Auster, fandom, and how readers grow

I love this post because I think it does a brilliant job of capturing the multifoliate ways a young reader can be captivated by a writer. When you go all in, it’s for everything–the prose, yes, the message, the worldview, but also the look, the style, the mystique, and of course the sex. Every writer you admire as a young reader is a gateway to more great things to read:

I went on to read the rest of Auster’s output, even the gnomic poems he published in the 1970s (‘Roots writhe with the worm – the sift/Of the clock cohabits the sparrow’s heart’ etc), which I duly imitated in my GCSE English coursework. His essays got me reading Hamsun and Beckett; his novels seemed to show that it’s possible to be readable as well as uncompromisingly experimental, not to mention kind of cool.  Auster, as Theo Tait observed in the LRB, ‘dresses in black, smokes small cigars, and writes in a bare white studio under two naked light bulbs’.  This seemed to me a model way to go at things, and it didn’t escape my notice that Auster’s wife was a fox, or that mysterious women were quite likely to have sex with his alienated central figures. His occluded social world was reassuringly compatible with my limited notions of grown-up existence, and I was wowed by what I took to be his cardinal message: that the meaning of life is that there’s no meaning. (I took it as read that a writer’s main job was to figure out the meaning of life.)

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