Mamad Purbo

Searching Auster

Why do some people write and some don't? Paul Auster has an answer on that:

Becoming a writer is not a 'career decision' like becoming a doctor or a policeman. You don't choose it so much as get chosen, ...

I agree with the second statement, though being a fatalistic unbeliever of freewill, not so much with the first. A nice answer nevertheless. That explains why I'm not a writer, as much as I wanted to be one.

The next question would be, so what is one supposed to be? That, I recognize, is the basic connecting thread of many of his writings. The search for identity and the meaning of one's existence. The question everybody asks, but nobody seems to have the answer. Neither does Auster. But he does provide some companions to make the (possibly unnecessary) search for the answer bearable. Even enjoyable.

Most of his are exceptionally well written stories about searching. Or meta-stories as some would label them, as his are stories about making stories and how they involve fictionalized (or real?) Paul Austers. I can't say I remember the details of every stories I read, but I do have general impressions and some fragments.

I remember late night, insistent, wrong-number calls to a character, asking if he is Paul Auster the detective. A very clever and memorable scene from, I believe, his best known collection of stories, New York Trilogy. I remember a character hired to look after a certain cynical old guy. And that he dates a girl called Kitty Wu. A dancer. I remember how they met, and that I even envied him, actually. I imagine this Kitty Wu must be a very remarkable character. I remember somebody got locked himself or herself up underground and the story ended. I supposed the character must have died there. I'm not sure actually. Memory fails me sometimes.

I remember that he cried or almost cried when he threw his dead father's stuff (tie?) away. His account on his father's life and death is one of his best non-fiction. And the title is just irresistible, at least for my taste: Invention Of Solitude.

The loneliness one feel on not finding the answer one is looking. Or not making sense of the answer when one eventually find it.

These are the impressions I have of his writings. Definitely not the stuff for happy people.