Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Review: "Here and Now" by Paul Auster and J. M. Coetzee

I approached Here and Now, a book of letters written over three years between writers Paul Auster and J. M. Coetzee, both of whom are among my most cherished, with great excitement, and after reading it, it is exactly as I expected it would be. It has no real central theme, and the discussions cover many topics, some of which interest me, some of which didn’t and some of which I didn’t know would be so fascinating until my eyes were opened by two giants of contemporary literature. I’m having difficulty summarizing the book, my first book of letters, as I tend to do for the first half of the review, so I will simply dive into some of the things that they discuss. These two writers, separated by oceans and continents, talk about a variety of subjects, including big ones like fate, religion, current affairs and the validity of what they do, one exchange concerning one of Jonathan Franzen’s most famous pieces comes to mind. The talks also can be fun, yet no less eye opening, like the ones about sports, both of whom have conflicting feelings about their love of baseball and soccer respectfully: they like the pageantry and experience, but deep down, feel put off by idea that they are based around the idea of someone having to lose. My favorite topic they cover is a touchy one: incest. These letters were written while Auster was working on Invisible, one of his three best novels, which deals with this heavily, and the conversations they have are fascinating, not exploitative. Most of the time Auster comes off as the begrudging American intellectual influenced by 20th century pop culture just as much by the greats, and Coetzee comes off as the out of touch rebel, proud of his ignorance toward trivial things (although both show signs of crotchety grumpiness that comes with age). By the end, I found this book rather delightful and laid back, showing two masters of a solitary craft bond over everyday things we can all relate to, and that is a very fine pleasure.
Rating: 4/5

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