Hear Paul Auster Read the Entirety of The Red Notebook, an Early Collection of Stories

Nov­el­ist, screen­writer, poet, and trans­la­tor Paul Auster has carved out a place for him­self over the past sev­er­al decades as a decid­ed­ly writer’s writer, a Brook­lyn Borges of a sort, whose metafic­tion­al tales are often intri­cate­ly con­struct­ed sto­ries with­in sto­ries (with­in sto­ries). Auster is also known for writ­ing and co-direct­ing (with Wayne Wang) 1995 sleep­er indie hit Smoke, a film about the denizens of a Brook­lyn cig­ar shop. As with much of Auster’s fic­tion, a cen­tral char­ac­ter in Smoke is a bro­ken-heart­ed, soli­tary writer (played by William Hurt). Auster’s 2002 nov­el The Book of Illu­sions is cen­tered around a sim­i­lar char­ac­ter, a writer deep in mourn­ing. On April 11, 2001, Auster stopped by the Kel­ly Writ­ers House at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia to give a read­ing from The Book of Illu­sions. Below, you can hear him read the first two pages of the nov­el:

The com­plete UPenn event, includ­ing intro­duc­tion and a lengthy read­ing from the sec­ond chap­ter is avail­able here.

Penn Sound, which hosts the above read­ing, also has audio of Auster read­ing the entire­ly of an ear­ly col­lec­tion of sto­ries, The Red Note­book: True Sto­ries, at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Buf­fa­lo in April of 1995. Auster has argued that fic­tion is “mag­nif­i­cent­ly use­less,” but valu­able nonethe­less for the joy it brings both writ­ers and read­ers. In The Red Note­book he nar­rates what he claims are true events from his life. The col­lec­tion is divid­ed into four short sec­tions: “The Red Note­book,” “It Don’t Mean a Thing,” “Acci­dent Report,” and, the final nar­ra­tive, “Why Write?” His answers to this final question–whether they’re real­ly “true” or just mag­nif­i­cent­ly use­less inventions–show us sur­pris­ing coin­ci­dences and odd pat­terns in the seem­ing­ly ran­dom busi­ness of dai­ly life. Lis­ten to the first install­ment below. You can find the com­plete audio, with intro­duc­tion by Robert Cree­ley, here.

Penn Sound is a “cen­ter for pro­grams in con­tem­po­rary writ­ing” at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia and fea­tures a large archive of record­ed audio and video read­ings and dis­cus­sions on con­tem­po­rary poet­ry, fic­tion, and more.

The read­ing of The Red Note­book appears in our col­lec­tion of Free Audio Books.

Josh Jones is a doc­tor­al can­di­date in Eng­lish at Ford­ham Uni­ver­si­ty and a co-founder and for­mer man­ag­ing edi­tor of Guer­ni­ca / A Mag­a­zine of Arts and Pol­i­tics.

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