First edition, signed on title-page and at end. “What I have done,” Paul Auster writes of his annotations, “is write an intimate letter to a perfect stranger…the unknown person who is holding this book in his or her hands—the good person who bought this book to advance the cause of PEN.” He confessed to us that it was the “most bizarre act of writing I have ever been involved in.” But—he asks himself in the annotations–is this exercise very different than offering his novels to a world of unknown people? “The operative word there is people,” Auster points out, “meaning more than one person—and in this case I am addressing only one person,” the buyer of this book at auction. What he has done for that one person is write some several hundred words along the page margins, making his “letter” a series of extended essays about the book’s origins and reception: “The final version of the book was composed in 1981-82 – and then rejected by 17 N.Y. publishers, a dreary process that dragged on for a good 18 months. That was why it ended up with Sun & Moon, a small, independent literary press based in L.A. – because no one else would touch it – and also why it didn’t come out until 1985. 17 rejections, and now published around the world (translated into more than 40 languages), which also amuses me, and which has left me with a life-long cynicism about the judgment of N.Y. publishers. Painful as those rejections were, however, they were also highly instructive and helped me to clarify an essential truth about why one writes books—or at least why I write books.” It is not for money or glory, Auster says, or even a need to be published. But rather “an inner need, a burning compulsion to do it.” A remarkable, extensive and revealing collection of annotations.
AUSTER, Paul (b. 1947). City of Glass. Los Angeles: Sun and Moon Press, 1985. 8°. Original blue cloth; dust-jacket.