Saturday, November 22, 2008

Travels in the Scriptorium

by Paul Auster

In this thin book Paul Auster does not offer quite the same excitement that we have gotten used to in his other volumes. There is no force making you have to turn the page just now, but rather you are left with a tepid feeling of I could do it later.

At first one could think the story is that one of a man, suffering from dementia of some sort, in a kind of nursing home. Mr Blank struggles to make pieces match one another, with incoherent recollections, photographs and stories which reminds him, but does not connect him with an actual past. Names of characters from other Auster tales come intruding into a patchwork of short stories, in resemblance I guess, to the mind of a man whose sentience and consciousness is deteriorating due to structural neurological failure. This is Paul Auster however, and not Oliver Sacks. Auster is into mental and emotional reflexes triggered by imaginative reasoning, just like Samuel Farr who is Mr Blank's doctor in this story, on a visit from In the Country of Last Things. For such a therapy to function, it needs a working narrative to hang upon. Because the lack of this Travels in the Scriptorium becomes almost a little dull, until the very end where it all turns revolutionary and one really wonders what this plot is all about.

Perhaps I should hold on to my tepid feeling and give this book another chance when I have the time, later. It could be that the detective work needed to decipher the puzzle of this trip needs a revitalisation of my memories of City of Glass, In the Country of Last Things and the most fantastic Oracle Night. If not I shall be left without a full appreciation of this clip show or rap album of a novel, as Bookslut puts it.