Item description for An Art of Desire.Reading Paul Auster.(Postmodern Studies 21) by Bernd Herzogenrath...
An Art of Desire. Reading Paul Auster the first book-length study solely devoted to the novels of Paul Auster. From the vantage-point of poststructuralist theory, especially Lacanian psychoanalysis and Derridean deconstruction, this book explores the relation of Auster's novels City of Glass, In the Country of Last Things, Moon Palace, and The Music of Chance to the rewriting and deconstruction of genre conventions; their connections to concepts such as catastrophe theory, the sublime, Freud's notion of the 'death drive;' as well as the philosophical underpinnings of his work. At the focus of this study, however, is the concept of desire, an important concept in the writings of both Auster and Lacan, and the various manifestations of this concept in Auster's novels. Auster's novels always emphasize a kind of outside of the text (chance, the real, the unsayable), a kind of hope for a 'transparent language,' a hope, however, that is exactly posited as impossible to fulfill. The relation of Daniel Quinn, Anna Blume, Marco Fogg and Jim Nashe to this lack is the motor of their desire, the driving force for the subject that has always already left the real and has been inscribed into the representational system called 'reality.' It is here, in its relation to the signifier, that the subject's desire is played out, that its experience is ordered, interpreted, and articulated. It is their ability to make connections, to proliferate, to 'affirm free-play,' their ability 'not to bemoan the absence of the centre' that ultimately decides over success or failure of Auster's subjects - whether they partake in the 'joyous errance of the sign,' or whether their fate is that of the 'unfortunate traveler.'
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Reviews - What do customers think about An Art of Desire.Reading Paul Auster.(Postmodern Studies 21)?
A complicated Dance of Theory and Fiction Dec 7, 1999
This, the first book-length study of Auster's works, proves to be a both demanding and rewarding affair. Make no mistake, this is definitely scholarship at the highest level and not a book for high-school kids doing a paper on The New York Trilogy.
Even for readers well-versed in contemporary literary theory and literature there is work to be done, and if you have a problem with a theoretical approach to literature then stay miles away from this book - unless you really are an avid Auster-fan: then you should feel obliged to at least give it a go.
But if you are interested in witnessing how theory, in this case of the post-structuralist vein (in particular Lacan and Derrida), and literature - four of Auster's core works (City of Glass, In the Country of Last Things, The Music of Chance and Moon Palace) may cross-fertilize each other - this is definitely a book to read.
For students (post-graduates in particular, I guess) and scholars working with Auster this book is indispensable. The chapters on the genre-affiliations preceding every close reading are for the most part interesting, in particular in connection with Moon Palace which is seen as a novel written in the picaresque mode. The close readings following these generic definitions are very thorough and eye-opening, and the Lacanian approach often leads to stunningly original interpretations, forcing the reader read Auster in a new light. I thoroughly recommend this study - the effort is rewarded with insight and inspiration.