Literary Liaisons, On the Shelf

On The Shelf- Moon Palace

Have you ever been fifty pages into a novel an thought to yourself “man this book is exquisitely written…….and I kind of hate it”? That’s where I found myself while reading Paul Auster’s Moon Palace, which is the subject of this edition of On The Shelf.
Now, I’m normally a big fan of Paul Auster. The only reason you won’t find multiple copies of The New York Trilogy and Travels in the Scriptorium on my bookshelf is that every time I buy a copy of one of those books I immediately lend it out to a friend and never see it again. So a couple of years ago when I came across Moon Palace in a bookstore I was excited to take it home and dive right into its pages. But after a few pages, I wasn’t feeling it so I put it down and just never picked it back up again. Since then its been gathering dust on my bookshelf, the subject of many half-hearted “I really should finish that, but oh look a new release I want to read.” Making the decision that I would review it for this blog, I attacked Moon Palace with renewed gusto…….and still found myself laboring to get through its dense pages.
It’s not that the writing is bad, quite the contrary Auster is, was, and always will be a master phrase turner. His command of the written word far surpasses anything that I might hope to achieve with my own humble prose. But here his talent serves only to pretty up a story overladen with coincidence and pretension. There are obvious allusions to Henry David Thoreau and the Transcendentalism movement but that’s the problem, they’re obvious. The book feels like its supposed to be this raw, real take on identity and individualism but rather than the story being a living thing that evolves over the course of the plot it feels more like a paint by numbers construction of what that kind of story should look like. Checking all the boxes without ever really connecting with the reader.
But I’m willing to admit that might all just be my own personal taste. To tell you the truth the novel that Moon Palace reminded me most of while I was reading it was Catcher in the Rye. Which I realize would be considered high praise in certain circles, but coming from me is a pretty strong rebuke because I loathe Catcher in the Rye.
None of this has served to put me off Paul Auster though. He is still one of my favorite authors and I highly suggest you go read some of his stuff if you haven’t already. I just wouldn’t recommend starting with Moon Palace, from my perspective this is a novel that is best left On The Shelf.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.