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An Unsuccessful Seduction


All but the first section exists in the familiarly convenient form of manuscripts and a diary. [...] the parts echo but quite intentionally do not talk to one another. [...] he argues, by stabbing the assailant once, he saved Adam's life. According to an accompanying letter, Adam is dying of leukemia and hopes Jim, out of old loyalty, will read the manuscript.

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									    An                                         and bloodshed. (Auster has always en-
                                               joyed coincidence, chance occasions).
                                                                                               hand-delivered: “Not a word, Walker.
                                                                                               Remember: I still have the knife, and I’m

Unsuccessful                                   Born proudly admits to some shockingly
                                               similar convictions: “War,” he insists, “is
                                                                                               not afraid to use it. Too terrified to go to
                                                                                               the police about Born’s actions, Adam

 Seduction                                     the purest, most vivid expression of the
                                               human soul.” Adam recoils in disgust,
                                                                                               feels “crushed, humiliated, numb. . . . He
                                                                                               had shown me something about myself
                                               but can’t help yielding to the intriguing       that filled me with revulsion, and for the
               Invisible                       older man.                                      first time in my life I understood what it
             By Paul Auster                        Then the games begin. Born offers Ad-       was to hate someone. I could never for-
              Henry Holt.                      am the chance to create and edit a lit-         give him—and I could never forgive my-
            308 pp. $25.00.                    erary magazine that he will bankroll.           self.” Although the prose is pulpy and
             Reviewed by                       Although that seems too generous to be          (purposely?) adolescent, the encounter
          Rosellen Brown                       true, what ambitious young man could            will stay with Adam forever: He recog-
   Professor of English, the School            turn down such a plum? The plum, of             nizes that he has been seduced, not only
    of the Art Institute of Chicago;           course, comes at a price: Having had            by a woman but by a dominating man
         author, “Half a Heart”                enough to drink, Born rants on savagely         who is zero at the core.
                                               about “how our so-called civilization                ART II is still straightforward, or so it

P    AUL AUSTER is not a writer to go
     to if you love beautiful sentences
                                               was no more than a thin screen masking
                                               a never-ending assault of barbarism and
                                                                                               P    seems: Thirty-odd years later, Jim, a
                                                                                               college friend of Adam’s who has been
or straightforward plotting. He is not a       cruelty. . . . and soft-minded aesthetes like   out of contact with him since graduation
Barthean/Barthelmean purveyor of met-          myself were no better than children, di-        (and will never become more than a fa-
afiction; instead, he enjoys pulling the       verting ourselves with hairsplitting            cilitator), receives the first chapter of a
rug out from under stories that appear to      philosophies of art and literature to avoid     book his old friend is trying to write. Ac-
be realistic. Only after the earnest voices    confronting the essential truth of the          cording to an accompanying letter, Adam
of his narrators have advertised their         world. Power was the only constant, and         is dying of leukemia and hopes Jim, out
trustworthiness does his mystification         the law of life was kill or be killed.”         of old loyalty, will read the manuscript.
and sleight-of-hand begin. What to be-             Adam pities the man his nihilism but            We are back in “the spring of Rudolf
lieve, what not to believe? The author         does not walk away. The reason may be           Born.” Adam has proceeded from Mar-
isn’t tipping his hand.                        another plum: Margot has taken a liking         got’s bed to an intricate affair with his
    Invisible comes in four parts, and we      to the young man—“I told Rudolf you             (equally ravishing) sister Gwyn, which
are left to wonder, as one recounting of       were one of the most beautiful boys I had       they consummate as a kind of tribute to
events undercuts or repudiates another,        ever seen”—and Born, whose perversity           their shared mourning for a brother who
exactly what it is that’s not available to     is boundless, arranges Adam’s seduction.        died early. Much of the narration here,
the naked eye (or ear). Perhaps the in-            Before Part I ends, Auster gives Ad-        from the chapter in Jim’s hands, is in the
visibility is a matter of erasure, one truth   am’s diabolical mentor another chance           second person, presumab
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