The Dig managed to set up a call with noted author and screenwriter Paul Auster while he was waking up in a DC hotel room. Mr. Auster’s composure bordered on heroic as we pestered him with questions at 9:15am. Man in the Dark, his 12th novel, is just out from Henry Holt and Co.
Table of Contents
It seems like Man in the Dark is a very literal title. Is that the title you had in the beginning?
You can read that title in two or three ways, so it’s not just a literal title. You can think of “man” as “mankind,” you can think of “in the dark” as “not knowing,” as in the expression, “I’m in the dark.” It has a double edge to it.
Do you still write on a typewriter and in longhand?
First longhand, and then I type it up on my old manual typewriter. I know how to use a computer, but I just don’t like it.
And typewriters never crash.
My problem with computers is that it’s too easy to type. There’s no resistance from the keys. With my old manual, they’re fighting back; you have to press to make a letter. It’s building up the muscles in your hand rather than atrophying them. There’s no carpal tunnel syndrome with typewriters.
In your imagination, what are the colors you used to tell this story?
The central situation in the book, Brill in the dark, I guess black would have to be the color for that. The stories he’s telling—I guess the Owen Brick story has a kind of desaturated palette, with the color drained out of things. Whereas perhaps the long conversation he has late in the book is in rather vivid color, red predominating. When he talks about Sonya’s red coat, the first time he sees her on the street, I see that red jumping in my head.
You stopped writing poetry in 1979, but before then it was a focus of yours. Has that affected your prose style?
Yes, absolutely. I write my prose with the same concentration on the language that I did as a poet. My prose looks simple, but it’s actually not. I make it as lucid as possible, but underlying all that is the rhythms and sounds. Writing a novel is like a musical composition. If one writes well enough, and the reader is attentive enough and sensitive enough to understand this music, the meanings will be conveyed through the body as well as the mind. You’re reading with your skin and your heartbeat. It’s subliminal, perhaps, but it’s just as important as what the writer’s saying.