Paul Auster's novel, Invisible, is a novel within a novel about a man who yields his memoir, not quite finished before his death, to an old friend, a famous writer, who pieces things together in a patchy, start-and-stop, but ultimately satisfying way.
In this Auster book there are some of the strengths that Auster often builds out of his weaknesses. One of the key characters, a Frenchman named Born, is elusive, violent, something of an ubermench, and ultimately a bit fuzzy. But without him…no story. He has to get into our protagonist's, Adam Walker's, life and prompt Walker to mount an elaborate attempt to take revenge on Born, but not before he has had (or has he?) a powerful incestuous relationship with his sister.
I say "powerful" because the development of this relationship and its multi-year execution has a certain fatal plausibility about it. Whether it actually happened or not is another story…or a story Invisble eventually tells two different ways.
Ancillary characters are similarly hard to pin down--a French lover, a young French girl who falls in love with Walker, the girl's mother, and the novelist to whom Walker bequeaths his incomplete manuscript.
The novel comes in pieces, some keyed to seasons, others built on general recollections, others diary entries by the young French girl when she is a middle-aged woman.
This jerkiness is moderated by Auster's smooth, economical prose and his exceptional talent for dialogue that is clipped and yet telling.
The key premises of the book--Born's monstrousness, the incestuous affair--are necessary to creating the "Auster effect," which is a noirish sort of writing wherein the certain and uncertain overlap.
I'd recommend reading Invisible because it is engaging, vivid, and so smoothly rendered. Lots is "told" not "shown," but this doesn't seem to matter. From time to time Auster's phrasing is hackneyed; close your eyes before turning some of its pages and imagine how the sentence you've been reading will end: more than likely, you'll get it exactly right. Still, this is an ambitious, semi-realistic tale that's wholly absorbing.
Causes Robert Earle Supports
World Wildlife Fund