I am a bit like Auster’s man in the dark, August Bill. I am a bad sleeper at times, especially when I am preoccupied with something (work, family, relationships, anything under the sun really), when I will spend the night tossing and turning, going over the issues, pushing them away or going round them, trying to ignore them by thinking about other things, or sometimes I will simply avoid the issues by writing.
Bill, in order to avoid thinking about the things he would rather forget, tells himself stories. What he does not want to think about is the death of his wife Sonya nor about the misery of his daughter whose husband left her, or the gruel death of his granddaughter’s boyfriend. Nevertheless, as he imagines the parallel world of a man waking up in an America that is at war with itself and not with Iraq, where the Twin Towers have not come down, but where people kill each other across different states, his own story keeps intruding.
In the early hours of the morning his granddaughter, also sleepless, finds her way to his room and gently prods him to tell more about her grandmother and about their relationship.
In a way, this book evokes an imaginary world within the fiction of the novel and so resembles our own lives, where we make up stories when we cannot sleep, or imagine a life different from what it is –’ if only’…
As I write this review I cannot help thinking of the very clever and entertaining film ‘Inception’ where we are introduced into stories that represent different levels of dreams and at the end are left to wonder whether there is in fact a reality at all. Great film, by the way.
I liked Auster’s book very much and read it in two sessions. It is a gentle story about human frailty and loss but also about the strong bonds that exist between the surviving members of this family.