True Tales Of American Life

ISBN: 0571210708
ISBN 13: 9780571210701
By: Paul Auster

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About this book

Chosen by Paul Auster out of 4000 stories submitted to his radio programme on National Public Radio, these 180 stories provide an illuminating portrait of America in the 20th century. The selection requirement of the stories was that they should be true and not previously published.

Reader's Thoughts

Laura Brown

A collection of 124 stories that Paul gathered from NPR’s National Story Project. They are written largely by regular Joe’s, constricted by the guidelines that the stories had to be 1. Brief and 2. True. He organized them by sections including War, Death, Love, Satire, Meditations, etc. From the beginning to the final story, they brought tears to my eyes with how incredibly they evoked humanity in its most minute essence. An amazing book - the best I’ve read in years.


This is the second time I have read this collection of true stories from NPR's National Story Project. The stories in this book might be more aptly named anecdotes, as most of them are no more than one page in length, and some are just a few lines. They deal with animals, family, objects lost and found, heartache, and astounding coincidences. Some are comic, some are tragic, but all are true.The ironic thing is, I grabbed this book out of a box one night because I wanted something easy to read that didn't involve the long-term commitment of a novel, but I have been glued to its pages every night for a week. I keep finding myself up way past my bedtime saying "Just one more story, just one more story ..."

pierlapo quimby

Qua dentro ci sono almeno una dozzina, non voglio esagerare perciò dico solo una dozzina, di raccontini, fattarelli, cronachette, memorialucci, che da soli basterebbero a far arrossire di vergogna, causa manifesta inadeguatezza artistica, buona parte dei cosiddetti scrittori minimalisti degli ultimi decenni.

Sari Lynn

Editor Paul Auster has collected a large number of mini-memoirs, ranging from a few paragraphs to a few pages in length, and organized them into sections: Animals, Objects, Families, Slapstick, Strangers, War, Love, Death, Dreams, and Meditations. The essays range from those that didn't grab me to ones that were truly delightful! It's good "bathroom reading", meaning you can open to any page and read, without having to have read what came before. It's also great for when you're waiting for an appointment or for a friend to show up. I kept it on my desk at work, for days when I'd find a few minutes to read after lunch.

Karen Hanson

This book actually turned out to be something totally different than what I thought it was. I didn't realize it was a compilation of stories from many people. I'd never heard of NPR's "National Story Project." Apparently Paul Auster started it and basically asked people to send him short, true stories. I'm not sure if they still do this on the radio, but this book was a collection of a few of the stories sent in over the years. I really enjoyed this book. It was amazing to hear all these stories from all these people... some sad, some happy, some unbelievable. It was a perfect audiobook for my daily commute because of the short story format. It's something you can pick up and put down and not have to remember a long story line or what was going on. Highly recommended.


Amazing how many different experiences can be captured in these short selections. I found them exceedingly rich and could not read them all at once.

Brenda Hicks

Listened to this one on tape. since it was originally a radio show, I felt this was an appropriate way to "hear" what the book had to say. My favorites were the war stories. A great book for the road. Interesting, sad and laugh-out-loud stories. It's solid entertainment.


These stories are incredible - of course some are more enjoyable than others. (While reading the "war" section, I took a bit of a break to read Wendell Berry.) But as a collection of real stories it's terrific: some that make you think, some that make you cry, and some that make you laugh or smirk. A wonderful representation of life and humanity.The premise of the book: Paul Auster was asked to tell stories for a NPR segment and after talking to his wife decided it would be a better idea to read other people's stories. This collection is comprised of pieces people sent in to be read on-air.


I love this kind of book. Lots of quick, easy snippet-stories with enough truly interesting or moving ones to make up for the occassional shoulder-shrug-worthy ones. It was kind of like a "Chicken Soup for the Soul" book, with a more intellectual flavor and marginally better writing. I'm not sure why they chose this title. The story the quote comes from was neither unique nor archetypal, plus I don't think the title conjures up the feel of this book very well. Anyway, a great nightstand book. Skip the intro and the last chapter, "Meditations." You won't be missing anything.


Collected stories from a show Auster ran on NPR. Real folks telling real stories with an extraordinary twist, these were the only qualifications. Lends narrative credence to the fact that people are endlessly varied and endlessly fascinating. Highly highly recommended.


In 2003 I bought a copy of True Tales of American Life, edited and introduced by Paul Auster. The copy was second hand and was inscribed on the title pageTo Fluffykins BunnyLove from the Rabbit with Medium Sized earsxxxI wondered who these creeps were. I tried reading the book and got bogged down around page 50 because it turned out that the true tales were all two pages long and relating wildly improbably co-incidences to which the only possible reaction was "oh yeah? you don't say so" with one eyebrow raised extremely high. I stashed the book on the top shelf of my tall bookcase and forgot it. In 2005 there was a minor domestic incident, the details of which I do not need to enter into, and I found myself staggering backwards into the said tall bookcase. It shuddered and some books looked like they would fall out but only one did. An edge of it caught my nose quite painfully on its way to the ground. It was True Tales of American Life.In a rage I packed it and several others up in a box and took them to the Oxfam shop.In 2008 I was holidaying in Devon (which is hundreds of miles from Nottingham, a very pleasant part of England). Naturally I was poking around the one bookshop in the pretty market town of Okehampton – it was one of those with stone floors and ridiculously narrow staircases to the various floors, and I turned awkwardly and sort of fell against one of the bookcases. Several books cascaded down around me and in great embarrassment I began replacing them. I noticed that one of these books was none other than True Tales of American Life. Whimsically, I opened it and looked at the title page, and there I sawTo Fluffykins BunnyLove from the Rabbit with Medium Sized earsxxxIncoherent with the majestic profundity of this amazing occurrence, I explained to the woman serving in the shop that this very book was the one which had fallen on my nose in Nottingham three years previously. She raised one eyebrow, her left, and said"Oh really? You don't say so."


Most of the stories were interesting enough, but there was an overabundance of tales about 'coincidence'. After the first ten, they all started to seem much less miraculous. The inclusions from writers of earlier generations were especially enjoyable and reminiscent of tales from my grandparents.


Several years ago, Paul Auster began the National Story Project in which he invited Americans to send stories to NPR. The only requirements were that the stories had to be true and they had to be short. Over 4,000 stories were submitted within months and from those, Auster selected the 179 stories included in this volume. A wonderful read. Americans are living intense, wacky, wonderful lives and are willing to share them. One of my favorites was the story of a small boy who heard his father tell one of their neighbors to drop dead and shortly thereafter the man did. Obviously the boy drew the obvious conclusions about the power of his father. A great book to pick up and read in short sessions.


Este libro es casi un poemario, y como tal exige que su lectura sea lenta y gradual, a su ritmo, por más que uno quiera atascarse y terminarlo en dos días, que bien podría hacerse por el ritmo de cada historia.Después de leer este compendio, con sus altas y sus bajas, uno termina sintiendo que toda la historia y secretos de la literatura contemporánea bien podrían esconderse entre las páginas de esta recopilación. Organizados por temas, Creía que mi Padre era Dios reúne muchas historias, con una simetría mágica, emocionante, intensa. Ríes, lloras, reflexionas, vives.La gran belleza de este texto y que lo aleja completamente de los libros motivacionales y de autoayuda, es que en ningún momento intenta ni apuesta por ser algo inspirador. Son fragmentos de vidas que por algún motivo han tenido un eco, lo suficientemente grande y entrañable como para llegar aquí, en papel. Sin embargo al final siempre se queda este dejo, de que no importa, al final está la muerte, y la casualidad, y las ganas rabiosas de querer creer en el destino, cuando al final lo único que sobrevive son los lazos, la mortalidad, las letras...

James Stephenson

A superb collection of stories from 'ordinary folk', not remarkable so much for the stories themselves as for the voices, the themes and the sweeping portraite of generations of Americans. Across the enormous distances of the USA and from world war 2 vets to the young of the 21st century, the unity and diversity of experiences is powerful to read. Auster's introduction, a model of prefatory essay writing, says this all better than I can of course, and we can see his love of conincidence through the selection of works which make it into the book - those 'stranger than fiction' moments which so many of these first-time authors have taken the opportunity to record. Auster's organisation of the stories is powerful also - midway through the section on Death the emotional harrowing of story after story takes its toll, but we are lifted into Dreams immediately after and that macro-level shaping shows, in many ways, Auster's narrative artistry at its finest. To summarise - how can you summarise such a diverse collection, spanning a continent and four generations of non-authors who noentheless had a story to share? Nothing short of brilliant.

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