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Cities Rise and Fall; Stories Are Forever

Paul Auster is associated with two things, both in constant flux: the novel and New York City. The author of "The New York Trilogy," "The Brooklyn Follies," and the new "Invisible" estimates in his Big Think interview that he's spent at least 55 total years in the Big Apple, during which he has witnessed countless changes to the "gracious place" of his childhood. Yet while he remains unsure as to whether the city is ascending or declining, he has no doubts about the future of his other passion: people, he says, will never stop telling stories.

On this last point he disagrees "strenuously" with his fellow novelist Philip Roth, who has gone on record as believing the book will be dead in 25 years. At the same time, the advice he gives youngsters aspiring to write is: "Don't do it!"—unless, of course, they have a taste for "poverty and obscurity and solitude."

Auster hasn't spent his whole life writing in New York: he also lived abroad in France for a few years in the 1970s, translating French poetry. He reminisced about that period and suggested that it helped him as a writer, liberating him from the claustrophobic self-regard of his home country and affording him "space to breathe."

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