Friday, December 26, 2008

Aimless Reading: The A's, Part 30.3

Moon Palace
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Auster, Paul
Moon Palace

On November 21, 1996, at around 7 a.m., the phone rang in my apartment at 235 East 4th St. in New York. It was my mother calling from Virginia. My father had not woken up from the surgery he'd had the previous afternoon to clear a blocked carotid artery. I'd better catch the first train home, I was told. I packed a bag, called Amtrak and walked over to the F station at Houston and 1st. At Penn Station I had to wait an hour before the next train departed for DC. Trying to not think about the fact that my father was going to die, I decided to purchase a book. I entered a bookstore, headed straight to the fiction section, and purchased Moon Palace.

I read for three straight hours on the train, and then for another on the orange line to Vienna. That's as far as I got in Auster's novel. I never went back to finish, not wanting to be reminded of the dread I was feeling on the train. It turned out my father had had a stroke after the operation intended to prevent a stroke. He died the next day, November 22. I recall my mother asking across the kitchen table if November 22 wasn't also the anniversary of the JFK assassination. I said it was. She nodded her head and said, I thought so.

I was never sure what that coincidence meant to her.

From Moon Palace

It was the summer that men first walked on the moon. I was very young back then, but I did not believe there would ever be a future. I wanted to live dangerously, to push myself as far as I could go, and then see what happened to me when I got there. As it turned out, I nearly did not make it. Little by little, I saw my money dwindle to zero; I lost my apartment; I wound up living in the streets. If not for a girl named Kitty Wu, I probably would have starved to death. I had met her by chance only a short time before, but eventually I cam t see that chance as a form of readiness, a way of saving myself through the minds of others. That was the first part. From then on, strange things happened to me. I took the job with the old man in the wheelchair. I found out who my father was. I walked across the desert from Utah to California. That was a long time ago, of course, but I remember those days well, I remember them as the beginning of my life.

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