four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
44-Jan-Feb-2010
By: 
Paul Auster
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0

A-InvisiblePaul Auster, known for fiction that deals with memory, elusive identities, and stories within stories, is the best-selling author of the New York Trilogy and other novels. Recently reviewed: Man in the Dark ( 3.5 of 5 Stars Nov/Dec 2008), Travels in the Scriptorium ( 4 of 5 Stars May/June 2007), and The Brooklyn Follies ( 3.5 of 5 Stars Mar/Apr 2006).

The Story: Told in three shifting perspectives and four different parts, Invisible relates the story of Adam Walker's life. The tale begins in 1967, when the 20-year-old Adam, a poetry student at Columbia, meets visiting professor and Frenchman Rudolf Born and his mysterious girlfriend. After Born commits a cold-blooded murder in front of Walker, their lives change forever, and their true natures emerge. Ranging over 40 years, and from New York to Paris and from Vietnam to Cuba, JFK, and Afghanistan, Invisible is, like Auster's other works, about violence, sexuality, justice, and, of course, stories within stories and the quest for memory, truth, and identity.
Henry Holt. 308 pages. $25. ISBN: 9780805090802

Guardian (UK) 4 of 5 Stars
"Some of our assumptions come clattering down around us in a strangely satisfying way and, in exposing the mechanics of his storytelling, Auster paradoxically achieves an intensely felt authenticity. This is a fascinating and highly accomplished novel." Joanna Briscoe

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"You want to reread Invisible because it moves quickly, easily, somehow sinuously, and you worry that there were good parts that you read right past, insights that you missed. ... It is the finest novel Paul Auster has ever written." Clancy Martin

San Francisco Chronicle 4 of 5 Stars
"I don't think people read Auster because he's beautiful, although his spare, exact language has always reminded me of Mozart minus the emotional colors. ... The reason to read this book is that it's a startling tale of how a life can be wasted through being ruled by the past." Laurel Maury

Telegraph (UK) 4 of 5 Stars
"Although Auster is very much a writer's writer, scrutinising how truthful writing can or even must be, he also has a knack for telling memorable stories. In this, his 15th novel, not only do you get the usual mental workout of textual acrobatics and Beckettian dissections of human angst, but also a racy tale of intrigue and loss, revealing a passionate take on the confusions of life." Lucy Beresford

Times (UK) 4 of 5 Stars
"His new novel still features obtrusive formal devices, but they are of an established and familiar kind, almost as old as fiction itself. ... [The] book is not about ambition so much as hidden aspects of the personality in general." Hugo Barnacle

Entertainment Weekly 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The novel is arranged as a skein of nested perspectives (shifting from first to second to third person), and Auster handles the books-within-books and multiple narrators expertly, assembling the story's intricate moving parts with precision." Keith Staskiewicz

Minneapolis Star Tribune 1.5 of 5 Stars
"[As] a great fan of Auster's spellbinding and sly mind-bending works, I'm sorry to report that Invisible is a disappointment. ... [A]lthough Born is interestingly repellent, Adam, Margot and Jim are bores." Brigitte Frase

Critical Summary

Invisible contains many of the hallmarks of Auster's trade: formal literary devices and stylistic high jinks, psychological depth, elegant prose, and the manipulation of information, voices, and stories. Told against the background of 40 years of history, with shame and colonial guilt ever present, Invisible feels "warmer and more human than the stuff he's famous for" (San Francisco Chronicle) as well as less contrived and more hopeful. Indeed, notes the New York Times Book Review, it's "a love story, or a series of intertwined love stories," with Walker at the core. A few critics thought that Auster's technique overwhelms the story, and one thought the characters uninteresting. But most agreed that Invisible is Auster's finest--and perhaps most accessible--novel to date.