cover image Winter Journal

Winter Journal

Paul Auster. Holt, $26 (240p) ISBN 978-0-8050-9553-1

“You think,” begins Auster in this quietly moving meditation on death and life, “it will never happen to you.” But because this is not fiction and Auster (Sunset Park) is as human as the rest of us, “one by one, they all begin to happen to you, in the same way they happen to everyone else.” The things that happen and which he chronicles are both momentous and mundane, the stuff of everyday life—the childhood baseball games, the succession of New York and Paris apartments (21 in total), even the women longed for, two of whom became wives—and the events that shook and shaped him. From the vantage point of the winter preceding his 64th birthday, Auster lets his body and its sensations guide his memories. There is no set chronology; time and place bleed from one year to another, between childhood and adulthood. His mother’s death in May 2002 is one of the most deeply resonant sections, drawing on childhood memories of her as a Cub Scout den mother—though she’d entered the “Land of Work”—along with her slow decline after the death of her second husband, made all the more painful as Auster relays it in retrospect, after the reader knows his mother is dead. This is the exquisitely wrought catalogue of a man’s history through his body, a body that has felt pain and pleasure because “[the] body always knows what the mind doesn’t know.” Agent: Carol Mann.(Aug.)