I wish I could suit myself with simply writing, "The man is a genius," and letting my review at that, because that is what Paul Auster is absolutely deserving of. 1994's Mr. Vertigo is nothing short of astounding in its breadth and vision, encompassing a nation's loss of wonderment and innocence in the story of a poor boy from St. Louis who learns to fly.
Walt is a Holden Caufield of another era--a down and out, harsh little man in a boy's body, trying to keep a step ahead of the game he's convinced he's been thrown into. But the man who saves him from a life on the streets, the mysterious Master Yehudi, is more than willing to play into that game, to test Walt to his outer limits, showing him what a mind and heart can do when they are pushed to breaking. But after they've proven themselves, how long can such a dream last? So unfolds what may be Auster's most traditional of novels, as Walt and Master Yehudi tour the nation in search of their own American dream.
And, without giving anything away, just to top off the excellence of the book in and of itself, Auster manages, in the last four pages, to tie the entire story to his acclaimed (and apparently, all-encompassing) New York Trilogy, causing me to actually throw my book down in amazement. I knew that Auster liked to cross storylines, just by glancing through his newest novel, Travels in the Scriptorium, but I went 290 pages of Mr. Vertigo without a single thought of Daniel Quinn and his surrealist detective adventures, just to have Auster slip him in at the last possible second and consequently blow my mind.
Mr. Vertigo is a truly wonderful tale; one that in its depth of cultural relevance and commentary, reads more like a piece of allegorical history than fiction at all. Even the most fantastic moments come off completely real, and even more painfully so because of the weight with which they are written. My only trouble with Auster now is the fact that I'm going to have to buy every single one of his books because I cannot bear to leave a single page unturned.