I’d feel pretty smarmy if I told you that Paul Auster is my new hero. Truth is, I don’t have any heroes anyway, so saying that I have a new hero would be a falsehood in itself. But I do love Auster and I’ve decided that I will read all of his works this year. I’m starting with novels, interspersed with some autobiographical nonfiction. He’s published a ton, more than I could ever imagine writing. I can’t help but think of all that he’s written that hasn’t been published. One of the dominant themes in his work–both fiction and non–is failure. I wonder how many times he’s thought of himself as a failure. (And yes, I am going to read the works he’s translated, too. That should spice things up a bit.)
Auster makes me want to write; I suppose that fact along makes him eligible for hero status. But the more I read, the more I want to read and writing gets put on the back burner. Again and again.
I can hear you telling me that I need to make a schedule. Pick one hour a day to write, you say. Just do it, you say. Don’t be such a hack, you say.
I know, I know.
So here’s what I’ve done/what I’m doing. I’ve started a new blog. Okay, so I found a name for a new blog and I registered it at blogger. I’ve heard wordpress is nice, too, and I’m looking into it. Really what I want is a blog/space where I can write without getting too distracted by bells, whistles and ads. True, I can (and do) write in Word and copy and paste into my blog. But I go back and read what I’ve written sometimes because I want to know what it looks like to other people. More than anything, though, I want something that’s not just a blog in the sense of a ‘look at me, I’m writing something’ blog, but a place/space/blog where my writing will be a little more focused. in other words, rather than writing about my dog’s yeast infection, I might write about the power of coincidence, or how I keep dreaming that I should get my PhD in literature and write a dissertation on Paul Auster.
(Total aside: I wonder if anyone’s ever looked at Auster from a southern writer’s perspective. I wonder what that would look like…)
More than anything, Auster has me thinking about the truth in fiction and the way truth is placed and conveyed in narrative. He has me thinking about how I need not worry about what is the truth and what is fiction. I shouldn’t be trying so hard to come up with story ideas when the stories I need to tell are the truth and the truth is in me and I know these stories perfectly well. As a student in my graduate school cohort once said (regarding her thesis), ‘I’ve finished my book. All I have to do is write it down.’ Of course, she was being lame and pretentious and I still harbor bad feelings toward her. In my case, I do know the stories that will be in my book (or at least on my blog). All I have to do is conjure the images, change a few names and put it all on paper.
Easy as pie.
I finished reading The Book of Illusions this weekend. I stayed awake late into the night reading and when I was finished I felt incredibly sad and alone. I woke Robin and told her I’d finished. She promised to read it as soon as she can (when she’s not applying to post-graduate programs or working on her master’s thesis or taking care of her daughter or working or…). In the meantime, I continue to feel that sense of loneliness. I think it comes from not having anyone to talk to about the book. And another part of it comes from wanting to write, from knowing that Auster has set something off in me and that it is time for me to begin writing some very difficult stuff. After Robin promised me that she’d read The Book of Illusions, I told her how it made me want to write, and that it made me want to write my story/stories. And she told me, in that moment, in the middle of the night: Go write, now. Go.
And so I did then and so I must now.