The past few months have been hectic. I have been busy moving 3 garages full of books and a lifetime of posessions into my new house. Without the help of my friends, I would have gone crazy. During this move, I made an important realization about myself. I don't throw anything away. I still have love letters I wrote during Study Hall in the 9th grade. Like my father, I have a penchant for collecting everything from golf scorecards to maps to memorabilia to pieces of broken watches that I will never repair.
I suppose I became a little burnt out on books, because I haven't even picked one up, to read, in at least a month. So last night, I started a book which I recently picked up in the bargain section of my local corporate bookstore. Expecting it to be in the bargain section for a reason, I realized I had underestimated Auster's talents as a writer. I am 75 pages into the book and I am hooked. Although there is no breakdown into chapters and several sections contain footnotes that divert you from the complicated plot for several pages, Auster pulls off this complicated style gracefully.
The story is of a novelist who enters a stationary shop and buys an attractive blue notebook, made in Portugal. Although the author has just recovered from a near-fatal illness, he is able to write in this notebook with ease, beginning to relate the story of a conventional fellow stolen from one of Dashiell Hammett's novels who, "One afternoon as he's walking to lunch, a beam falls from a construction site on the tenth floor of a building and nearly lands on his head...Flitcraft realizes that the world isn't the sane and orderly place he thought it was, that he's had it all wrong from the beginning and never understood the first thing about it. The world is governed by chance. Randomness stalks us every day of our lives, and those lives can be taken from us at any moment-for no reason at all."
And so begins a story inside of a story inside of a story, but my favorite passage in the beginning of the book on page 49-55, where the protagonist and his wife are discussing the psychological connotations of different colors, and he becomes nostalgic of his days at a summer camp in upstate New York and explains to her his secret membership on the Blue Team, a spin-off of the Red and White teams who waged "Color War" at the end of summer competition.
"Blue Team members didn't conform to a single type, and each one was a distinct and independent person. But no one was allowed in who didn't have a good sense of humor- however that humor might have expressed itself. Some people crack jokes all the time; others can lift an eyebrow at the right moment and suddenly everyone in the room is rolling on the floor. A good sense of humor, then, a taste for the ironies of life, and an appreciation of the absurd. But also a certain modesty and discretion, kindness toward others, a generous heart. No blowhards or arrogant fools, no liars or thieves. A Blue Team member had to be curious, a reader of books, and aware of the fact that he couldn't bend the world to the shape of his will. An astute observer, someone capable of making fine moral distinctions, a lover of justice. A Blue Team member would give you the shirt off his back if he saw you were in need, but he would much rather slip a ten-dollar bill into your pocket when you weren't looking. Is it beginning to make sense? I can't pin it down for you and say it's one thing or another. It's all of them at once, each separate part interacting with all the others."
Although this excerpt has little to do with the story the book revolves around, in my opinion, it is a brilliant recollection, and makes me aspire to be a member of the Blue Team. Are you with me? For me, these 6 pages alone were worth the cheap price of this book: