It’s Paul Auster’s Birthday

Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac shows up in my email every day with a fat smile on its face, a provocative poem, and news of the writing world. News, as in birthdays and deathdays of the writers and thinkers of the world. Today, I am happy to report, is my all-time favorite writer’s birthday. And without Writer’s Almanac, I would not know this. And neither would you. So if your soul longs to know when momentous events like Chekhov’s birthday are upon us, get thee to Writer’s Almanac and subscribe.

But for now, let us celebrate Paul Auster, who said:

“Becoming a writer is not a ‘career decision’ like becoming a doctor or a policeman. You don’t choose it so much as get chosen, and once you accept the fact that you’re not fit for anything else, you have to be prepared to walk a long, hard road for the rest of your days.”


“I don’t know why I do what I do. If I did know, I probably wouldn’t feel the need to do it. … Surely it is an odd way to spend your life — sitting alone in a room with a pen in your hand, hour after hour, day after day, year after year, struggling to put words on pieces of paper in order to give birth to what does not exist — except in your head. Why on earth would anyone want to do such a thing? The only answer I have ever been able to come up with is: because you have to, because you have no choice.”

I think he’s trying to get us NOT to want to be writers, but his words just inspire me to sit down and write. And write. And write some more.

Although my craft at its highest will not, can not, touch the wizardry of City of Glass. No matter how many times I read it, I am at a loss for how words on the page create a world and then a world within that world, and then, well, no one really knows what else. Because at the end of the book you realize that you know NOTHING. Not who the character is, not where he is, or what he is, or if he is. Oh my. If you haven’t read City of Glass, horray for you. A great adventure awaits. Want a little champagne to go with that? Get the unbelievable graphic novel by Paul Karasik and David Mazzucchelli. It was the first graphic novel I ever read and no graphic novel has touched it since. The two together are perfection in word and image.

All right, all you writers. And writer wanna-bes. A toast is in order to the master. Happy Birthday, Paul.