Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Book review: 4 3 2 1, Paul Auster (2017)

Who reads this guy anymore? I’ve never finished a book by Paul Auster that I’ve started, and this attempt ended up being the same as the earlier ones. I read and read waiting for the story to get going and was always disappointed at the end of each of the long lists, with their items separated democratically by plain commas, that the author uses to describe the family history of the character who is introduced at the start of the first chapter merely as “Ferguson”. A suitably democratic name.

Presumably you’re supposed to be getting to the point in that history where Ferguson is born and then, again presumably, you will be informed of the point of all the endless backstory, but I didn’t manage to get to that point before getting bored. And I had been desperate to find something that I could finish, having put down uncompleted the previous two books I had picked up.

Ferguson’s grandparents were immigrants with their origins in Russia and they were Jewish, so presumably you’re supposed to be interested by the inherent drama that such a trope sets up in your mind if you are a normal American with your stale fantasies about individual effort and financial success, your belief in the inherent dignity of the individual, and your long study of yourself to the exclusion of everything else of interest in the world.

I didn’t buy the idea that such a story is inherently interesting, and I don’t buy the common notion that belongs particularly to Americans where the lone genius is the source of everything good. But mainly I didn’t buy the flavour of the narrative, with its breathless patter and endless elencations of colourful incidentals that are supposed to assist me in establishing a relationship with the hero Auster is intending to introduce at some (unspecified) point in his (seemingly interminable) story. No sale this time, buddy.

No comments: