This is a very fine book, skilfully plotted, boldly conceived, full of bleak insight into the questions of ageing and memory, and producing a very real kick – or peripeteia – at its end. As Kermode wrote: "At some very low level we all share certain fictions about time, and they testify to the continuity of what is called human nature…" Barnes has achieved, in this shortish account of a not very attractive man, something of universal importance.'
Those who admire Auster's novels will find all his usual virtues on display here: the bright, lucid style, the emphasis on the concrete, the decent, liberal sensibilities, the fascination with art, the profluence that pulls you along through the story, desperate to learn what is going to happen next. Auster tells his story largely through the experiences of his body: the foods he's eaten, the walks he's taken, the wine he's drunk and the cigars he's smoked, the accidents and injuries he's had, his sexual experiences, the sports he's played, the fights he got into as a boy (until he learned that he could end any fight in seconds by kneeing his opponent in the balls). He writes of houses that he's lived in, quarrels he's had, the love of family and friends, and the slow march of age. It is a personal memoir, but much of what he relates is universal, and bears out Pope's dictum that true art lies in saying "What oft was thought, but ne'er so well-expressed".