Auggie Wren's Christmas Story Hardcover – Oct 14 2004
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Auster fans will recognize Auggie Wren as the proprietor of a Brooklyn cigar store in the film Smoke (1995), written by Auster and starring Harvey Keitel as Auggie. But before smoke came a burning dilemma: the New York Times invites Auster to write a Christmas story, and he is at a total loss. So he confides in Auggie, who says, in the best fairy-tale mode, "If you buy me lunch, my friend, I'll tell you the best Christmas story you ever heard. And I guarantee that every word of it is true." And so the writer listens carefully to the smoke-shop owner's tale of a young shoplifter, a lonely blind woman, and an impromptu Christmas dinner. And even if readers have heard the tale before, they will be enraptured anew, because that's how Christmas stories work. We want to read them over and over again. And this little volume is a jewel, not only because Auster is such a dazzling and canny storyteller but also because of Argentine artist ISOL's superbly jazzy illustrations. Donna Seaman
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"Thoroughly enjoyable...Auster's subtly crafted portrayal of the mechanics of reality is eminently realistic in its complexity and flaws." --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.See all Product Description
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of what turns out to be the grandmother of our young delinquent. ( I can't tell anymore without spoiling the plot ).
Film director Wayne Wang was seduced by this little story and it was he who persuaded Paul Auster to write the script for "Smoke". (1994).
The present edition of "Auggie Wren's Christmas Story" has two parts. The first part is a kind of introduction and uses a scene from the film where Auggie shows his photo collection to Paul. Even in this introduction reality and fiction are intertwined to become one and the same.(And isn't this the true value of literature, to erase the borderline between dreams and every day reality ?).
The second part is the story like it was told by Harvey Keitel in "Smoke".
At the end Paul Auster says: " As long as there's one person to believe it, there's no story that can't be true."
The obvious similarity between Auster's story and O. Henry's "Gift of the Magi" involves the giving of gifts, one person to another, but not in the regular way we give gifts at Christmas. In this book, by a simple twist of fate, Auggie Wren, the protagonist comes upon a wallet, that was dropped. For a long time, Auggie just keeps the wallet, but eventually he attempts to give it back to its owner.
Upon arrival at the owner's house, it turns out, that he is not there at the time. However, the grandmother of the wallet owner is there. And she is blind. Yet, she allows herself to accept the visit and perhaps the spirit of Christmas by allowing Auggie to represent her grandson, as the Grandmother to believe that he is who she wishes him to be. Likewise, Auggie allows himself to accept a gift that is given in a very unusual manner.
While Auggie believes that even blind, the women knew he was not her grandson, yet she allows Auggie to act as the grandson, because that is her most personal wish at that time. In return for this favor, the grandmother in turn gives unknowingly, a gift to Auggie. Auggie though is bothered by the manner in which he acquired the gift and goes back to return it. When he arrives, the Grandmother no longer is resident at the apartment.
What actually happens to her, Auster never reveals. However, the concept of the story is tightly bound to the giving of gifts, one to another, and with the gifts, there is both sorrow and love. As each gives what they have, and each sacrifices what they have, in order to please the other.
Such is the case in this book as well. The book is highly recommemded for those who have a familiarity with "The Gift of the Magi" and also with "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens. A good familiarity with those stories enhances the reader's understanding of Auster's point.
Because of the books short text, it can be read in lest than 30 minutes, but it is strongly advised that the reader reread the book immediately after finishing it the first time, in order to get the full flavor and impact of Auster's version of Christmas.
Paul Auster, the highly regarded author, is asked to write an editorial piece which will appear on Christmas morning in the NY Times. At first Mr. Auster doesn't even want to write the article fearing he has nothing to say, but then he's worn down and agrees to do this. One thing the author knows is he doesn't want to write
anything sentimental. Readers should think of his thoughts as a non Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus. When in fact he sits down to write the article, though, he has trouble actually write this unsentimental tale. Days go by and he has nothing written on paper to show for his efforts.
Fearing he may never write this article, Mr. Auster mentions his problem one day to the man who owns a small newspaper and cigar store in his neighborhood. The man, Auggie Wren promises to tell him a Christmas story if he treats him to lunch. And so over lunch the author listens to a tale which is both sentimental and poignant which asks what does a wallet, a blind woman and a camera have to do with each other. More important than the answer which these questions raise are the more important ones like what is true, what is lying and did any or all of these events really ever happen.
This is a warm and somewhat sentimental story, despite what the author hoped for, about the spirit of the holidays in the tradition of O. Henry's Gift of the Magi. Consider buying this title for next Christmas. This book is just perfect as a holiday gift and sure to be a keeper in the future.
However, back in the day, the story was only a figment of my fevered imagination, if you searched the libraries or the internet (young then). The story had been published only once, in the New York Times, and then dropped to the bottom of the sea. Meanwhile, director Wang had gotten in touch with Auster and they had agreed to make it into a film. So it HAD to exist somewhere, right?
After digging into the internet, I located a gentleman who had published a limited edition, William Drenttel. He had published it in a small run of very nicely bound books for a lot of money, or a REALLY limited edition for well over $100.
I wrote (humbly) to him, and here is what he said:
Lori, happy to send you the text for the limited use of your reading group.
I've attached it as a Word file, as well as posted it below. Hope you have a great evening on 1/19. Best, Bill Drenttel
Published by William Drenttel New York & The Delos Press
Printed by Libranus Press, England, in an edition of 450
Story Þrst published in The New York Times on December 25, 1990.
Auggie Wren¹s Christmas Story
Illustration by Brian Cronin
So that is how my book group was able to discuss "Auggie Wren" years before this book became an affordable reality.
Of course I think it is a wonderful and complex story about growth, redemption, sadness, joy, pain, and how to move on with one's life...instruction of a sort.
Auster is brilliant, as always.