Tag Archives: Paul Auster

Hot Reads!

As the holiday season looms, I find a simple mantra helps me focus on what I am going to do during my two weeks away: Read, Reflect, Recharge. My suitcase is packed for a trip to Rome and now all I need to do is choose the books to read while I am there. Here are four titles that may keep you entertained wherever you are spending your vacation.

& sons

& Sons by David Gilbert

An autopsy of rivalry and emotional pride between a father and son, as well as the son’s relationships with his siblings. You can taste the atmosphere of New York City, the poisons and fluidity of the electric jungle. Gilbert’s tale has been marinated in Philip Roth and Paul Auster, but this is no copycat of the greats. Gilbert’s version of New York City is contemporary and insightful. The American novel continues to evolve!

Dr. Sleep

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

Imagine an ice-cube being placed at the top of your back and melting down, a chill right along your spine, that is the overall effect that King has managed to achieve with this crafted tale of horror. This impressive sequel to The Shining ties up lots of loose ends left in the iconic classic.

I fell out of love with Stephen King’s writing at the end of my teenage years. I felt the excellent writing that had petrified me (The Dark Half, Carrie, Salem’s Lot and Misery) had become somewhat diluted, with throwaway novels like The Tommyknockers. Unbeknown to me, King was battling with his own demons, the white worm of cocaine and alcohol addiction.

I was suitably impressed with his pure honesty in the book/biography, On Writing. I was unsure about this sequel, but a testimonial by acclaimed writer Margaret Atwood on the cover prompted me to buy the book. I was not let down. His writing in this story is punchy, superbly edited and so terrifying that the only safe place to read it is on a beach or a sun lounger. Don’t have daymares!


Revenge by Martina Cole

A symphony of violent gangland shenanigans. I was keen to read this author as her books are bestsellers, but then again McDonald’s is also extremely popular. I did enjoy the book, but I think like McDonald’s, it is best enjoyed every now and then. An ideal easy read with a good pace. There is a lot of repetition of metaphors, but it is a great peep into criminal activity. Although I am so glad I am not a gangster…


Maggie and Me by Damian Barr

This is the biography of a gay boy growing up in Scotland in the 1980s. Barr had a tempestuous childhood, which he details in this memoir with a dry sardonic wit.

Anyone in their mid-thirties will instantaneously feel nostalgic throughout, remembering the references to popular culture. (He-man, Dynasty, Artex wall decoration) It also chronicles what life was like in the industrial areas of Britain enduring the changes wrought by Thatcherism. This book was so entertaining and emotionally charged that I read it in one sitting!

Tell us about your favourite beach-side reads in the comments below. And do be careful not to get sunscreen on the pages!


Filed under The Golden Country

Festive footle

John Maguire brings you an alternative Christmas story…

No Santa Claus, no reindeer flying on magic dust, no Christmas tree and no brightly wrapped parcels, Paul Auster’s Auggie Wren’s Christmas Story is an unconventional tale for the holiday season. A welcome relief from the yuletide overload!

auggie wren

In a modern world brimming with commercialism to the point of annoyance, the retina is force-fed a blizzard of stock images, roasting meats, joviality and merriment from October (sometimes even mid-September) onwards. A load of festive footle some may say!

Yet there can be an undercurrent of melancholia to the whole festive holiday, packaging itself neatly as perfect family unity and love for all. To put it plainly, anyone is bound to fail if measuring their world against the idealised lives bombarded and shoved in our faces through the electronic plasma 36 inch teat that flashes advert after advert in the corner of the cold dark living room.

The commercialist campaign appears to have spread to the theatres too. This year Liverpool is stuffed with Pantomimes like a gargantuan three bird roast. You may shout ‘he’s behind you’, but you wouldn’t really be able to tell, as there are so many Dames and token stock stereotypes fighting for ticket sales. The winter darkness is illuminated, bedazzled by a number of coloured lights with musical numbers blasting out from the stores and markets making the grey streets look like a perpetual MGM musical. It may detract from the double-dip recession and debts a-piling for the time being, that is until the hangover from hell in 2014.

Perhaps it won’t be the hair of the dog that’s needed then but the whole hound. You can almost hear the licking of the lips of the companies like Wonga and the rest, ready to claim their succulent prize after the New Year fizz has indeed fizzled out.

Alas, there are thankfully alternative variations of festive celebration, take The Pogues romantic tune, Fairytale of New York, for example. And there are dynamic theatres like The Lantern Liverpool with Take a Hint’s ZAGMUTH and The Unity’s collaboration with Action Transport Theatre, THE PIED PIPER, to offer a creative antidote.


An hour of time well spent over the holiday period would be to dip into Paul Auster’s utterly charming, opuscule fable, Auggie Wren’s Xmas Story.
Paul Auster was born in 1947 and studied at Columbia University, spending four years in France. A true Renaissance writer, he pens novels, poems, screenplays and translations.


Auster was challenged to come up with a short story to be published in The New York Times on Xmas day. Thus, the Auggie Wren story was born and it begins with the age-old artists’ dilemma, ‘the writer’s block’. How to write an unsentimental Christmas story? He confesses this challenge to his friend, the proprietor of a local cigar shop in Brooklyn, Auggie Wren, who boldly brags,

A Christmas story is that all? If you buy me lunch my friend, I’ll tell you the best Christmas story that you ever heard. And I guarantee every word of it is true.

Auggie Wren not only personifies the savvy New York spirit but that of all those type of characters with a passion for life. His cunning adaptability and survival instincts varnish his character with a verisimilitude that is emblematic of NYC, (and indeed Liverpool) he is a somewhat everyman figure.

As long as there’s one person to believe it, there’s no story that can’t be true.

And Auggie delivers an unsentimental but heartfelt tale, involving a lost wallet, a blind woman living in poverty and a Christmas dinner. It all gets turned upside down and nothing is what it seems. What’s stealing? What’s giving? What’s a lie? What’s the truth and how much of a story is real and how much is not?


The tale features in the cult classic SMOKE with Harvey Keitel playing Auggie Wren.


Paul Auster’s phenomenal simple story echoes the sentiment uttered in that other great American writer DR SEUSS in How The Grinch Stole Christmas,

Maybe Christmas the Grinch thought doesn’t come from a store.

grinchThis little tale embodies the true spirit of what Christmas should be and the values that should not just be for one season but a state of mind.

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Filed under The Golden Country