Saturday, February 03, 2007

Oregon Orangutan Picks Bears

And don't dismiss her pick as animal instinct either. The analytic apes I've consulted have crunched the numbers and screened hours of game film. They're all picking da Bearz as well, in a nail-biter.

Friday, February 02, 2007


James Gibbons's survey of Paul Auster's career is respectful, but doesn't shy away from making severge critical judgements. It concludes with this devastating dismissal of Auster's latest novel: "Travels in the Scriptorium sucks out whatever life there is in Auster's invented universe, leaving a sterile vacuum of self-regard."

Other reviews of Travels , if I recall correctly, have been largely negative as well, though they haven't been so forceful in their assessments. Nor have Auster's critics been as clear about their reasons for finding this novel to be a metafictional failure when compared with Auster's acclaimed New York Trilogy. For Gibbons, Travels is too gimmicky. Its protagonist, a Mr. Blank, "has no real resonance" and remains a "stillborn creation," an intert thing to fill "the echo chamber that Auster has made of his career." Unlike Auster's best work, this book doesn't convey adequately "the self's vulnerability, the revelation that... we are little more than sentient ghosts."

Gibbons's gloss on Auster's Beckettian project in that last sentence is spot on. At his best Auster is adept at demonstrating the extent to which we are fragile subjects, "spectral ciphers" whose existence is precarious, supported by our fantasies about the Other, whom, it turns out, is virtual, the product of a consensual hallucination and thus as vulnerable as we are.

On a personal aside, I'm curious about what Gibbons thought of Leviathan. Presumably not much, since it's passed over in his survey. Leviathan is my personal favorite and the book of his that I know best. I've taught it a couple times and am doing so again this semester. I'm also writing about it in Senseless Resistance. What attracts me to Leviathan is the way it adapts self-reflexive elements from The Locked Room but opens itself to a world bigger than New York City. Auster dedicated Leviathan to Don DeLillo, and the book is in dialogue with Mao II. In order to adequately respond to Mao II's anxieties about authorship and violence in an era of media spectacle the book must beginning look at the State - America - and its role in the world at large.