Paul Benjamin Auster is an author and poet who has gained acclaim over a diverse 30-year career, in which he has published many volumes of poetry and essays as well as 20 novels, now widely translated. His work also extends to the translation of the work of foreign writers, including French writers Stéphane Mallarmé and Joseph Joubert. He is arguably best known for his three experimental detective stories, collectively referred to as The New York Trilogy ("City of Glass," 1985; "Ghosts," 1986; "The Locked Room," 1986). His latest novel, "Invisible," was released by Henry Holt and Co. in October 2009. His first marriage was to the writer Lydia Davis in 1974; his second to the novelist and essayist Siri Hustvedt in 1981. He has two children, Daniel and Sophie, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Question: What keeps you up at night?
Paul Auster: What keeps me up at night? Anxiety. Anxiety, the inability to go to sleep, it's quite literally that. But I know you're talking metaphorically. What used to keep me up at night was the fact that I didn't know how I was going to pay the rent. Now that I can pay the rent, I'm worrying about people I care about, you know, the people I love. The little aches and pains of my children that I, my family. That's always first.
And then these blistering ranting inner monologues one has about the state of the world, mostly about politics, mostly about the, you know, the stupidity of our culture and how easily things could be fixed and nobody does anything about anything. So those things keep me up.
Question: What is one of your typical rants?
Paul Auster: Well, I mean, okay, something that has just been, you know, in everyone's face now for the last month, healthcare in the United States. It seems to me so irrational that we haven't been able to figure this out, for 60 years there have been plans proposed and the idea that healthcare should be a profit-making business makes no sense to me. Once we abandon that idea and just say that healthcare is a right for every human being, I think we could develop a system that would be equitable. I mean to say, we have public libraries, public parks, public schools, these are not making profit, they're there to serve people. And I think health is a similar kind of issue.
But living in this capitalist society, where, you know, money trumps everything every time, there are huge numbers of people just won't accept this, so it drives me nuts. I just feel it's irrational, that's all.
Recorded on November 5, 2009
Interviewed by Austin Allen