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Book Reviews

Life is a valuable, irreplaceable, first-hand account of over fifty years of rock ‘n roll history, filled with insights about music making and music makers and told by one great high octane artist who emerges from these pages as endearing, if not lovable

Paul Auster is perhaps the most accessible writer of those considered to be part of the “high establishment.” And you know the echelon I mean—Roth, Morrison, DeLillo, McCarthy, etc. Yet his new novel, which comes out today, is too accessible, toeing a dangerous line somewhere between the inventive plots of Jonathan Lethem (one of Auster’s own protégés) and the facile sentences of Dan Brown.

Hunger, despite it’s bleak subject, is often a comical novel. The narrator expresses a lot of indignation … But what is this indignation directed towards? The world? The worst thing is that there’s nothing really to direct it towards – except perhaps our own nature, which only inspires more indignation.

She goes on to say that “when she [Pamela] became pregnant he took her to the north of Norway and drove for miles over bumpy roads with the inevitable result of a miscarriage.”   Unity (“always the odd one out,” says her sister), fell madly in love with Hitler and, when Britain declared war on Germany, she shot herself in the head with a pearl-handled revolver in a Munich park…

Norwich is a born storyteller with a narrative gift and very considerable charm. It may just be that his own beloved nanny told him what Nancy Mitford’s told her before pushing her into a room full of people: “Remember, you are the least important person in that room.”

Picture someone at a large publishing company rejecting Gary Lutz because he is “too difficult to read” before going to lunch at the Four Seasons, laughing something-something sucking snails going “this guy thinks he’s Proust or some shit but I need the numbers where are the numbers you’ve got the numbers” over a pair of sparkling cocktails with Nicholas Sparks or whoever is topping the charts…

The writing is so fresh, so honest, so revealing, that at times the reader may feel that he should not be reading these notes – it is almost a violation of a cherished intimacy and, like the greatest of loves, something not meant to be known to any but the participants themselves.

In the park, dead ends and doublings-back amplify the aimlessness of the dialogue, which ranges over immediate phenomena (“Do you like how backs of benches catch a glow from streetlamps?”), roommate stories, and wooly summaries of Aristotle’s and Wittgenstein’s views of language.

The political children who’ve sought the spotlight are few in number; most tend to seem shy and retiring once the camera lights fade. Certainly, Jenna Bush, who’s published a children’s book and appears on TV periodically, has refused to allow the world the access to her emotions that McCain, three years younger, freely grants.

The novel is not without plot, and indeed it is a great deal more concrete than the plots found in some of the author’s previous work. Stylistically Richard Yates bears more resemblance to Lin’s 2009 novella Shoplifting From American Apparel than it does to his previous novel, Eeeee Eee Eeee (2007).

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