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