rating: 4 of 5 stars
With Man in the Dark, Auster has delivered a quiet and surreal novel. The protaganist in this tale is August Brill, a 70-something retired literary critic who is recovering from a car accident. During his recovery he is staying with his daughter and granddaughter who each have their own troubles.
I am alone in the dark, turning the world around in my head as I struggle through another bout of insomnia, another white night in the great American wilderness. Upstairs my daughter and granddaughter are asleep in their bedrooms, each one alone as well, the forty-seven-year-old Miriam, my only child, who has slept alone for the past five years, and the twenty-three-year-old Katya, Miriam’s only child, who used tosleep with a young man Titus Small, but Titus is dead now, and Katya sleeps alone with her broken heart.
To keep himself entertained during his bouts of insomnia, Brill starts telling himself a story about a man who is living in an America with an alternate history. In this other America, the US is not at war with itself but is instead engaged in a civil war. It seems that in this alternate America some of the blue states were so upset that the Supreme Court ruled that George W. Bush won the 2000 election that they secede from the United States and a civil war erupts. As the night goes on, the story that Brill creates becomes more and more intense. Part of this intensity is brought about as Brill reflects on his own life.
The book had touches of meta-fiction with the story within the story and the parallels between both. The book was very readable and I read it in pretty much one sitting (okay, I reluctantly had to set it aside to do some work). I love books with non-traditional narratives, and Man in the Dark is definitely one of those. Auster is definitely offering up an opinion about the state of politics in the U.S. with regards to the Bush administration and the war in Iraq. But, it happens to be an opinion that I agree with. I could see how someone might enjoy the book less if these aren’t their political views.
And props to Auster for including the city of Worcester, MA in this tale. 😉