Food for thought (Travels in the Scriptorium)

auster450I like this caricature of Paul Auster.  I will use it whenever I want to give you some "food for thought" linked to things we debated over in class.

We discussed about some interesting points in "Travels in the Scriptorium".  Some of you liked the novel, others hated it, especially for the passages about "bodily functions" and "sexual pleasure".  We still need to "dig in" and compare ideas and reactions.  Our starting point was to highlight the following trends present in this novel: modernism, post-modernism, dystopia, metafiction, intertextuality.  All these terms should be clear by now, but if they aren’t, please let me know.  I then mentioned the reader’s theory (reader-response criticism) and Roland Barthes’s essay "Death of the Author" , just to point out the paramount role played by the reader in constructing meaning.  We saw that in "Travels in the Scriptorium" Auster involves the reader in the process of investigation and asks the reader to continue the story, finish it, modify it, as the character himself Mr. Blank is asked to. 

Yesterday I was reading a book on creative writing and I found this interesting quotation by Hemingway, writing of the practice of fiction.  I would like to share it with you since I think it really fits the journey we have undertaken with this blog.

You have the sheet of blank paper, the pencil, and the obligation to invent truer than things can be true … to take what is not palpable and make it completely palpable and … have it seem normal … so that it can become a part of the experience of the person who reads it. travels

Writing and reading are collaborative acts in the making and performance of space-time.  Readers participate; they become, partly, writers.  They will take part, consciously and unconsciously, in a literary creation, and live their life in tht moment and at that speed – while they are reading. If matters are left unexplained, untold, then inquiring readers will lean towards that world.  Readers fill in the gaps for themselves, writing themselves into that small universe.  The reader is active, as a hearer and a witness.

So fill in the gaps, guys, and do not be irritated by the things Paul Auster does not tell us!

When reading "Travels in the Scriptorium" I could find some links with another dystopic novel that I would like to mention and refer to as soon as we get to deal with Orwell, Huxley and Bradbury.  The novel I am referring to is "High-rise" by J.G. Ballard  and it is a sort of modern fable, a commentary on the hideous possibilities of advanced technology and the rat-like nature of trapped human beings.  Just as it happens with Auster, Ballard contrives to unsettle and tease the reader and in the novel unease is created and thus perceived by the reader.  Should you have any time and should you be particularly hooked by dystopic fiction, then have a go with Ballard.  I can lend it to you if you wish.  Ballard defines Earth as the "only alien planet".  He is a very controversial writer, if you wish to get to know something about him, click on the link below (BBC Profile: J.G. Ballard talks to critic Tom Sutcliffe about his life and work).

Leave your empowering considerations!  I am eager to read some of your responses to this first "food for thought" session.  As you can see, there are no guiding questions this time.  You can express your thoughts freely!!!  I am sure the things I wrote will trigger some "fizzy" reaction. 


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52 Responses to Food for thought (Travels in the Scriptorium)

  1. anonimo says:

    I think this is the strangest book I’ve ever read.. The beginning caught me completely, I was curious and going on reading made me even more curious, but at a certain moment I started to get bored because I understood things didn’t seem to change any longer.. I think Auster has an interesting way of writing: he doesn’t care about anything, he describes “reality” as well as it is. Perhaps I’m ignorant but it is the first time I read an author who constantly writes about.. well.. things we do in our everyday lives.. in a certain room.. (it is difficult even here for me!!) or even worse! Anyway, I must admit those things made me.. laugh?!!? And perhaps made the narration more “charming” in a sense that you would like to know till where the author is able to go 🙂

    However, what disturbed me the most was the ending of the story: it’s absurd the way you involve readers and at the same time “slap their faces”. I disagree with what is said before. Not all of us are able or want to create a final by ourselves. Sometimes we want to read just in order to relax our brain, to keep far from our problems flying away with our mind into a world already set by another person, who is able to do it better than you. I want to underline the fact that this doesn’t happen constantly, but it happens and if you are like that you get disappointed (and would really love to through the book out of the window!).

    For what Ballard is concerned, I agree with the fact that he is similar to Paul Auster in some of his pessimistic visions of the world, but I don’t think Auster is that bad! 🙂 Defining our world the only “alien” one is an exaggeration: we are not only car crashes, wars or bad people in general and I think Mr Auster understands that!

    –Maiutto Jessica–

  2. anonimo says:

    Food for thought (Travels in the Scriptorium)

    Well, “Travels in the Scriptorium” could have been a beautiful, pleasant and interesting book for my classmates, but not for me. Since I started reading, I was astonished by what I was reading, I’m not referring to the passages about “bodily functions” or “sexual pleasure”, I’m talking about the way he wrote the book. It was not easily understandable, nether readable. I’m not exaggerate if I say that “Travels in the Scriptorium” is one of the worst book I have ever read. I completely agree with Simone when he said “Maybe I’m not capable of wearing the shoes of characters when I read (although that happened to me several times while reading other books), but I can’t understand how a teenager could feel the same as Mr.Blank while reading his nonsense twirling thoughts!”.

    I understand that Auster deals with complex themes, but it was very hard for me to understand every passage. I’m really sorry when I say that I do not like his books (as I said for the movies). It could have been also the fact that I do not like this kind of book. I mean, introspective books never fascinated me, I tried to approach this book in a neutral way, but, as I already told you, I was already conditioned by my thoughts.

    However I liked Hemingway’s quotation. It’s true that a writer needs sheets of blank paper and a pencil but he mostly have to have the capability of writing everything and making it true (“the obligation to invent truer than things can be true”)

    I’m sorry if I didn’t give you the feedback before but in this months I have had some problems so I couldn’t answers the post in time. I’m sorry.

    Elena Poles

  3. anonimo says:

    I think Travels in the scriptorium is the strangest book I have ever read,as jessica says at the beginning it is intriguing and it really catches the reader,but in the end it may seem quite disappointing,in fact there isn’t an end,the readers will never know what happen to the characters.when I finished the book i was quite annoyed but in class and during the interesting interview with Paul Auster =) I understood the technique and the stylistical choice of the author. even if i don’t like those kind of books I must admit it has an original style.Another thing that stroke me in a negative way when I read the book were the description and the frequent references to physiological functions,I found them useless to the narration but after the interview,which I found really enlightening ,I understood that Paul Auster wants to describe every aspect of the reality without hiding concealing the things that are still taboos in our society,this is humankind,i appreciated his answer, that makes me revalue this work even though it won’t become one of my favourite of the things I learned from Dedica experience is that as readers we don’t have to stop to appearences we have to dig into books and understand that even a single comma has a deep meaning,and this is what happened to me with Travels in the scriptorium,every situation is useful to understand the psychological condition of Mr Blank.

    About Ballard’s videoclip,I think he points out some important issues and themes in his works that should be taken into consideration by young people,high rise should be interesting it shows bad consequences that can arise because of our not responsible behaviour.I like authors like Ballard because they show a great sensibility,they foresee a future that we normally don’t consider,we don’t think to the consequences of our actions,I think that books like that can give some food for thought to absent-minded and inattentive people as I am.

    Montrasio Valentina

  4. PaulAuster2008 says:

    Jessica, you pointed out clearly what you think the differences and similarities between the two writers are. As Giulia, you initially found the novel strange, but you both appreciated the narrative style. As to feeling annoyed by the way the novel ends, well, I think this is the main difference between Auster and other contemporary writers. He does not interpret fiction as a way out of our reality, existence, it is not evasion. He thusts reality (with its ups and downs, positive and negative aspects, hopes and dilemmas, dreams and nightmares) into your face and you either accept it or decide to put his books aside.

    Elena, no need to apologise. Perhaps one of your problems was to “digest” the book, so this is the reason why it took you so long to write your post! I appreciated it because you are frank and straighforward. This is the reaction that we get when we read literature: we get to understand better what is meant for us as readers and we reject what we do not feel suitable for our reading taste! Go on reading what you like, as long as you read!

    Valentina, I am happy to read that you learnt such an important lesson: reading hones our interpretation and evalutation skills. I deem it obligatory to develop these skills at school. If you do not do that at school you will not ever to it. I don’t think you are either an absent-minded or inattentive person. I esteem you a lot, so I can’t agree with you on this aspect. I think, as you beautifully point out, that writers like Ballard and Auster force you to take a different look at things. Obviously you can’t read them only, you need to find a balance between the all-positive approach of certain writers and the dystopic view you find in Ballard and in “the Country of Last Things” by Auster.

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