Number of pages: 380
Just before Christmas, a friend of mine (who was moving house) decided to offer unwanted books to others on a night out; I took this one, since it sounded interesting. I saw that Paul Auster had drawn together lots of accounts from different people in the United States, and I assumed it would mostly be humourous tales about absurdities related to American life, and it started promisingly with a story about how someone saw a chicken walk down the road, knock on a door and go in when admitted.
Sadly, I was disappointed, as many of the stories felt very self-indulgent and would have meant a lot more to the people telling them; a lot of them were about their own families and there seemed to be a lot about people losing possessions, only for them to turn up in unlikely places. I also noticed that a lot of the more light-hearted stories felt like they were leading up to some sort of punchline, which never happened. Some of the stories were just too shocking and unpleasant.
There were a few stories that were a bit better, including war tales from people who had experienced it first hand, and my favourite overall was one narrator telling about how he was faced with an assassin and his efforts negotiating for his own life.
Strangely, there was a chapter that had people telling of their own dreams, many of which ended up as supernatural tales involving how their own dreams seemed to hint at psychic connections with others or communications with people who had just died; I had mixed feelings about this section; at times it felt self-indulgent, but at times I did find myself very surprised about what I had just read.
Overall though, I would not recommend this book.
Next book: NW (Zadie Smith)