Whipped Cream vs. Hamburgers

September 11, 2011

Invisible by Paul AusterIt’s ten years after 9/11, and are we still postmodern? You’d think a whack of hard reality would have propelled us into a new literary trend, but Paul Auster’s latest, Invisible, which I read because it was lying around my house, remains as metafictional, elusive, shape-shifting, and frustrating as the best/worst of the genre. 

I’m not going to summarize or review the novel, since those tasks have been accomplished so fully elsewhere. You can match a rave from the New York Times


with a pummeling, snarky putdown from The New Yorker


and end up with the same bemused feeling that I had after finishing the book.

Entertaining as some of Auster’s devices may be, the postmodern conviction that reality is ultimately unknowable doesn’t, in my view, excuse plot turns that are arbitrary and unconvincing or characters who intrigue us into taking an interest but then fizzle out without much development.

This is literary whipped cream. In post-9/11 America, I’d rather have a hamburger.

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