The arresting stories in this slim collection by Auster (The New York Trilogy, etc.) go a long way toward answering the perennial question "Why write?" The book contains four short narratives: "The Red Notebook," "It Don't Mean a Thing," "Accident Report" and "Why Write?" All the tales and vignettes, hovering somewhere between fact and fiction, feature amazing little coincidences or linkages. In one brief chapter, Auster (as protagonist) loses a dime in a gutter in Brooklyn only to look down and find a dime later the same day. In another, he checks into a hotel room in an obscure hotel in Paris and finds a crumpled message from the desk to a close friend—the previous occupant of the room. The most affecting stories, however, recount a more ineffable sense of connection: Auster makes it to the foot of a staircase to catch his little daughter just in time to keep her from sailing through a window; as a boy at summer camp, he is on a group hike when the boy next to him is struck by lightning and killed. What all the stories have in common is not a fixed outcome or meaning but a sense of the patterned meaningfulness of life. Readers will glimpse here how the act of witnessing itself provides the punch line. As Auster learned the hard way when he met Willie Mays one day and didn't have a pencil to get an autograph, the sense of wonder burgeons when we can record its source on paper. Agent, Carol Mann. (June 28)
Forecast:Auster has always been a genre bender, and here he sets readers a new puzzle. There is sure to be discussion about just how "true" these stories are, which should stimulate interest in the collection.