The first confession: I didn’t know who Paul Auster was before going to his book reading. When I first saw his name on the website for the local literary community’s reading series, it sounded vaguely familiar. I knew that name from somewhere. So I glanced through a few of my books and found the one I was looking for. It was a book of poetry I’d grabbed off the shelf at Half Price because I thought the cover was cool. I had it in one of my many to-read piles. I was intrigued.
When I read his author bio I admittedly felt a little dumb. (He’s said to be one of the most prolific writers of our era.) And so despite not having even read the book I owned, I dragged my sister-in-law to the reading because I wanted to be cultured like the rest of the literary community.
The second confession: I didn’t like Auster’s voice. The concept of his novel 4321 intrigued me. One character brought to life in four different stories. It explores the “what if” question of life. What if my father hadn’t died; what if he had? But I was thrown by his voice. Nothing was necessarily wrong with it, but it was one of those moments of surprise when what you expected wasn’t reality.
Even so, the story enthralled me so much I had to face the truth that maybe his voice was perfect after all. Like a lullaby, it drifted me into the world of Archibald Ferguson…well one of his four worlds.
Needless to say, I bought the book.
The third confession: I was slightly disappointed when he signed my book. I had just spent the last hour and a half becoming smitten with his writing and during the questions portion–with him. During the questions I had a lot of those, “oh me, too” moments. I’ve mentioned before that I experience writing as a discovery more than I do a creation. Auster mentioned that as he wrote 4321, that was how he felt.
So, I bought his book. It was already signed, which was annoying because they weren’t selling ones not signed. So I bought another book of his as well to justify standing in a long line to meet him.
It was late and he’s an older man (71). Those were my excuses for him not smiling as I set my books down. He read my name (he said it wrong) and I corrected him with a laugh. There was a slight awkward pause.
My sister-in-law thought we had been disillusioned by his voice, that he really was just a cranky old man.
That’s when I realized writers aren’t much different than actors on television. In the way that the viewers experience a piece of the artist, but the artist doesn’t gain a piece from them.
That night I felt connected to Auster as a writer, but I was just a name on a sticky note on a page of his book.
The fourth confession: It didn’t hurt my feelings, why should it have? We’re all humans trying to share a piece of ourselves. Should we share a conversation over coffee with everyone who examines it? No.
Instead, let’s be happy we get to peak into an interesting soul every once in a while.