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Mr Vertigo I read this book for class No I'm not going to follow that with an 'and thus I hated it' so if that's your type of thing shoo I won't deny that some of those mandated readings during those readers of yore were a total slog but that was if not wholly due to extenuating circumstances of teaching stylemy young self than the novel itself Now that I'm older and have an almost obsessively vested interest in literature I can look at these classroom assignments in book form and say hm That really wasn't so bad More than not bad actually Not great but rather good the rough sort of polish that would in fact be much appropriate to the high school setting than all that Shakespeare and Dickens and a whole host of other books that should only be taught if the teacher really knows what they're doing and that rarely happens if at all The one case I can personally remember of complete and utter success was that of senior year Hamlet; the rest barely surface in the memory as a uick liked or didn't like notation except for the couple that I absolutely loathed Now I can't claim that had I been offered Mr Vertigo for inspection fully acuitted by state standards of education I would remember it today in a positive well that was worth it light I am fairly certain though there would have been a very good chance of itFirst thing this is not the Great American Novel Which is fantastic because frankly that is not the sort of thing that the majority of high school students are going to give the smallest flying crap about Instead it is a very American Novel Easily swallowable sentences fast paced action the kind of visual imagery well adapted to the movie screen and vulgar realism in the manner of 1920's United States home of vaudeville baseball and the thick and viscous grime of rampant racism that flowed with all the speed of a horde of horsed members of the Ku Klux Klan Also did I mention swearing Because swearingSo this novel is not tidy It is not nice It is not highflown with phenomenal use of language or aspirations towards justice in the sort of prettied up metaphorics that will either astound you or send you to sleep depending on just how much you care about the potential of the written word which when concerning the average high school reader with the average high school English teacher is close to nil Or college English professor because while I have to thank the prof for getting me to read this my enjoyment would have been a stunted and sluggish thing had I completely relied on his guidance Regardless with this complete lack of all those characteristics of 'highbrow' literature which I love I really do but the cults clamoring around all these mostly dead old white men not so much what does this book have to offerWhat it has to offer is a a good ol' tugging on the emotions in every direction a straightforward stripping down of stereotypes into their viciously ignorant realities including the horrors that result from such and heart So much heart that I guarantee a few of even those oh so hardened high school kids will bawl their eyes out at least once by the time the last page is turned Better yet they will have understood exactly what this book is trying to achieve beyond all the insipid blatherings of symbolism and foreshadowing and every other keyword that makes me wince whenever I'm forced to use them in my own writing They will identify this little boy this pompous prat who starts out as the most racist brat that ever spewed out bigoted phrases a mile a minute and ends as an old man who has ridden the highs drowned in the lows and is typical in every way except the amazing life he led and all that he carved into his bones from it Best of all they will see the US in its glory and its filth and will be left to decide on their own terms just how they will deal with it Something that few if any high school books that I remember dealt with in such a tender and unflinching fashion To Kill a Mockingbird is one thing; a look at prejudiced realities with all their specific language and harmful effects without one bit of comforting distance is uite anotherIn short if I ever find myself at the head of a high school English classroom looking plausible by the day I'll be keeping this book in mind Okay so the book is easy to read and won't challenge high schoolers as much on a ridiculously incomprehensible level as 'David Copperfield' or 'The Odyssey' Who cares Look we'll keep those but how about sacrificing a Hemingway in the name of something enjoyable that isn't riddled with misogyny and other bigoted bents It's not like he isn't plenty popular enough and truthfully The Sun Also Rises hurt my soul I'll keep it on for outside reading though make everyone happy So How about it 'I was twelve years old the first time I walked on water The man in the black clothes taught me how to do it and I'm not going to pretend I learned that trick overnight Mr Vertigo is the story of Walter Rawley who recounts how at the age of nine he made a pact with the man who promised to teach him how to fly Master Yehudi spotted young Walt on the streets of Saint Louis sweeping the foul mouthed and lonely kid off the ground with his promise Yehudi swears that if he fails to teach Walt how to fly by his thirteenth birthday he can hop off his head with an axe After weighing his options young Walt decides to take the risk and go away with Yehudi rather than live a gloomy life of an orphan on the streets Saint Louis The year was 1927 just two years short of the stock market crash which started the Depression the year of Babe Ruth and Charles Lindbergh the precise year when night started to fall on the world foreverWalt is taken by Master Yehudi to a farm in a remote region of rural Kansas the big sky country far away from everywhere but not lonely Yehudi introduces him to Aesop a young black cripple of extraordinary intelligence for whom he predicts great things and Mother Sioux his housekeeper and a grandniece of Chief Sitting Bull Being the kid that he is Walk soon tries to run away from his education but no matter where he goes he always finds Master Yehudi waiting for him with a smile Realizing that he cannot escape Walt surrenders and gives himself in to Master Yehudi's Flight course in 33 stages Yehudi believes that people are not able to lift themselves off the ground because they were taught that such things are impossible and that only those tainted with little education can overcome their personal disbelief Yehudi's lessons are hard physical and psychological trials which include having Walt chop off a part his little finger to show his devotion and have him to survive the horror of being buried alive to crush his spirit and hope Only then Master Yehudi believes will Walt be able to let go of what he was defy gravity and lift himself off the ground Walt manages this in unexpected circumstances and his new life takes off he becomes Walt the WonderBoy and walks on water for the first time in the same year that Charles Lindbergh flew across the Atlantic Mr Vertigo can be divided into two halves The first part where Walt meets Master Yehudi and lives with him and his companions in his Kansas estate is engrossing and full of mystery and a sense of wonder Rural Kansas is far away from Disney's Neverland and mastering the art of flight is a process full of hardships for young and unruly child that Walt is at the beginning of the novel Walt is a strong willed know all street smart kid not unlike Mark Twain's Huck Finn irritated and fascinated by the inscrutable Master Yehudi whom he can't figure out Walt's determination turns into a strange loyalty to Master Yehudi and eventually becomes genuine devotion and admirationThe second part which takes takes Walt across the country in with his flying theatrics remains captivating but loses the joy of discovery that the first one had Despite being fantastical it has an air of seriousness which is obviously understandable as Walt matures and learns about people around him As Walt soars higher into the air characters which previously seemed to be larger than life are stripped from the cloak of mystery surrounding them and revealed as frail and fractured Although this reversal serves its purpose the sense of mystery which made the first part so readable is largely diminished Walt's life remains adventurous full of rumble and tumble of the 20th century and an evolving nation with its famous people and places but there's a sense of loss penetrating the pages it's unavoidable as characters and people mature and sometimes make bad decisions which have their conseuences and can flip their lives on its head Mr Vertigo is as much about being able to move on after suffering a loss of something important as it is from being able to embrace it in the first placeFor such a short novel it's under 300 pages Mr Vertigo is reasonably succesful given the fact that it's Paul Auster's clearest attempt at writing a picaresue novel with a likable rogue protagonist and a cast of memorable supporting character together with seamless employment of different themes which aim to mirror the development of a whole nation and a great opening line to boot Not much to dislike here but possibly much pleasure to be found within its pages A bombastic failure of the Book of Illusions Brooklyn Follies type Oh these Auster books you know what I mean A very over hyped writer does his own take on the fantastic American Manmyth embodiment cough cough silence cough Major pity I read the phenomenal Billy Bathgate another tidy rags to dirty riches story earlier this year This is like the Hallmark Movie Network version of that grade A literarily earned machofable Timbuktu Invisible New York Trilogy these are the only Acceptable Austers I mean it Otherwise middleschoolgrade fodder to properly ignore 38 I am puzzled and bemused This is a messy novel that is at times bizarre conventional thrilling pedestrian There is a boy named Walt he is taken under the wing of Master Yehudi and learns to fly with no contraptions; he grows up and has several other adventures including a weird thing with a baseball player; then he lives a conventional life and thenwell you have to read it It helps to love the way Auster thinks and writes And I do 'I was twelve years old the first time I walked on water 'So begins Mr Vertigo the story of Walt an irrepressible orphan from the Mid West Under the tutelage of the mesmerising Master Yehudi Walt is taken back to the mysterious house on the plains to prepare not only for the ability to fly but also for the stardom that will accompany it I listened to than half of this and could stand it no longer The audiobook narration by Kevin Pariseau is perfectly fine I have no complaints whatsoever on this account It is the book itself I had trouble with It is about a boy who can fly There is absolutely no way I can deal with the fantasy of this I detested the crude vulgar language Farts and defecating and continuous swearing The plot is simplistic The details of the time and setting are minimal This is not historical fiction You learn zero I feel nothing for any of the characters If there is humor well I didn't see it I don't believe this book can possibly come to a meaningful conclusion Yeah I could be wrong but actually for me the passage through a book is important than how it concludes I don't usually dump books but this is an exception to the rule Read it at your own risk Timbuktu 4 starsMoon Palace 2 stars Hmmm Three Paul Auster books under my belt and all three I have awarded 3 stars I had higher hopes for this one In fact I would go so far to say I loved the first third of the book 'Tis a page turning romp all about Walt a poorly orphan who is plucked from his destiny to fulfil another’s that of Master Yehudi For the Master has been searching all his life for the one boy he could teach to flyA punishing almost sadistic training schedule begins for the Master must break Walt in order to start him all over again All good so far The house in which the Master lives profit from his days of gambling is a nowhere place on the bleak prairies of Kansas The other inhabitants are Mother Sue Sioux and Aesop a crippled Ethiopian taught to be a terribly proper genius in the English traditionNot long after this the story starts to lose its way for me There were kind of unexpected premature deaths There was a boy who could fly An uncle eager for this golden goose that plotted revenge and turned up in kind of unexpected moments It was all kind of unexpected It felt to me that the author did not know where to goBut it was the part with Walt as an adult running his own business that I found yawnsome and pointless The story of him and his favourite baseball player was God it was terrible ‘Vertigo’ The latter third of the book is like ‘Serpigo’ I was drawn to read this book because of my fondness for the outstanding writing skills of the author However I must say that this novel doesn't uite live up to the other Auster novels I have read Perhaps it is the premise of the novel a boy who literally learns to fly This attempt to mix realism with magic realism does not work in my opinion The story is well told and certainly held my interest but the believability factor left me cold Auster took a risk in writing outside of his usual genre novels that in one way or other resemble the trajectory of his own life However sometimes it's best to stick closely to what one does well Auster is a master of the semi autobiographical novel and I hope he continues to pursue that path Reading this book I couldn't stop thinking about a very different author Paul Coelho who wrote a very similar kind of novel The Alchemist Both of them are a parable than a book a motivational speaking seminar designed to make you wake up and realize the miracles that you yes YOU could make happen if you only dared to believe they were possible In Mr Vertigo the feat is flying in the Alchemist it's becoming the wind or something of the sort Mr Vertigo's telling is nuanced has a far entertaining voice to guide you along and was I thought moving The book spans an entire lifetime in a short set of chapters and I've always been a sucker for films books or songs that try to capture so long a span of time in so compact a medium Even a so so comedy like Walk Hard or a brief song like Time by Pink Floyd has something poignant behind it These pieces do what we cannot normally do ourselves examine our mortality from an outside perspective On a basic level we all know that life is short youth is fleeting and that only some accomplishments will follow you a lifetime But in practice it's ridiculously easy to push it to the back of your head to let small things suck up your time see Facebook to lose sight of the big picture in favor of the passing thrill People do it all the time and many do it their whole lives These movies and books remind us that when the time comes to make your 120 minute biopic you might not like what you see Books like this especially when artfully written as Auster's may be summed up with a corny moral we've all heard before Seize the day life is short etc but that they can make us stop just for a day or even a moment and truly reflect on where we are in our lives makes them crucially important They can provoke us to ask the uestions we should be asking every day but avoid out of laziness fear and comfort am I a good person Am I doing everything I can do better myself Am I letting petty and small things get in the way of lasting peace So corny or not I think this book is worthwhile reading for everyone I wish I could suit myself with simply writing The man is a genius and letting my review at that because that is what Paul Auster is absolutely deserving of 1994's Mr Vertigo is nothing short of astounding in its breadth and vision encompassing a nation's loss of wonderment and innocence in the story of a poor boy from St Louis who learns to flyWalt is a Holden Caufield of another era a down and out harsh little man in a boy's body trying to keep a step ahead of the game he's convinced he's been thrown into But the man who saves him from a life on the streets the mysterious Master Yehudi is than willing to play into that game to test Walt to his outer limits showing him what a mind and heart can do when they are pushed to breaking But after they've proven themselves how long can such a dream last So unfolds what may be Auster's most traditional of novels as Walt and Master Yehudi tour the nation in search of their own American dreamAnd without giving anything away just to top off the excellence of the book in and of itself Auster manages in the last four pages to tie the entire story to his acclaimed and apparently all encompassing New York Trilogy causing me to actually throw my book down in amazement I knew that Auster liked to cross storylines just by glancing through his newest novel Travels in the Scriptorium but I went 290 pages of Mr Vertigo without a single thought of Daniel uinn and his surrealist detective adventures just to have Auster slip him in at the last possible second and conseuently blow my mindMr Vertigo is a truly wonderful tale; one that in its depth of cultural relevance and commentary reads like a piece of allegorical history than fiction at all Even the most fantastic moments come off completely real and even painfully so because of the weight with which they are written My only trouble with Auster now is the fact that I'm going to have to buy every single one of his books because I cannot bear to leave a single page unturned


About the Author: Paul Auster

Paul Auster is the bestselling author of Report from the Interior Winter Journal Sunset Park Invisible The Book of Illusions and The New York Trilogy among many other works He has been awarded the Prince of Asturias Prize for Literature the Prix Médicis Étranger the Independent Spirit Award and the Premio Napoli He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters the American Ac


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