A tough call to choose one book this month, but that’s the task I’ve set myself, so here goes. I’ve read quite a mix of fiction, poetry and non-fiction in January, but the book I’ve settled on is, Sunset Park, by Paul Auster.
Why? Because though I finished it three weeks ago I’m still thinking about it, both as a reader and a writer. The characters and the story still linger. So what did happen to Miles Heller? I find myself thinking.
As a writer, and someone who runs workshops, this book reminds me to be careful with the mantra, ‘show don’t tell.’ Auster is a master storyteller. He pulls off that trick of holding the characters at some distance from the reader, while still making you care about what happens to them. You can always ‘hear’ the voice of the narrator – and he sounds a lot like Paul Auster to me – but it’s never off-putting. It’s a voice that mesmerises, a voice you soon trust. And just so you know, he knows what he’s doing, on pages 10/11 two characters are discussing the function of an omniscient narrator, which, for good measure, Auster gives us not only at the start of a paragraph, but in italics. Yet, these touches never feel overly self-conscious, but rather seamlessly embedded in the tale.
Set in Florida and New York in 2008/9 it’s a post Lehman Brothers/post-9/11 book; it’s also the story of a father and son; of a family damaged by a trauma left unexamined. Contemporary, yes, but it reads like a timeless fable.
A fascinating book, one I’ll re-read.
More on Paul Auster, here.