This book provides an extended analysis of Paul Auster's essays, poetry, fiction, films and collaborative projects. It explores his key themes of identity; language and writing; metropolitan living and community; and storytelling and illusion. By tracing how Auster's representations of New York and city life have matured from a position of urban nihilism to qualified optimism, the book shows how the variety of forms he works in influences the treatment of his central concerns. The chapters are organised around gradually extending spaces to reflect the way in which Auster's work broadens its focus, beginning with the poet's room and finishing with the global metropolis of New York: his home city and often his muse. The book uses Auster's published and unpublished literary essays to explain the shifts from the dense and introspective poems of the 1970s, through the metropolitan fictions of the 1980s and early 1990s, to the relatively optimistic and critically acclaimed films, and his return to fiction in recent years.
This chapter focuses on Paul Auster, the writer's room, and the relationship between metropolitan experience and the attempts to re-present it from memory through language. It studies Auster's concern with language, his poetry and the process of composition he uses when writing prose pieces. This chapter shows that a poet's retreat into his room is a way of interacting with the metropolis while protecting the artistic self from the overwhelming complications of modern city life.
This chapter studies the three main themes of language, writing and New York. It studies New York for the ways the characters, particularly Quinn in ‘City of Glass’, relate to the urban experience. It then discusses Auster's persistent theme of language and its capacity to engage and represent the metropolitan condition. This chapter also reviews the idea of writing, and emphasises the instabilities of literary form.
This chapter outlines Auster's characters and follows their descent, their rescue and their subsequent recovery from social and linguistic failure. It also considers several of Auster's later novels, namely The Brooklyn Follies and Oracle Night. This chapter also deals with the themes of urban redemption and briefly discusses these texts.
This chapter studies various spaces, from the mid-west and Chicago, to the north-eastern states of America. It first examines the spaces of The Music of Chance, where a mansion in rural Pennsylvania is used as the setting of a ritualistic and bizarre poker game that rids the nomadic protagonists of their freedom. This chapter also shows the way travel and movement can consist of a series of situated and relational selves and describes film, dreams and flight as utopian spaces.
This chapter explains how Auster represents spaces that cannot be found on the map in two of his novels. It shows that the places that are represented in The Music of Chance and In the Country of Last Things are created entirely from Auster's imagination, and even contain unknowable and unreal forces. It notes that these resulting ‘fictional’ places allow Auster to study the extremes of human experience and demonstrate how ontological stability is continually weakened by spatial instability. This chapter also discusses how utopian thinking forms models of spatial organisation, and how these are translated in actual spaces.
This chapter demonstrates how Auster presents baseball and storytelling as ways of promoting community and friendship within an urban setting, and how they both provide ways for characters to reconnect to their metropolitan environment. It notes that storytelling works as a way for characters to form strong connections with supportive networks of friends, their immediate neighbourhood, and wider society. This chapter also observes that Auster's characters are better able to understand their place in the world, and can thus locate themselves more securely than his characters in his earlier fictions.
Howard Barker describes the motivation for his theoretical writings on theatre as being primarily defensive. Fiona Mountford's review in the London Evening Standard was especially proud of its contempt: 'Howard Barker is back in town and it's time to run for cover'. Writing in The Times, Dominic Maxwell was equally eager to display his anti-Barker credentials, writing: 'Howard Barker has always occupied a territory somewhere between total theatre and total cobblers'. Barker has said that the motivation for writing his plays has often been a 'nausea' induced by the liberal humanism of the mainstream theatre. The hostility faced by Barker in England is not replicated in Scotland. There have been no fewer than eleven productions of Barker's plays at Scotland's national conservatoire, the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.