LITERATURE

Talking to Strangers: Selected Essays, Prefaces, and Other Writings 1967–2017

Picador. May 2019. 400p. ISBN 9781250206299. pap. $20; ebk. ISBN 9781250206305. LIT
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Auster, whose New York trilogy (City of Glass, Ghosts, and The Locked Room) is acclaimed as a postmodern classic, demonstrates his proficiency as translator, writer, and eclectic essayist in this omnium gatherum. This volume may be considered a companion to the author’s earlier work The Art of Hunger, which included essays published between 1970 and 1993, of which 18 are reprinted here. Ever the Francophile, Auster considers novelist Georges Perec (“The Bartlebooth Follies”; “Postcards for Georges Perec”), poet and philosopher Edmond Jabés (“Book of the Dead”) and Samuel Beckett (“From Cakes to Stones”; “Remembering Beckett”) in pieces both personal in tone and elucidating in content. The most surprising and beguiling entry is Auster’s preface to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s published diary of the three weeks Hawthorne minded his five-year-old son Julian during his wife’s absence (“Hawthorne at Home”). The most poignant and heartbreaking is his account of the brief life and death (rheumatic fever) of nine-year-old Anatole Mallarmé (“Mallarmé’s Son”).
VERDICT Despite the padding of several slight and flimsy items, this compilation will gratify Auster readers and grace most library shelves.

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