Sunday, December 31, 2006

Little Book of Delight

Read a book in just twenty minutes yesterday over a cup of tea.

It was Auggie Wren's Christmas, another of Paul Auster's, and it came free with a copy of his new novel Travels in the Scriptorium, but can be bought separately.

Auster was asked by the New York Times to write a Christmas short story for the Op-Ed page.

He went on to write a story about a writer who is asked to write a short story for the New York Times to appear on Christmas morning. Stumped for what to write about, he receives some unexpected help from the tobacconist whose shop he frequents, a colourful character called Auggie Wren.

Wren offers to tell the author the best Christmas story he has ever heard in exchange for lunch. And in the diner he weaves a tale ... which is unsentimental, has no santas or angels, or trees or snow, but even as it overturns all expectations and blurs moral lines, still touches the heart.

Now if you don't feel like running out and buying the book, and would still love this taste of vintage Auster, you can read the whole thing online, here.

But then, you'd be missing a dimension, because this limited edition print version has funky illustrations by Isol throughout, and is a bit like a kids' book for grown-ups! (Isol's Auggie Wren, right.)

The little story inspired Wayne Wang's 1995 film, Smoke, for which Auster wrote the screenplay and created one of my favourite movie characters . (Blue in the Face features the same cast of characters and was entirely improvised, and filmed on the back of Smoke in just five days.)

Here's Auggie Wren's monologue from the film script and left, a picture of Harvey Keital in the film role.

And am much tickled reading the cast list, to discover that the book thief was played by Auster's twenty-year old son Daniel! As if it isn't bad enough that Auster keeps wandering inside the frame of his own stories, he wants his family in there too!

Is it too early to start your Christmas shopping for 2007?


Miao said...

I read the story. Very sweet. Thanks for sharing.

bibliobibuli said...

so glad someone went over to read it.

animah said...

What a character!!! I've printed both the story and the monologue. I compared the way the dialogue was written in both. The script felt more real. I could hear Auggie Wren's voice so clearly. Well you did say Harvey Kietel. But even then his words were so... authentic. Then I read the story, not knowing the background to this character. It just blew me away. I thought, a modern day Monet in downtown Brooklyn!
And what an unforgettable name - Auggie Wren - how Dickensian.
I must go and find more Paul Auster.

animah said...

You wouldn't happen to have Smoke would you?

bibliobibuli said...

no animah i think i have to buy from amazon. the more i blog about it the more i have to see it again. poke me in a couple of days to see if i have. we could have a tea at your place again to watch it.

animah said...

Sharon, Yippeeeee!