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 enjoy reading books that involve me completely. I agree when the writer leaves space and time to the readers, so that they can fill the gaps. Filling the gaps is a way to make the book and his contents ours. We are not passive readers, we have to feel involved and imagine to live the story that is told.

    I’ve found ”travels in the scriptorium” really interesting. It is like a travels in somebody’s mind to see how our psychology works. While I was reading some passages of the book I really felt angry with the principal character because I didn’t share his way of behave; for example, when he does nothing to know how the door works, if it is closed from the inside or from the outside. Maybe Auster wanted to underline the fear of knowing the reality around us; and sometimes I yelled to Mr Blank to stand up, go straight to the door and try to open it, so that he, but also me, can solve his dilemma.

    I don’t know my attitude toward Ballard because I’ve never read one of his book, I couldn’t know if they are interesting and if they are able to involve me. His catastrophical stories may catch my attention and do not give me the time to breath, but they may be so sad that I’m able to close the book and throw it out of the windows, I’m not very keen on stories that are terribly sad. What I know, at this very moment, is that when I finished watching the video, I had felt a sense of anguish, because I coludn’t find a logical connection in what Ballard was saying, maybe I’m stupid, but I’ve found it very confusing.

    Carla Cipolla

  2. PaulAuster2008 says:

    Dear Monica,

    As we pointed out in class, most dystopic novels raise some issues, make us think about them, but do not give us pre-packed or clear-cut answers. I agree with you when you mention that we are used to reading books with definite endings, this somehow explains why so many readers feel disoriented with some of Paul Auster’s novels.

    As Riccardo points out, even if a novel is not our cup of tea (that is it is not our favourite kind of reading!) this does not imply there are not things that are appealing and interesting in it. “Travels in the Scriptorium” is evidence of it: regardless of it being considered as a “atypical” novel (if the stick to the canon!), nobody can deny that the way it is written is not “original”, highly “experimental”, thus intriguing and involving.

    Dear Damiano,

    Your point is quite interesting. I had never seen this novel as a “pure” exercise in writing teachniques/styles.

    Dear Francesca,

    For sure you are not representative of the average Italian, you are lucky enough to attend a nice school and most of all of having a teacher of English who dogs you and makes you read books in English!!! I loved the comparison you made with Banana Yoshimoto. This is what a good reader should do. Compare and contrast, so thumb up for you. I also appreciate the fact that even if you did not like the novel so much you were so smart to look at the positive sides, instead of feeling frustrated by the reading. Another thumb up!

    Dear Carolina,

    You made me smile when you use the adjective “mentally distressing” to refer to “Travels in the Scriptorium”. You make some interesting comments and comparisons.

    Dear Marco,

    good considerations “my boy” (just to remind you of the expression used in “Animal Farm”!). :)))

    I appreciate, most of all, your considerations on dystopia: though a dystopic atmosphere is something we are entrapped in, ironically enough, we have created our own trap. Typical of human beings, it seems.

    Dear Julia,

    the fact you expected something different from the novel makes you realise and aware of the fact that when a reader starts reading a book s/he has expectations and when these are not meant, frustration follows. This is what Auster, in my opinion, wanted to achieve! Let’s put it like that: you read the novel, you did not like it and so now you know which literary genre you prefer. It is just by reading different things that we can state what we really like and why! (this is called looking at the positive side of things!)

    Dear Carla,

    You are stupid, Ballard, just like other dystopic writers, can be very disorienting. The view of the world as a chaotic and annihilating place influence the writer’s style and stories. I think you are just great because you are all reading a writer who is found “challenging” by many experienced readers. You are all doing a great job.

  3. anonimo says:

    Immediately when I recived the book ‘travels in the scriptorium’ I started reading it, because I cannot resist, I am always too curious to know what it is about..the title was so misterious! So I started reading it, but I didn’t find it sooo involving…and I put it away. Only after 2 weeks or so I continued it, and in that moment I couldn’t stop reading it! I hoped so much in an answer to all the question that I posed to mysel, but there was none to see. So I got to the last page, with no answers at all. This disappointed me, because I hate books with an unhappy end, but completely without an end, that’s too much! I think books are already involving in what concernes the story, the events, the plot, they don’t have to challenge directly the reader…this is linked to what we said today in class, why are people watching reality shows? Because in this way they can forget for a moment of their own life, and immerse themselves in another life, that is perhaps better than theirs. So the most of us like ‘complete’ stories, to forget about our present problems, to project ourselves into a different world, a world that is perhaps better than ours, or at least where sad things turn into happy ones at the very end.

    I have never read one of Ballard’s novels, but from what I understood from the video I would consider them as horror ones…I think I would feel worried and afraid reading that type of stories…For example I felt that sense of fear when I read ‘1984’ or Franz Kafka’s ‘Metamorphosis’. I felt like reading a horror story, I was anguished from it, but at the same time I loved those books and I couldn’t stop reading them. It’s such an ambiguous and strange feeling, a relationship between hate/love that is so attractive..

    Jana Stefani

  4. PaulAuster2008 says:

    Dear Jana,

    I like the expression you use to refer to your approach to the reading of certain books “a love/hate” reaction. It goes without saying that we all respond differently to a story and that we respond differently to the same novel over time (you are proof of this!). As it happens with Romanitic poets who want to awaken people from the “lethargy of custom”, Paul Auster (and many other writers) does not want to reinforce our complacencies, our sense of security, our need of peace and rest. He throws into our faces the tensions and anxiety rooted in our society and he “asks us” to stop escaping from them. He wants us to face them, because just by doing that we can change things. If we continue escaping into a utopistic dimension, things can only get worse. What better age to react to the negative “bits” if not your age?

  5. anonimo says:

    Giulia Marcassa

    I still don’t know If I liked “Travels in the Scriptorium” or not… It is a really strange book, according to Paul Auster’s mind, in my opinion (because of the story within the story, the importance of chance…). I must say thank you, because while I was reading the beginning of the book, it relaxed me so much that I risked to fall asleep many times (and that was a period in which I couln’t sleep very well, because really nervous; but Paul Auster “helped me”… )

    I’m joking, because after some pages I began to understand some things, but some points are not clear to me. Perhaps I should read the book again to understand it better, or read more reviews… But I’m not used to read books two times, or to watch films again, because life is so short and things to do are manifold.

    Really nice Hemingway’s quotation.

    I also watched the video on Ballard, even being really long… I found it really interesting… I liked the editing, the choice to show people some images of Second World War and the song used… I really appreciated to hear “The End” by The doors as background music, both because I really like that song and because it really fits the idea of apocalipse, expressed in one of Ballard’s dysopic novel. What’s so interesting about dysyopic novels?

    These tails seem often to be nonsense, but they’re really constructive, because make us reflect on the perversion of life and on justice… They’re so absurd that they eventually become true (as is happening for 1984 by George Orwell). In Ballard’s case, an environmental apocalipse is treated, and If we stop a minute, we can conclude this could be really possible. Ballard is really close to nature: the idea of the dystopia was born observing nature, landscapes and sea where he lives(so, as the interviewer says at the beginning, Ballard’s place is evocative to him as Dublin was to James Joyce). What’s more interesting about his work, is the creation of a different world, starting from a previous one, thanks to some “hidden truth”.

    I also found the connection with history really important (this link is explained also with some Twin Towers images), because our past life is the most powerful proof of the connection between the real and faint world: reality in the world has changed suddenly and this can still happen, so dystopia and our nightmares could become true and demonstrate to men that illogical things are a part of everyday life, even if hidden, perhaps.

    This gives me the shivers!

  6. anonimo says:

    J G Ballard ? in my opinion, a very strange, curious, unusual man. I found the interview with Ballard a bit disconcerting; I’ve never read a novel like the ones of Ballard yet. But now I’m very curious to know more about this genre. As a reader I used to read books like best-sellers, and all books dealing with involving love stories, or teenagers-issues, some times science fiction or crime stories; I don’t know exactly how to define this kind of books, but they are the ones that you can read when you have some hours off, or when you go to bed! “normal/ ordinary books” I don’t know! XD…..but reading authors like Paul Auster I’ve discovered a new literary world! Differences between Auster’s novels and “ordinary novels” are crystal clear!! An example: I love crime stories, because I use to identify myself with the characters of the stories, analyse the case and find out the murderer!.. but reading the stories, you can think a possible solution of the case but in the end the author gives you the answer of all the clues, and most of time destroys all your theories! That is good if you don’t want to fall asleep anguish because you don’t know how the story really ends!!! However That is exactly what happen if you read TRAVELS IN THE SCRIPTORIUM!!! Gosh! How could a story develop and finish in that way?!?!? It is obvious that when you finish it you are deeply bewildered and very angry!!! You’ve just lived a hard and pressing situation with Mr Blank for 130 pages! And you can’t get to the solution!?!?! This was my first reaction when I finished this ,by now, “legendary” book XD……. But just trying myself out with this book and experimenting this kind of feelings toward a book.. I’ve discovered another approach to the reading. By now I’m starting to appreciate this kind of stories, in which I have to give myself up into the story and live together with the characters. Paul Auster’s Travels in the scriptorium teaches me the important role that a reader has! The reader becomes an active agent , it becomes foundamental to give interpretation to what is written on the paper, wich turns into something real in the reader’s mind!

    —I’ m very interested in phsycology, and I’ve read the story of mr Blank like a travel in his erased mind; the way in which he approaches to his new reality it’s very interesting but also difficult to understand. He seem to be like a child, who has to discover step by step who he is, his body and his needs and I’ ve read those parts concerning with “bodily function” and “ sexual pleasure” just under this point of view; I wasn’t shocked by those parts because I can’t see things just like they appear so I think that they have more meanings and aims even if my 18-year-old brain can’t understand them yet. Maybe we will ask for answers directly to Mr Auster!

    Definitely I like this new way of reading that involves me complitely and gives me the opportunity to read a story under different points of view and to make my brain work to find out the phsycological aspects of characters’ mind and behaviour and even a possible end and sense of the story!! But in “travels in the scriptorium” I think, There isn’t one.. like there is not certain aswers to all questions in our life!

    —maybe I will read something by Ballard, it is onother genre that cought my attention.. expecially “Crash” that is a novel that deals with a terrible aspects of our life that are car accindents and violence; I’m curious to now why he chooses this kind of theme for his novel because I didn’t understand it very well watching the video!


  7. anonimo says:

    n30. sorry. I’m –Martina Nadal– 🙂

  8. anonimo says:

    “Travels in the Scriptorium”. I hate it. I cant’ stand a book without an end. Reading in my opinion has to be a moment of relax, the little time that I can reserve to my own pleasure, the time I can fly with my imagination in better worlds or adventuring one. Reading this book, or better, trying to read this book, is been stressful. I had to force my mind to go further, while I was reading I was telling myself “go ahead Giulia, another page, only one page”. I hate this genre of writing because makes me fell anxious and anguished. The vantage or disadvantage of my way of reading is that from the first page of a book I dive in it and I become the charachter with all his/her feelings. Wearing the shoes of Mr. Blank was a terrible experience. I feel anxious in my real life almost every day I do not want to feel anxious whenever I read, that’s the cause I hate this book. Than the end, or better, the not-end. I’m a very curious person and I do want to know the end of a story. The passage about “bodily functions” or “sexual pleasure” makes me totaly indifferent. I mean I’m not shocked by books that write about it because are normal functions of our body and how I can feel disgusted towards something that is me?

    For what concern distopic novels and others similar i’m sorry to tell you taht I hate this genre and these themes because I think that it’s sufficient to look around us to see all the ugly deeds we can find in the distopic novels. The time I spend in reding I want to read something taht bring me in another fantastic world.

    Giulia Raineri

  9. anonimo says:

    I admit that many times I thought the book was actually a porn. Well, when I finished it I understood: this book has a own genre. A book without a beginning, without a plot, but more than anything else, without an end. It’s only a day of the life of a man, who is “closed” in a jail. I like much the inner story about the confederation, where at the end you know who is the good and who the bad. However I like this book, and I started ask me this question when I finished it: “Can a man be slave of his own creations?”. I think only a person who loves his works, wants “feed and improve” them after he had thrown them in the harsh world.

    The life of Mr. Blank is like a “Truman’s show”, where the audience see any aspects of his day. It’s very similar to the “Big brother” of Orwell, only difference is that Mr. Blank doesn’t know it. Mr. Blank and Winston Smith have to live under a total control, without a way to escape.

    As for J. G. Ballard, after I have seen the profile and I have found information about him, I would like to read one of his books (I’m made curious by “The drowned world” and “The Unlimited Dream Company”), so I could evaluate him. As far as, he looks like a likeable elderly man, his works are very serious; the book which convinced me to give a chance to this author is “The drowned world”. I was charmed by the Jim Morrison’s song, which remind me the shocking film “Apocalypse Now”.

    Nicola Truant

  10. anonimo says:

    While reading it, I absolutely didn’t like the book. Every sentence I read made me more hungry, nervous and astounded, because it described a man too childish, too strange, and too idiot to be the protagonist of a book. After I finished it I didn’t change immediately my mind, but after discussing in class and after thinking by myself, I begun to appreciate it.

    Probably that’s because it’s not the right book to read if you don’t know Paul Auster. After the great image of him you gave us, reading “Travels in the scriptorium” was a disappointment. Anyway, there are some aspects of the book I liked. First of all, even if it doesn’t seem so important, I liked the style. Paul Auster writes in a very clear and simple way. He can create long sentences that, though containing different relatives, are simple.

    Secondly, I liked the fact that sometimes the infantility was so strong and evident that provoked laugh. Laugh because we see the behaviour of a baby in the body and the mind of an “old man”.

    In a certain way I liked the condition of Mr. Blank: the room, the pills, the strips of paper, the manuscripts on the desk, the closed window. They are all elements that create a mysterious atmosphere. They were the incentives to go ahead. I thought they were going to be explained at the end, but I was disappointed.

    I didn’t like the end. Auster makes you “suffer” until the end and then he leaves you without a proper end, without explaining anything.

    However I’m quite happy of having read the book, because it was a way to discover an author and a kind of novel that I didn’t known before.

    Pietro Perin

  11. anonimo says:

    I’ve read the majority of the posts written by my classmates and i was really astonished to find out they wrote the opposite of what i was told they thought about “Travels in The Scriptorium”: come on guys, you told me the novel was the worst book you had ever read and now, reading your comments, it appears to be a masterpiece of contemporary literature! I’m sorry I cannot find any either interesting or challenging or even, as some of you have asserted, “pleasant” thing in this novel, even if i tried endlessly to persuade myself it could have been a great reading!

    Maybe I’m not capable of wearing the shoes of characters when i read (although that happened to me several times while readind other books), but i can’t understand how a teenager could feel the same as Mr.Blank while reading his nonsense twirling thoughts!

    Certainly it should have been difficult for Auster to imagine a situation like the one he described in the book as, since the first pages, it’s so strange and unlikely, that in the end it reveals to be merely an author’s invention. Some of you dealt with his dystopic aspects: also analyzing this particular side of the novel it’s hard to emphasize its positive peculiarities instead of focusing on Auster’s failed attempts to recreate a dystopic situation: there are mycrophones and cameras spying on the protagoinst in every moment of his life, that’s true. But it has also to be said that a lot of dystopic features aren’t present or fully developed in the plot, starting from the protagonist, who cannot really be conscious or unconscious of his imprisonment, as he is no more a thinking man. The special treatment he is undertaking has completely cancelled his brain activity and he ridicoluosly looks like a baby with the body of an old man. The teacher said she laughed a lot at the miserable protagonist but i felt differently; at the beginning i smiled, but than, as Pirandello explained very well in his works about humour and his bitterness, i started making comparisons between Mr. Blank and truly, deeply sick old men of nowadays; the similarity between their illnesses has really erased the smile from my face. Looking at the novel from this point of view it seems even to be a mockery on old men problems, and surely Paul Auster knows that, sooner or later, those will be also part of his future!…so i really have to say i didn’t like the novel, but as Damiano pointed out, this doesn’t imply i hated it : it has been a reading which passed away as a weak breeze in my mind, without leaving anything new inside it; and mainly because of it i felt really disappointed, estimating Auster a better writer than what he revealed to be in “Travels in the Scriptorium”.

    I liked Hemingway’s sentence and i agree with it; i think he is a great writer as i’ve read some of his works. Maybe Paul Auster should read his wise advice, in order to improve is capability to “throw” the reader into his stories.

    Simone =P

  12. anonimo says:

    Here I am to explain some consideration about travels:

    Fist I want to point out that this book has instigated in me a question about post-modernism literature. I know that a book is made by the reader and not by the author because the former have to speculate about the story and made his own book. I think that the message that this book give is in contrast with the previous definition, I think that Paul Auster wants to say that the reader is a prisoner of the book and, consequentely, of the writer; is he that decides how to manipulate the heart of the reader (I think that a book should be read with the heart).

    I will now give some evidence: let’s analyse the title: the traveller is the reader that travels in an anguish space (scriptorium) so the reader is prisoner of the book and the writer; after all misadventures that Mr.Blank had passed entering into the plot Paul Auster brokes the enchantment of the book and make the reader’s heart free but with a sense of melancholy because the reader “discover” that all the book is not really, his imaginary world is only in his mind; Auster show all the power of the writer when takes the story and puts it into the story, I think he wants to say to the reader “And now? What do you do?”; I want now to focus on Mr Blank, the reader himself, the writer takes he into this “comfortable” prison and sends some characters to interact with him so the reader is entrapped into the book and cannot escape, only the reader can make he free.

    This is my key to disclose the book.


  13. PaulAuster2008 says:

    Giulia, your comment made me smile. I think you are one of the few students of mine who has watched the whole video. I know it is long, but I do think it is worth watching. As you pointed out, dystopic novels are eyeopeners, so, even if they may be perceived as too anguishing and thus disturbing, they are a must, that is they should be read in a society so much driven by consumerism, chaotic behaviour, lack of independent thought, absense of reasoning, disturbed/disturbing thoughts, etc. They are a warning, they help us (if we read them with due attention and sensitivity) understand the “hidden” aspects of our “adrift” society. I don’t think we should eschew the aberrations of our society. Doing that would imply getting used to them. I think we should face them, confront them, regardless of them being a punch in our stomach. it is just buy tackling problems that difficult situations can be changed. We are living through a “difficult” era, so we need to roll up our sleeves and react with optimism and mainly with an objective.

    Martina, schools should promote a different approach to things, by this I mean that schools should not be a replica to what you already do at home by yourselves. It is implicit that students (with the exception of a bunch of them) nowadays do not tend to go for the “demanding” reading, they opt for writers that do not make them think too much or do not challenge their view of the world, that is writers that do not question what they know and thus do not make them feel inadequate. We tend to run away from whatever we find difficult, we tend to go for the easy stuff. Well, schools should just do the opposite: make you see with new eyes and by doing that make you realize how many potentials you have as learners. I am happy to read that through the challenges of Paul Auster’s books you have discovered a new Martina, a Martina capable of appreciating a different way of reading a novel. As to why Ballard deals with certain themes: well, when we switch on the tv, or we read the newspaper, or we listen to the news on the radio, what are we confronted with? Good and reassuring news or the reverse?

    Giulia, I think dystopic novels confront you with the anguishing world you are already experiencing, but they also give you a key to it, they offer you a solution if you read them carefully. However, we will soon deal with authors that may be your cup of tea. It is impossible to find authors that appeal to all the students. I think a teacher should choose among different genres, so that students are exposed to different ways of writing.

    Dear Nicola, thanks for your brilliant links to films and other authors. The comparisons you carried out are undoubtedly interesting. Unfortunately I do not have the books by Ballard you would like to read, but I am sure you can find them at the local public library.

    Pietro, thanks for looking at the positive side of things. There are obviously things you did not like, but at least you appreciate the idea of having been asked to read something out of the ordinary.

    Dear Simone, you have given a harsh reprimand to your classmates, haven’t you? I hope you will enjoy “Man in the Dark” better, this way you will be able to forgive me for having made you read “Travels in the Scriptorium” and Mr. Auster for having written it!!!

    Dear Lorenzo, I think that the idea of the reader as a prisoner of the book and thus of the writer is quite interesting. I need to reflect upon it myself.

  14. anonimo says:


    Travels in the Scriptorium?? Sincerely, I did not like it. Maybe for the writing style of Paul Auster or maybe for the story that I’ve found not so many interesting, I think it is a book without a beginning and without an end. The story, to all appearance quite mysterious, is at the end unsolved, nearly trite. It seems that the author had a piece of story in his hands but he was not been able to create a complete plot

    Mr. Black is certainly a well rounded character but in some part of the story he looks too much absent, as if there is no one man in the tale. Paul Auster wanted to leave many “space” at the reader, but in Travels in The Scriptorium I think that he has overacted; the story is without a common thread, it is a succession of casual events: the plot, also this time, is controlled by Chance. But a Chance sometimes “controlled” and others not that is lightly trying.

    In conclusion I’m sure that Travels in the Scriptorium is not the kind of book that I like to read 😛

  15. anonimo says:

    Travels in the Scriptorium is a strange book and it doesn’t belong to a genre that I like or really appreciate. First I found really irritating the absence of inverted commas and the free indirect speech because I had to be care to understand who was talking during the dialogs. Well, this is a superficial observation, I know.

    I don’t find the passages about bodily function so disgusting but I don’t understand why there were so detailed. Who was care?

    While I was reading the book I thought that this entire novel would be only a Paul Auster’s writing exercise, in some way interesting, but just an exercise. Well, the idea of the metafiction is pretty but it seems to be a Paul Auster’s foible because also Man in the Dark is a metafiction.

    In class you said that Paul Auster’s reader can only love or hate his books. I don’t really hate this book, I’ve read worse books, but I also don’t love it. Even if it has some features of dystopic novel (that is a genre that I like) I don’t find this book particularly interesting: well there are some interesting hints that made the reader think, but only if he pay attention.

    Anyway I don’t think it was a waste of time reading the book: I discover another genre, another author and that is important. Maybe in some years I would read it again and maybe I would appreciate the book more.

    Federica Battistin

  16. anonimo says:

    Travels in the Scriptorium is a very strange book. Auster spins the metaphysical fable of Mr. Blank, an old man who awakens in an unfamiliar chamber with no memory of who he is or how he has arrived there. As he pores over the relics on the desk, examining the circumstances of his confinement and searching his own hazy mind for clues, he realizes someone is watching… I love the story with action and funny scenes, but in this book I try to understand who Mr Blank was before and what he have done… I don’t love and I don’t hate Pauol Auster’s work… I prefer the story with a conclusion (it’s better if it is happy) and I hope to know better the Paul Auster’s mind and ideas…

    Federico Plazzotta

  17. anonimo says:

    Sincerely, I don’t know if I liked this book. Because there are a lot of things that I don’t appreciate and some things that make me curious.

    I didn’t like the meticulous description of “bodily functions” or “sexual pleasure”. I admit that these functions are everyday in our life but I don’t see the necessity to describe these so perfectly.

    Another aspect that made me nervous is that this book hasn’t an end. I’ve understood what Auster wanted to do and I don’t criticize him. But if I haven’t to read this book, maybe, I hadn’t read it. Like Giulia R. I like travel with my imagination in other place with an other “Laura” when I read. I like to give an end to my imagination and my travels…and here there isn’t an end. There is free interpretation, free power to create a story…but if I read a book…it is because I want to read something in which I recognize myself . But if I would create a story there wasn’t the necessity to read a book…you writing and stop!…also Auster gives some limits and you are obliged to imagine with scales: isn’t imagination. isn’t freedom to elaborate a thought. so this is the cause that I don’t like books and films without an end.

    A thing that I very liked is the sense of mystery in every page. I’m keen on of thrillers and mystery stories, because I like find the solution, the truth of what happens. And not finding a solution or an answer, mystery won’t be resolve like in this book…and this make me nervous!=)..

    Laura Sist

  18. anonimo says:

    “Travels in the Scriptorium” is an interesting book that should be read within its context, in my opinion. It was designed for one purpose (ex. a literary exercise) and it would not be appropriate to cross this threshold. The

    techniques through which it was written are numerous, and all respectable. I agree with Federica B. in saying that the inverted comas help the reader, and that is one more effort, but I think this an original way to make direct speech! (I had never read a book like this.)

    as far as Mr. Blank, I see it as an odd character, but well described, in which I identified myself, in most part of text (of course this is not true for most sexual, because others had already told me what happened …) Initially the finish left me a little bit confused, do not expect me, and it was a surprise: personally I prefer books that have a linear structure, rather than the those one a “circle”. After all it is important to read different

    genres of writing, in order to create my own way to write.

    Althought I prefer books where my imagination could be free to expand and embrace the world described. A book is right for me when it flows over me, without being conscious.

    “Travels” was a good book to the point of view of learning but it is certainly not my ideal reading.

    Matteo Cervesato

  19. anonimo says:

    I think that ”Travels in the Scriptorium”is a book with a really strange type of costruction. I m sure that before read this book I had never read something like this and, for this reason,i have found it quite interesting although it is certainly not my favourite book. During the reading i have trying to understand the sense of this book because i think that it is impossile to stop at a first reading of it but more i went on in the reading and more it seems to be so absurd.

    i don’ t like the end of the book because there is not an end of it and although this is a choice of Auster i disagree with it because lets the alone of mistery presents in all the book and does not solve it.


  20. anonimo says:

    The thing which struck me most of “Travels in the Scriptorium” was the end of the novel, for several reasons: first of all because (whether you like the plot or not), continuing with the story, the reader is intrigued and began to ask thousand questions, just as Mr. Blank, but then he is interrupted by a drastic end, which solves almost all the doubts born while reading; then because even to the reader, as Mr. Blank, seems to be imprisoned in the room and at the same time you feel powerless (and this is a dystopian aspect).

    The post-modernist techniques make us think that not only Mr. Blank is manipulated by its creator (Auster), but also the reader, because it is being captured by the mechanism of writing.

    As for the description of bodily functions and sexual references, I think that they are part of the modernist technique: the narrative is quite intimate and personal, is not subject to censorship, it is as if we had free access to the mind of Mr. Blank, and we can see what he thinks about anything (and then to have a 360° description of the character, unlike a canonical narrative).

    Federica Cozzarin

  21. anonimo says:

    “Travels in the Scriptorium” is a meta-literary novel, in which the protagonist is a writer, a reader and a character at the same time. Once again Paul Auster demonstrates his interest in introspection and analysis of the meaning of writing and his creative power. The reader is captured inside the story, but slowly he become aware of not having any reference point and he began to understand the true message of the novel. The meaning is not in the story, but it is the act of narration. The author examines and describes a simple place in a precise way, almost obsessive. The detailed description of a closed and isolated room projects the story in a timeless dimension that represents the immortality of literature (in fact the characters of the book are immortalized by writing). Another interesting aspect is that of dystopia, linked with the presence of the video-camera and the microphone, which control Mr.Blank all the time.

    I do not know what to think about this book. Even if I liked the post-modernist idea, I think that this is a book without any intention to explain or teach; it left many opened “food for thought” and questions unanswered… I think that this novel is a sort of “whim” of the author, who did not want to communicate anything, but only to give rise to doubts, to make us think about unanswered reflections.


  22. MicheleDB says:

    I do not retain Travels in the Scriptorium is a literary exercise; is a strange book, of course, but after reading Man in The Dark, I think this style belongs to Paul Auster. Events are narrated and stopped several times, with notes, thoughts and sometimes you lose the thread of discourse because you are lost in the story and in the succession of events, too. Moreover the novel within the novel (meta-novel) is a thing that leave you thrilled, amazed.

    The part I like the most is the novel read by Mr. Blank and it is symptomatic the fact that we, as Mr. Blank, don’t know who is the protagonist, whether he is identifiable with Mr. Blank or not. So I value less important and a little superfluous the background, the place where the main story is set. Similarly, the dystrophic element did not find a lot of space in the novel both because was Mr. Blank that who chose the room and because he often forget to ask if he is imprisoned or not.

    I preferred to give my opinion after some weeks, because my firsts thoughts where against this novel whereas the following impression were closer to what I think now. Me too, initially I find horrible this novel also because it was the first time I ever read something similar but in the end I am able to appreciate the work of Paul Auster.

  23. PaulAuster2008 says:

    Dear Federica (n.39),

    I really love your attitude. You can find a positive side even in something you did not really like. Thanks for you review. I appreciated it.

    Laura, as you point out, different writers appeal to different readers. We all expect different things from a book and this is what makes reading so great (and on the part of the writer, writing so intrinsically enigmatic, challenging, mysterious). Lots of writers do not provide the reader with a clear-cut or precise ending or a clear interpretation of their work. Unfortunately we have not been able to deal with lots of writers since the amount of time allotted to English is too limited to cover a “substantial” range of authors. There are different reasons why a writer does not want to provide an ending to the story. Perhaps there is no ending to provide, since the work mirrors the writer’s view of life and human existence (no answers are given to us, do you remember the works by Shakespeare we analysed last year?); perhaps the writer wants to create anxiety and frustration in the reader; perhaps the writer wants to leave the work open to another sequel; perhaps the author want to invite the reader to imagine his/her own ending to the story, on the basis of what s/he has grasped of it, etc.

    JUST VERY FEW OF YOU WROTE SOME COMMENTS ON BALLARD’S VIDOECLIP. Does this mean you have not watched it? Does it mean you didn’t like it?

  24. anonimo says:

    After reading the first few lines of Paul Auster’s novel “Travels in the Scriptorium” I was immediately caught from hundreds and hundreds of different questions. Who is the man sitting on the bed?Where is he?Why is he there?

    Paul Auster uses a particular technique that involves the reader: he is faint and imprecise in the description of Mr. Blank. I think that he tells us irrelevant and not essential things to understand the continuing of the story and the reader does not have the possibility to resolve the puzzled plot.

    The fact that the reader has to finish the story, as Mr. Blank is asked to is quite interesting and makes in this way the reader active,involved and witness.

    I have never read one of Ballard’s novels but when i read words that Ballard said about Earth(He defines Earth as the only alien planet) i made a connection between Paul Auster and Ballard.

    They both each other talk about strange things and extreme situations:for example floods and car accidents.

    Anyway they are great writers.


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