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Hand to Mouth:
A Chronicle of Early Failure

by Paul Auster

ISBN 0805054898 / 9780805054897 / 0-8050-5489-8
Publisher Holt Paperbacks
Language English
Edition Softcover
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Book summary

It's no wonder that Paul Auster (The Music of Chance, Leviathan, Mr. Vertigo) creates such singular characters. While his youth comprised a series of failures too unbelievable for fiction, it also equipped him with a range of experiences to draw from that most fiction writers only dream of. He worked with Bowery bums at a summer camp, had a childhood friend join the Weather Underground, and was a student at Columbia in 1968 at the height of the student uprisings there (and at which point, he boasts, he knew seven of the FBI's ten most wanted men). He worked on an oil tanker, for a French Mafia-style film producer in Paris, and for a rare-book organization in New York. He translated the North Vietnamese constitution from French into English (don't ask). His work brought him in contact to varying extents with Jean Genet, Mary McCarthy, Jerzy Kosinski, Sartre, Foucault, and John Lennon. The encounters and experiences must have been fascinating, failure aside, but Auster's prose here, sadly, lacks the tightness and luster of his fiction. The remainder--and major portion--of the volume consists of three plays, a baseball card game, and a detective novel, all written during this time. [via]