The Art of Hunger

The Art of Hunger (Essays, Prefaces, Interviews and The Red Notebook) Expanded Edition Author Paul Auster /Published by the Penguin Group / Copyright 1997 / Paperback, 395 Pages

As a writer, I’ve always felt that I’m a better reader. And finding this book by Paul Auster made me giddy and hungry to read better. As I read his essays, I wanted to devour all the books, writers, art and artists he wrote about. (In fact, I grabbed the first Samuel Beckett Mercier and Camier I saw afterwards, but that’s another story – and another book on the shelf.)

Auster makes you feel like you are watching a keen mind that’s looking intently and intelligently at another mind that somehow connive to pull you in and keep you entranced — you sit there mesmerized by the magic that they can do together. It is not just entertainment, it is erudition. I enjoy the experience because it is challenging, it stretches my own mind and I truly appreciate that gift of writers who can open minds and fill them with yearning. I yearned to know more. I yearned to write more too. Bravo, Paul Auster.

I do not know how to classify this book, aside from putting it under non-fiction. But from what I got from it, I would describe it as a book of writers and artists, for writers and artists, from writers and artists. I re-read it when I am searching for inspiration, when I need a touchstone on what writing I aspire to. I will not be a Reznikoff or Ungaretti or Riding nor Kafka nor Beckett…but I can learn from them.

The first essay, from where the book’s title comes from, should be required reading in writing classes, I think. The last piece in the collection entitled “Why Write”, should be there too. And all the pieces in between? Why yes, every student of literature would gain much from them too.

Read, read, read, my son. Then read some more.

Read so you may meet the great minds. See here, from Auster’s essay on American poet Charles Reznikoff I found one of my favorite poems. And without reading his piece “Innocence and Memory”, I would never have known of Italian poet Giuseppe Ungaretti and his powerful poetry.

I did find other books by Auster. I have The Music of Chance and In The Country of Last Things. But it is this book that lives in my special shelf.


Te Deum 

Not because of victories

I sing,

having none,

but for the common sunshine

the breeze,

the largess of the spring.

Not for victory

but for the day’s work done

as well as I was able;

not for a seat upon the dais

but at the common table.

(Reznikoff, 1974; 1976; 1978)


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