In the summer of 2000, two friends and I embarked on an epic cross-country drive. In preparation for the journey, we rented a Dodge Caravan, stocked up on peanut butter, and debated where to go. Using a Rand McNally map book, I laid out our path in pen, drawing lines from campsite icon to campsite icon across America and back. We planned to leave from Delaware, where I was a senior in college, in late June, and return in mid-August — in all, six weeks of whiskey-addled, open-skied adventure. For the quiet moments — of which there turned out to be few — I brought along a worn copy of The Grapes of Wrath. Like the Joads, we were also striving for California — but with more Led Zeppelin CDs in tow.
When I was a child, my father gave me a necklace called a lavaliere. I loved the sound of the word more than the object. When my mother sewed on her old foot-pedal Singer, I heard the words “bobbin,” “remnant,” “selvage.” Grandma gave me the Italian words “tarantella,” “mozzarella,” “Campagna.”
According to a currently popular line of philosophy, a self is merely the sum of all the stories we tell about a particular human body. It’s an idea that resonates through the work of the writer Paul Auster, in whose fiction both selves and stories are precarious constructions, fascinating but unstable, more illusion than reality. In “4 3 2 1”, Auster’s first novel in seven years and, at eight hundred and sixty-six pages, the longest by far of any book he has published, a single man’s life unfolds along four narrative arcs, from birth to early adulthood. “Clearly you’ve read Borges by now,” the faculty adviser remarks to one of these iterations of Archie Ferguson, a character who, like most of Auster’s heroes, is fanatically bookish. “4 3 2 1” is indeed a doorstop of forking paths.
Arden's weaving of folklore and fairy tale with a very solid evocation of feudal Russia is beautiful and deft.
Before all of this started, I said that I wouldn’t date Jeremy if he were the last man on Earth. Now that he is, I question the hyperbole.
Since we entered the endless darkness of this new era together, Jeremy has argued that we have a responsibility to procreate. He holds that, even if our little family ultimately died of radiation poisoning, or starvation, or from the bio-wolves, we could at least say that we tried to save the human race.