Day 238: In the Country of Last Things…

…is an absolutely fantastic novel. One of Paul Auster’s less well-known works, this little book may just be his best one (as far as I am concerned). Turning away from the all too recognizable obsession with postmodern philosophy bordering on the openly Derridean that characterized the New York Trilogy (which he pulls off admirably in City of Glass, yet slightly less so in the following two novels and which becomes somewhat of a nuisance in later novels such as The Music of Chance), with Last Things Auster has produced a novel that does not quite abandon the project of interrogating postmodern subjectivity, however, it represents it in a refreshingly original light. Plus, this post apocalyptic, quasi-epistolary novel is so beautifully crafted that one is willing to forgive occasional retreats into the poststructurally-inconsequential. Maybe it is the post apocalyptic genre that allows authors to construct images of heartbreaking beauty and anguish while representing our present at the same time in ways that are more poignant and more meticulous than those produced by straight-up realism. I only have very little time to write this, but if you like Paul Auster and if you also liked Octavia Butler’s Parable series, you will certainly fall in love with this remarkable little book (and also find a suprisingly substantial amount of food for political discussion). Just in terms of Auster’s bibliography: this novel follows the New York Trilogy and is succeeded by Moon Palace (it is hence part of Auster’s late-80s oeuvre).

***EDIT: wow, the Chicago Marathon turned into a catastrophe. I went outside at 8 this morning to watch it for an hour and already at that early point in the day felt for the runners, due to the heat. I just heard that they actually stopped the race after one death and more than 350 hospitalized runners (the numbers are still climbing). Here the story posted immediately after the cancellation, which includes several videos of the race and its aftermath (I assume the story will be updated and the numbers corrected): http://cbs2chicago.com/local/local_story_280071653.html

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3 Comments

  1. I loved the ‘New York Trilogy’. I read in an interview that Auster writes on an old typewriter, i.e. not a computer. w00t!

    Incidentally, I’m trying to decide what to read next. ‘Spook Country’ is a natural choice, but I’ve been wanting to read ‘City of Glass’ for a while now too. I imagine that reading Spook Country would be very narcissistic – even Pattern Recognition was a book about me really 😛

    I might go for City of Glass instead.

  2. If you’ve already read the _New York Trilogy_ in its entirety you don’t need to read _City of Glass_–it’s the first volume of the trilogy. However, there is a graphic novel version of _City of Glass_ Auster was involved in and it’s really worth reading. As far as _Spook Country_ goes, it’s not as good as _Pattern Recognition_ but certainly worth reading. Yes, there are similarities between you and the main protagonist, but they are less obvious than in _PR_ and the interesting problem in this novel is the question of what happens/what to do when one is a great PoMo digital subject but doesn’t quite like it. Also: great neologisms and it provides us with FUN glimpses of our own world that make it seem as though we’ve seen it for the first time, or, more accurately, conveying a strangely detached sense of familiarity (which I tend to read as Gibson’s ability to capture the sources of an defamiliarize the perpetual sense of alienation we have come to perveive as normal by now).

  3. Ha! I did not like this book one bit. It *might* be his best book but then I don’t have a charitable opinion of his work in general, so…yeah.
    ‘ere’s my review of the book.
    http://shigekuni.wordpress.com/2009/12/13/manque-paul-austers-in-the-country-of-last-things/

    I tried to keep it fair and clean. Ha.


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