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Winter Journal Hardcover – Aug 7 2012

4 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: McClelland & Stewart; 1st Edition edition (Aug. 7 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0771009046
  • ISBN-13: 978-0771009044
  • Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 2.3 x 21.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 340 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #192,214 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"Surely one of the most interesting writers of our time." -- Montreal Gazette 

"A literary genius, capable of writing the most complex book possible, yet never losing the reader's intense interest..." --Deseret Morning News

About the Author

PAUL AUSTER is the bestselling author of Sunset Park, Invisible, Man in the Dark, The Book of Illusions, and The New York Triology, among many other works. His books have been translated into forty-three languages. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By John Kwok TOP 500 REVIEWER on Oct. 24 2012
Format: Hardcover
"Winter Journal" is replete with Paul Auster's exceptional prose; a memoir that will remind his most devoted fans of his fiction. However, for those seeking to understand his literary craft, they won't find it in this mercifully terse memoir. In a year that has seen the publication of very good to great autobiographical essay collections from the likes of Rick Moody ("On Celestial Music: And Other Adventures in Listening") and William Gibson ("Distrust That Particular Flavor"), "Winter's Journal" reads as a work of nonfiction in which the author seems more intent in displaying his literary craft, not in offering readers something fascinating and profound of note with regards to understanding that author's entire body of work. Both Moody and Gibson's recently published books give readers ample opportunities to understand them both as people and as writers; instead, I think some will be as bewildered as I was upon finishing "Winter Journal", which I must regard as an enigmatic work of nonfiction written by someone often hailed as among our finest contemporary American writers of fiction. In stark contrast with Auster, I have derived better understanding of the personal motivation behind the literary craft of writers as diverse as Michael Chabon ("Maps and Legends"), Jonathan Franzen ("The Discomfort Zone"), and Pete Hamill ("A Drinking Life"), as well as Rick Moody and William Gibson, from reading their memoirs and nonfiction.Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Potato on Sept. 8 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Very free prose, somewhat different from his fictional work, but at the same time one could see how he drew his experiences from his life into his mainstream work, how his real life is as exciting as the lives of the protagonists in his novels.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Annette Boudreau on Aug. 30 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have all of Auster's novels on my shelf and have enjoyed them all greatly, but I believe this one 'Winter Journal' is his masterpiece. I know i will read it again and again.
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By willow on April 19 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
I have never read Paul Auster before so have nothing in his writings to compare it to. I thoroughly enjoyed it. His sparse prose has no wasted words yet to me was filled with emotion. Using his residences over the years as an entrance into different periods of his life was a very successful device.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 98 reviews
52 of 57 people found the following review helpful
Left Me Breathless-A Middle-Age Must-Read July 10 2012
By Avid Reader - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Winter Journal is indeed a journal - a somewhat limited scope style of memoir, however its appeal is anything but limited in scope. It is a not a full-blown memoir, because it is a somewhat generalized stock-taking from the point of view of a mid-sixties-ish Jewish man living in Brooklyn (Mr. Auster): a review of salient themes from the past, undertaken with a view to the future - and weighs in at a relatively slim 230 pages. The scope is Mr. Auster's entire life: from his earliest memories to the moment he removes the nib of his fountain pen from the paper he writes on, with a sometimes staccato and unpredictable selection of moments in between.

There are three sections which serve as themes that I discern, roughly: the body; places; relationships. Each one, while providing part of a united whole, stands somewhat independently, taking the reader on a ride that can be on the surface (I dare not say 'superficial' which none of them are) perhaps consisting lists of favorite childhood candies, uses for one's hands, which on their face might be superficial, but are extremely evocative; or deep, very deep, to the essence of that most basic of questions: who am I; what made me; how do I measure up, whether as a driver, a man, a human being. The detail with which the reader is drawn along is incredible, and is assembled like a Swiss watch: note, for example, that there is virtually no description of a woman who figures in the chronology over a long period, whether of physical attributes or personality (wife #1), but we are given a strong sense of wife #2 who endures.

The story that is told is so true, so real, that any reader who has reached middle age cannot fail to be moved by it. And it is absolutely provocative, in the sense that it provides a framework of sorts, for the kinds of thoughts and reminiscences that middle-aged people have. It can take your breath away. Really.

Winter Journal is one of those rare books that you really look forward to sitting down and reading; I finished it in a few days, during my rare free time. But in between, I thought about it, which reinforced my desire to get back to reading it. If I had the time, I could have read it through in one sitting.

I really give the book four and three-quarter stars, would have given it five, but my reading reverie was diluted in two places, most especially in the nearly ten page recounting of the plot of the 1950 film D.O.A., with which I confess I became slightly bored, and towards the end with the lengthy discussion of the Minnesota branch of his family (in-laws), both of which do inspire the reader and the second of which helps wind down the book, but which have more significance and import to Mr. Auster and his family.

Thank you, Mr. Auster.
25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Subtle, powerful July 19 2012
By Brad Teare - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
This extremely readable memoir artfully blends the mundane, such as lists where the author lived, with the revelatory, an epiphany while watching a troupe of dancers. There are brief moments where the curmudgeon intrudes, the type who believes the world would be a utopia if everyone conformed to certain ideals. In such moments we glimpse the person Auster would have become had he not met and fell in love with his wife. But Auster himself seems relieved he never succumbed to such a transformation. I admire the author's willingness to record the weaker side of himself (which he does without becoming confessional or trite). Had he not been so honest his story would have been less compelling.

At the heart of the book is an implied yet profound paean for his intelligent and erudite wife who in some ways is the invisible force breathing life into the narrative. Finding such satisfaction becomes a metaphor for Auster's artistic life and his affection lightens writing that otherwise might have been ponderous.

If you have difficulty getting through the occasional lists (I found them interesting but I'm sure some won't) do yourself a favor and press on until the Minnesota visits. They are well told vignettes and an excellent complement to the New York episodes. The powerful zenith of the narrative, the event with the dancers and a trip to Germany, is just around the corner.

I highly recommend this readable and thought provoking memoir.
39 of 47 people found the following review helpful
Notes Toward a Memoir: Paul Auster's Winter Journal July 25 2012
By Brendan Moody - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
The cover copy describes this as an "unconventional memoir in which [Auster] writes about his mother's life and death." Which is true, but only up to a point. There is one section that deals particularly with the life and death of Auster's mother, but it takes up only about 35 of 230 pages. That material, which also appeared in Granta 117, is easily the strongest in WINTER JOURNAL. Poignant, vivid, imbued simultaneously with his sense of his mother's individual tragedy and his awareness that on another level she must always remain a mystery to him, it's a model of the personal essay. Unfortunately, what surrounds it is (barring a charmingly sentimental description of his second marriage) formless, frequently dull recollections that neither capture Auster's visceral experience nor reveal anything about the human condition. It's all well-written on a basic level, full of long sentences that flow naturally and are never difficult to parse, but beyond that ease of reading there are few rewards.

In Michael Chabon's WONDER BOYS, a character critiques the protagonist's still-incomplete gargantuan novel by suggesting that the inclusion of such details as "the genealogies of the horses" represents an inability to focus. WINTER JOURNAL is very short, but betrays a similar failure of focus. Nearly 60 pages are given over to a descriptive list of Auster's 21 permanent addresses over the years. There's also a catalog of scars and the stories behind them. Of course one appreciates the intimations of mortality and resulting reflections on the past that drove Auster to make these lists, but for readers lacking their own intimations and reflections, the resonance of this journal may be minimal. None of the homes and scars and snacks are described intensely enough for them to live on in the reader's mind as they do on Auster's, and so they are easily forgotten when another topic juts into frame. There is something to be said for an unconventional, unstructured approach to memoir, but there's also something to be said for a center of gravity, without which such a book becomes a weightless series of reminiscences. For admirers of Auster, especially those interested in his life, and for those who like him are inspired by middle age to consider the sheer vastness of a single life, WINTER JOURNAL may be worth an afternoon's perusal; for others, there is no particular reason to read it at all.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Entering the winter of your life July 12 2012
By The Ginger Man - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
The beginning of Auster's Journal is a beautiful elegy on aging, memory and the relationship of body and spirit. Auster recounts an intensely personal journey with painfully acquired wisdom and intimations of mortality. He distills in words his "catalog of sensory data" as the book becomes a gift by a beloved author to readers who may be entering a similar stage of life.

In the early pages of Winter Journal, Auster tells of childhood injuries; the scars of which he still carries. What is striking is how well Auster renders the impersonal concreteness of events and suggests that the injuries that we unknowingly escaped may have been far more formidable than those endured. Also recounted are brief moments of remembered weather, illnesses huge and physical indignities small and the joy of playing baseball ("Never a dull moment, in spite of what critics of the game might think.") The car accident that represented his family's instantaneous transition from the quotidian to the cataclysmic is described as well ("as if Zeus had hurled a lightning bolt at you and your family.")

As he moves deeper into the book, the author loses focus a bit from his intended "phenomenology of breathing." But whether listing memories from each of his personal residences, remembering the death of his mother or describing why the film noir movie DOA represents a touchstone for an event in his life, Auster remains interesting, engaging and personal.

A journal can be forgiven for being a bit uneven and episodic. But even with these shortcomings, this small book left me wiser and more a part of my own life than I was when I opened it to begin reading. Its impact may have been heightened for me because of my age and a brush with mortality of my own just this year. But for those readers who have difficulty identifying with Auster's Journal, I recommend carefully considering the deep truths implicit in the book's opening sentence: "You think it will never happen to you, that it cannot happen to you, that you are the only person in the world to whom none of these things will ever happen, and then, one by one, they all begin to happen to you, in the same way they happen to everyone else."
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Paul Auster's Winter Journal: A Life History Tinged with Mortality Oct. 13 2012
By T. M. Johnson - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
You are swept along by Auster's candid and well-written memoir. Winter Journal begins with events that sere your memory: the wounds that scar your body--each has its story. You are six years old...ten...twelve and even in your sixties you recall with stark clarity each bloody incident. Auster points out memory is a curious thing; certain childhood events it imprints indelibly.

The author elects to write his memoir in the second person--and to great effect. Whereas the introspective, egocentric first person focuses the reader's attention on the narrator, Auster's more familiar "you" invites his audience to reflect on their own experiences, whether they are similar to the author's or not. And in this way the memoirist opens his life to you.

Auster moves next from the flashbacks of youth to lodging, the many places he resided during his restless years (New Jersey, Carmen Hall, Columbia U., Manhattan, Paris...) and uses their addresses as points of reference to chronicle the events and experiences that occur during his stay at each.

Because we are biological creatures, coming of age and sex are significant milestones in our lives. Auster shares his experiences and intimate relationships in this rite of passage openly, yet tactfully. The death of a parent is a biological passage, too, and it is here the thread of mortality enters the memoir. The author's account of the sudden, untimely death of his mother from a heart attack (Auster had had a phone conversation with her just three days prior) is tender, touching,--and horrifying. Auster receives a phone call from his mother's cleaning woman who had let herself into the apartment and discovered his mother dead. An hour and half later Auster is at her bedside. As he looks upon his mother in death, Auster shares this heartrending observation: "You have seen several corpses in the past and you are familiar with the inertness of the dead, the inhuman stillness that envelops the bodies of the no longer living, but none of these corpses belonged to your mother, no other dead body was the body in which your life began...."

Auster grieves her death by trying to reconstruct the person he believed his mother to be and realizes, as most of us will, that though our parents are pivotal in our lives, perhaps we don't know them as well as we think. Some parts of their lives, their thoughts, remain mysteries; they withhold certain secrets and these they take to their graves.

The author concludes his memoir with allusions to the Twin Towers and the death camp Bergen-Belsen, both of which remind us of the capriciousness of life, its randomness, its fragility--its finality. Auster poses the personal but universal question more commonly pondered by those of us of his generation: "How many mornings do I have left?" Winter Journal is a wonderfully written memoir, honest in its telling, thought-provoking in its content.