The Art of Hunger: Essays, Prefaces, Interviews, The Red Notebook

ISBN: 0140267506
ISBN 13: 9780140267501
By: Paul Auster

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Criticism Currently Reading Essays Literary Criticism Literature Non Fiction Nonfiction Paul Auster Postmodernism To Read

About this book

In this astonishingly acrobatic work, Paul Auster traces the compulsion to make literature -- or art -- through essays on Franz Kafka, Samuel Beckett, Paul Celan, Laura Riding, Knut Hamsun, John Ashbery, and other vital figures of our century.In a section of interviews as well as in the revelatory "The Red Notebook", Auster reflects on his own work: on the need to break down the boundary between living and writing; on the use of certain genre conventions to penetrate matters of memory and identity. The Art of Hunger undermines and expands our accepted notions about literature and throws an uprecedented light on his own richly allusive writing.

Reader's Thoughts


I admire Paul Auster's fiction and its neo-allegorical explorations of the existential (I pulled that phrase from the Alphabet Soup I ate for lunch-- seriously), and while I've enjoyed the thematic tension and play of his novels, I've always had reservations about his prose style; for a major writer, his sentences are often as dulcet and graceful as cavemen playing a game of jacks. This collection of essays and prefaces on mainly avant-garde-ish writers (I'll ignore the interviews, which are mostly biographical and craft-related) is more informational than astute, and finds his writing sharpened, but dull: the architecture of the sentences and paragraphs is more adroit (with the exception of the titular essay, which reads like a slightly precocious undergrad paper-- it may well be), but the rhetoric is austere and unengaging. Despite having started his career as a poet, Auster displays limited flair for metaphor, simile, and lyricism (these may seem glamour qualms, but sometimes it's the eyeshadow in a writer's voice that catches your eye). And his observations and points, the meat of the book, are, while occasionally pungent, more often bland and regurgitated. Nonetheless, Auster is a vital mainstream contemporary author, and is to be commended for offering selections from his personal canon of influences, many of whom seem delicacies one would forego otherwise.


I appreciate Auster's essays and nonfiction much more than the fiction for which he is famous. I love this book. Auster's insights into "outsider art" are spot-on. Most importantly, his essay on Hunger turned me on to Knut Hamsun, so that alone is worth the price of admission.


I think about The Red Notebook at least twice a week.

Kathy Duffy

Paul Auster's writing is so elegant, so concise, that I find it exceptionally beautiful on almost any subject. These essays are for the most part critical analysis on various poets, that were so incredibly well written that I have already inter-library loan requested two of them already. I found his pieces on Beckett to be excellent and the Preface to an anthology on Twentieth Century French Poetry to be absorbing.He has made me excited to find and read Reznikoff, Laura Riding and John Ashberry. I actually enjoyed his writing so much, that I read several of these more than once. I will have to track down some of Paul Auster's poetry next...if his non-fiction is that elegant, I look forward to his poetry.


Step back David Foster Wallace, I think this guy knows more than you and I combined, byatch. Seriously, the man attacks literature voraciously and relays its pathos and stories in seamless essays and interviews. He even actually gives poetry more than a sidelong glance.

Brent Legault

After recently rereading Hamsun's Hunger, I thought it only fitting to reread the Auster's essay. It was excellenter than I remembered and so are several others I dipped into. Auster was a busy young man, writing things that meant things. While I, well, while this is about the best I can come up with. Still, I never yet wrote a novel which had a dog as its main character. For that I am everproud.

Beatrice McDonald

An absolutely brilliant book and one that I am entirely grateful toward for having lead me to certain other stars most notably Le Schizo et les Langues by Louis Wolfson.


very good

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