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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.
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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