Fans of the writer Paul Auster know an enormous amount about him. His novels often draw on autobiographical details, and he has written five books that are explicitly about his own life.
Last year, he published a memoir called Winter Journal that tells the story of his life through the story of his own body — every scar and blemish. Now Auster has published a companion autobiography of his intellectual self, called Report from the Interior.
In it, he explores his education and maturation from within his own mind. The book is narrated in the second person, as if the reader is the author. Paul Auster sat down with NPR's Arun Rath to talk about his new book.
On the purpose the book
I'm really trying to dredge up what one might call intellectual and moral material. For example, when do you realize that you are an American? What age does that happen to you? When do you realize what religion your parents practice? When does it all become conscious? I was interested in exploring all of that.
On remembering childhood
It's hard to explain. I think you go into a kind of trance, thrusting yourself back in time and trying to get into your little person's mind and body again. It's not quite like hypnotizing yourself, but a different state of mind than normal thinking or remembering.
Listen, if you don't really do it, do the job of telling and exploring even uncomfortable zones of your life, then I don't see what the point of writing is. We're trying to get into truths that in normal life we gloss over.
On the film The Incredible Shrinking Man
I was only 10 years old when I saw this film for the first time. I wasn't prepared, I didn't know what to expect. The film had such a deep philosophical impact on me. It really turned my brain inside out. I started thinking about the world in a completely different way after watching the film.
On writing autobiographies
All through my writing life I've had this impulse to write autobiographical works. This is really the fifth one I've done, and I think I've done it because I'm interested in talking about what it means to be a human being, what it means to be alive. I really have no interest in myself. I find it a very boring topic, but what I'm interested in is trying to remember things from my life that will somehow connect with things that other people have experienced.