Jill's Reviews > Winter Journal

Winter Journal by Paul Auster
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Mar 24, 2015

it was amazing
bookshelves: memoirs
Read from July 30 to August 02, 2012

The first hint we have of what Paul Auster has in store for us is the title itself: Winter Journal, not Winter Memoir. Memoirs – the best of them – are not personal narratives, but rather plot lines or themes that bind moments together. Journals – or diaries – are far more intimate and, one might say, confessional.

The second hint is the tense that Paul Auster uses: second person, not first. Throughout the journal, he consistently uses “you”; it is the author having a conversation with his younger self. The effect is mesmerizing and almost voyeuristic: it’s almost as if we, the readers, stumbled into Mr. Auster’s home and overheard some of his deepest fears and secrets.

“We are all aliens to ourselves,” Mr. Auster writes, “And if we have any sense of who we are, it is only because we live inside the eyes of others.” Many moments of his existence come vividly to life. There are poignant moments: the death of Paul Auster’s mother, a time that begins with a numbing and ends in a visceral howl, as “the more you feel your body changing, the less you feel that you are made of flesh and blood.” There are beautiful moments, too: many pages are a love elegy to his wife of 30 years, Siri Hustvedt, an excellent and acclaimed writer in her own right. And there are funny moments: a huge fight with an obstreperous Parisian neighbor, ending only when Paul Auster pulls out a certain psychological trump card.

This is an elegant retelling, a story of a life that has withstood 64 winters, at a time when a person begins to ask, “How much more is left?” It is an inventory of scars – both physical and mental – and an inventory of houses lived in and people encountered. For the lover of Paul Auster’s work – and I certainly am that – there are tantalizing hints throughout about themes and places that show up in his many fictional works: The Brooklyn Follies, Invisible Sunset Park, for example.

Just as Paul Auster focuses on themes of absurdism and existentialism in his work, he now shows how it applies to life…along with the real, the mundane, the poignant. I have always admired Paul Auster as a writer. Through Winter Journal, I now feel as if I know him a little better – as a flawed, imperfect, but quite likeable and introspective man.
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Reading Progress

07/30/2012 "This first. Then the Kingsolver book goes with me on vacation!"
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Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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message 1: by Chris (new)

Chris I've always liked Auster, but this book gave me pause. I wasn't sure if I wanted to read it, but after such a great review, I think you've convinced me! :-)


Jill Chris, I felt the same way initially. I suspected this would be just another memoir with a fair dose of egotism in it. Instead, I found the book to be lyrical, raw, poignant, and unputdownable. It gave me a whole new respect for an author I love.


message 3: by Will (new)

Will Byrnes He is scheduled to be at the fair


message 4: by David (new)

David Egan Your reviews are a delight to read and once again has me immediately placing the object of your latest up on my To Read List.Thank you for them.


Jill Will -- I know Auster is supposed to be at the fair...one of the incentives for going!

And thanks, David. I'm a huge fan of both Paul Auster and his wife Siri Hustvedt. Both are outstanding writers.


message 6: by Suzanne (new)

Suzanne Jill, Hustvedt's What I Loved was probably my #1 favorite book that I read last year. I haven't yet read anything by Auster, but I should probably remedy that sometime soon. Where you recommend I start?


message 7: by Carol (new)

Carol "This is an elegant retelling, a story of a life that has withstood 64 winters, at a time when a person begins to ask, “How much more is left?”

As I head into my own 64th winter, perhaps I should read this.


Jill Well, Carol...all I'll admit to is being a Boomer! And I do believe Paul Auster captures the mortality and introspection many of us feel as we enter this new phase of life. Of course, I'd probably read a phone book if Auster wrote it. I think he's a superb writer.


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