Paul Auster · Places

The city #NewYork #PaulAuster

After all those years in the suburbs, I find that the city agrees with me, and I’ve already grown attached to my neighborhood, with its shifting jumble of white and brown and black, its multilayered chorus of foreign accents, its children and its trees, its striving middle-class families, its lesbian couples, its Korean grocery stores, its bearded Indian holy man in his white robes bowing to me whenever we cross paths on the street, its dwarf and cripples, its aged pensioners inching along the sidewalk, its church bells and ten thousand dogs, its underground population of solitary, homeless scavengers, pushing their shopping carts down the avenues and digging for bottles in the trash.

Paul Auster – The Brooklyn Follies

Life · Paul Auster

Most lives vanish #PaulAuster #TheBrooklynFollies

Joyce and I hadn’t reached the December of our lives, but there was no question that May was well behind us. What we were together was an afternoon in mid to late October, one of those bright fall days with a vivid blue sky above, a gusty nip in the air, and a million leaves still clinging to the branches – most of them brown, but with enough golds and reds and yellows left to make you want to stay outdoors as long as you can.

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I was no one. Eventually, we all die, and when our bodies are carried off  and buried in the ground, only our friends and families will know we are gone. Our deaths wouldn’t be announced on radio or television. There wouldn’t be any obituaries in The New York Times. No books would be written about us. That is an honor reserved for the powerful and the famous, for the exceptionally talented, but who bothers to publish biographies of the ordinary, the unsung, the workaday people we pass on the street and barely take the time to notice?

Most lives vanish. A person dies, and little by little all traces of that life disappear. An inventor survives in his inventions, an architect survives in his buildings, but most people leave behind no monuments or lasting achievements: a shelf of photograph albums, a fifth-grade report card, a bowling trophy, an ashtray filched from a Florida hotel room on the final morning of some dimly remembered vacation. A few objects, a few documents, and a smattering of impressions made on other people. Those people invariably tell stories about the dead person, but more often than not dates are scrambled, facts are left out, and the truth becomes increasingly distorted, and when those people die in their turn, most of the stories vanish with them.

Paul Auster – The Brooklyn Follies

Life · Paul Auster

Con men & rascals

-Con men and tricksters run the world. Rascals rule. And do you know why?

-Tell me, Master. I’m all ears.

-Because they’re hungrier than we are. Because they know what they want. Because they believe in life more than we do.

-Speak for yourself, Socrates. If I wasn’t so hungry, I wouldn’t be carrying around this giant gut.

-You love life, Tom, but you don’t believe in it.

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Think of Jacob and Esau. Remember them? The bad guy wins, and God doesn’t punish him. It doesn’t seem right. 

-Of course it does. Jacob had the spark of life in him, and Esau was a dumbbell. If you’re going to choose one of them to lead your people, you’ll want the fighter, the one with cunning and wit, the one with the energy to beat the odds and come out on top. You choose the strong and clever over the weak and kind.

-That’s pretty brutal stuff, Nathan. Take your argument one step further, and the next thing you’ll be telling me is that Stalin should be revered as a great man.

– Stalin was a thug, a psychotic murderer. I’m talking about the instinct for survival Tom, the will to live. Give me a wily rascal over a pious sap any day of the week. He might not always play by the rules, but he’s got spirit. And when you find a man with spirit, there’s still some hope for the world.

Paul Auster-The Brooklyn Follies

 

Paul Auster · Places

The city #NewYork #PaulAuster

“Gliding through Times Square at three-thirty in the morning, and all the traffic is gone, and suddenly you’re alone in the center of the world, with neon raining down on you from every corner of the sky. Or pushing the speedometer up past seventy on the Belt Parkway just before dawn and smelling the ocean as it pours in on you through the open window. Or traveling across the Brooklyn Bridge at the very moment a full moon rises into the arch, and that’s all you can see, the bright yellow roundness of the moon, so big that it frightens you, and you forget that you live down here on earth and imagine you’re flying, that the cab has wings and you’re actually flying through space”.

Paul Auster – The Brooklyn Follies

Love · Paul Auster

Candidates

“More often than not, these attempts at sociability ended in painful silence. His old friends, who remembered him as a brilliant student and wickedly funny conversationalist, were appalled by what had happened to him. Tom had slipped from the ranks of the anointed, and his downfall seemed to shake their confidence in themselves, to open the door onto a new pessimism about their own prospects in life. It didn’t help matters that Tom had gained weight, that his former plumpness now verged on an embarrassing rotundity, but even more disturbing was the fact that he didn’t seem to have any plans, that he never spoke about how he was going to undo the damage he’d done to himself and get back on his feet. Whenever he mentioned his new job, he described it in odd, almost religious terms, speculating on such questions as spiritual strength and the importance of finding one’s path through patience and humility, and this confused them and made them fidget in their chairs. Tom’s intelligence had not been dulled by the job, but no one wanted to hear what he had to say anymore, least of all the women he talked to, who expected young men to be full of brave ideas and clever schemes about how they were going to conquer the world. Tom put them off with his doubts and soul-searchings, his obscure disquisitions on the nature of reality, his hesitant manner. It was bad enough that he drove a taxi for a living, but a philosophical taxi driver who dressed in army-navy clothes and carried a paunch around his middle was a bit too much to ask. He was a pleasant guy, of course, and no one actively disliked him, but he wasn’t a legitimate candidate, not for marriage, not even for a crazy fling.”

Paul Auster – The Brooklyn Follies

Life · Paul Auster

Life #PaulAuster

“When you’ve lived as long as I have, you tend to think you’ve heard everything, that there’s nothing left that can shock you anymore. You grow a little complacent about your so-called knowledge of the world, and then, every once in a while, something comes along that jolts you out of your smug cocoon of superiority, that reminds you all over again that you don’t understand the first thing about life.”

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“Existence was bigger than just life. It was everyone’s life all together, and even if you lived in Buffalo, New York and had never been more than ten miles from home, you were part of the puzzle, too. It didn’t matter how small your life was.”

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“Life got in the way — two years in the army, work, marriage, family responsibilities, the need to earn more and more money, all the muck that bogs us down when we don’t have the balls to stand up for ourselves — but I had never lost my interest in books.”

Paul Auster – The Brooklyn Follies