Invisible

Immediately, Paul Auster throws you under the bus and you’re not sure what hit you.  Invisible is a mystery that starts after it’s over, sets the mood that gives you an eerie premonition that whatever happened, it was something bad.  Like being in the twilight zone – everything looks normal, but there’s that nagging feeling –  that if you look out the window, you’ll see someone hanging on to the wing of the plane. This sense of foreboding and confusion continues throughout the book.

Adam Walker, an intelligent and talented undergraduate at Columbia who aspires to be a poet, meets Rudolph Born, a visiting professor – a stranger who offers to fund Adam’s Cadillac version of a literary magazine to give him financial independence.  Too good to be true?  Oh, yes.

It only takes about 50 pages before Rudolph commits murder, reveals his sadistic side, changes Adam’s life forever, escapes to Paris, and then disappears  for the next  hundred pages.

Auster then switches gears and Adam’s life becomes chapters of a memoir he is writing as he is dying of leukemia.  The incident with Born becomes the first chapter, titled “Spring,”  followed by “Summer” – his detailed graphic revelation of a month-long incestual affair with his sister.

The chapters are sent to an old college friend, now a successful author – the innocent bystander forced to connect with someone he has not heard from for thirty years.  Like the reader, he learns more than he wants to know, and has to decide – as the sole audience – how much to reveal.

The chapter, “Fall,” has Adam reconnecting with Born in Paris.  Despite the “repugnant” details of his interlude with his sister, you will feel compelled to know if Adam confronts his old nemesis and how he resolves his guilt over being a witness to the man who got away with murder.  Once again, Born seems to get away with a despicable crime.    In the end, Auster offers a final chapter with a resolution that is unsatsifying and  as ambiguous as “Lost” – was it real or just fabrication.

Auster mixes graphic sexual content with issues of family, loss, and self-hatred.  His characters lead seemingly normal lives, with an intellectual undercurrent that threatens to undermine reality.

An intense book – at once hard to read and hard to put down.