Paul Auster Meditates On Life, Death And Near Misses
Paul Auster doesn’t take living for granted. At 65, the author has had several “near misses,” from sliding face-first into a jutting nail as a child to a traumatic car accident that almost killed him, his wife and his daughter.
Auster’s new memoir, Winter Journal, is a series of meditations on his life, aging and mortality — including his mother’s death.
In the book, Auster recounts staying with his mother’s inert body while waiting for the paramedics to arrive. A few days later, he felt his “limbs turn to stone” and thought he was dying. It turned out to be a panic attack.
“Everything was bottled up inside of me,” Auster tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross. “There were other factors — lack of sleep, too much alcohol, too much coffee. But still, I think my body would not have broken down if I’d been able to weep — I mean really weep, let it out.”
Auster says he first approached the book as a “history” of his body — and it shows. Winter Journal contains a sensory catalog — including sexual feelings, a bursting bladder and scars — of some of the abuses and pleasures his body has been through. Auster traces his first awareness of his body’s quirks to age 4, when he was mistakenly diagnosed with celiac disease. As a result, he had to live solely on bananas for two years.
“Bananas, so many bananas that, as I say in the book, I can’t stand the sight or smell of them and I haven’t tasted one in 60 years now,” he says.
Auster is the author of The Invention of Solitude, The New York Trilogy and many other works. He has received several awards, including the Prince of Asturias Award for Literature in 2006.
(Click to listen to the interview.)