Archive | August, 2012

[admin] Buzzkill

14 Aug

It’s been pretty quiet here for a few weeks.  I’ve fallen behind on my reading due to a temp job and a writing seminar, but something else has prevented me from blogging about Auster’s work. 


When I went looking for information about Winter Journal, I learned that Auster had signed the petition showing solidarity with the filmmaker/sex offender Roman Polanski at the time of his extradition to the States.  Further, a commenter at Biblioklept had implied that Auster had gone the extra step of writing an essay in support of Polanski’s right to freedom, though I have been unable to find this on the internet.  (If I am incorrect in my understanding of this comment, please let me know.) 


Those standing in solidarity with Polanski tend to overcomplicate their support.  The man is a great filmmaker, it’s true.  He also drugged and raped a 14-year-old girl, and hasn’t done penance for the crime he committed.  Yes, he’s a great filmmaker; yes, he survived the Holocaust; yes, his wife was brutally murdered.  Plenty of people who have been dealt this kind of hand can go through life without raping a minor. 


At the same time, I know that I tend to overcomplicate my own support of artists who signed the petition.  With many of the filmmakers and actors who are close to my age, I can wave away their support because they may not know the full scope of what Polanski did, or they may make assumptions about the consent she was able to give.  (Up until a few years ago, I’d assumed that his quarry had freely given her consent and that she looked and acted older than her age.  This is incorrect.)  However, I really can’t give Auster the same pass that I’d give Wes Anderson or Natalie Portman.  At the time of Polanski’s extradition, Auster was an adult, and he worked odd jobs in the French film industry and on the switchboard at the New York Times.  There’s no way he couldn’t know about the extent of Polanski’s crime. 


I’d thought for a few months of shuttering this blog and selling back my copies of Auster’s books.  Ultimately, I’ve decided to keep writing it.  My reasons for this are, admittedly, feeble (and I can identify with Alyx Vessey’s continued interest in Tilda Swinton’s career).  Reading Auster’s work helps me to better understand my father.  My dad was a sporadic presence in my life, and we had only started coming to an understanding about one another at the time of his death.  My father’s appreciation of Auster reminds me a lot of his love of Bruce Springsteen…both Auster and Springsteen came from similar backgrounds as my dad, and they were able to get out.  Dad wasn’t, but he had respect for these guys because they got out on their own terms and were able to tell the rest of the world what it was like to be working-class sons of second-generation immigrant families. 


That his work has a redemptive quality also makes it more accessible for me.  Dad liked a lot of self-destructive writers, in part because he had a self-destructive streak and wanted to see it glorified in others’ work.  Reading Bukowski is upsetting because I’m reminded of how my dad reveled in his negative tendencies.  When I read “The Invention of Solitude” or the first half of Timbuktu, I saw in them my dad and I came to understand how he ended up the way he did. 


With that in mind, I have decided to continue reading through Auster’s bibliography.  I have a review pending of The Locked Room, and have started reading In the Country of Lost Things.  This may be hypocritical.  I hope that making this decision for myself doesn’t upset me in the long run.