Wednesday, October 08, 2003

I'm Living Paul Auster's Life For Him

. . . which, for those of you who've ever read any of his stuff, might not be as unthinkable as it seems on the purpose. (You know, if Silentio should ever have an entrance fee (indeed, why would it though?) I think it would simply be that you read Auster's New York Trilogy.

Anyway, back to the point. Yes, I'm living Paul Auster's life, or at least that life rendered in quasi-fiction / semi-memoir in The Invention of Solitude -- or, more precisely, a paragraph, ripped out of its context, from said book.

When night comes, the electricity dims to half-strength, then goes up again, then comes down, for no apparent reason. It is as though the lights were controlled by some prankster deity. The electric company has no record of the place, and no one has ever had to pay for power. At the same time, the phone company has refused to acknowledge A.’s existence. The phone has been here for nine months, functioning without a flaw, but he had not yet received a bill for it. When he called the other day to straighten out the problem, they insisted they had never heard of him. Somehow, he has managed to escape the clutches of the computer, and none of his calls has ever been recorded. His name is off the books. If he felt like it, he could spend his idle moments making free calls to far-away places. But the fact is, there is no one he wants to talk to. Not in California, not in Paris, not in China. The world has shrunk to the size of this room for him, and for as long as it takes him to understand it, he must stay where he is. Only one thing is certain: he cannot be anywhere until he is here. And if he does not manage to find this place, it would be absurd for him to think of looking for another.

Yesterday I tried to report at fault with British Telecom, only to be told very politely but with a steady amount of angst, that I should not exist -- or at least should not be talking on the line that I professed to be using. My confirmation to that effect was not enough for the Customer Advisor with whom I was dealing, due in no small part to the fact that I called five minutes before he and the rest of his call centre cadre were set to clock out for the evening. Upon calling this morning, Customer Advisor #2 was so rattled by the mystery that she accidentally hung up on me after a fifteen minute analysis of the problem. Customer Advisor #3, who I reached after a twenty minute, wholly unsuccessful, endeavour to find a neighbour to call me, just to be sure I was in fact real, refused to believe there was a problem at all; she instead enquired whether I was happy with my British Telecom service. Of course, I indicated that I was quite happy with them as long as they kept providing me free service, which she tacitly indicated might very well continue because 'there's nothing I can do for you on this end. We will call you back at that number [the one that, allegedly, does not exist] when we know what's going on.'

In other words, it is a mystery. This matter of the telephone . . . this matter of me. Which is it, Paul?

In the interim, in the void between the moment he opens the door and the moment he begins to reconquer the emptiness, his mind flails in a wordless panic. It is as if he were being forced to watch his own disappearance, as if, by crossing the threshold of this room, he were entering another dimension, taking up residence inside a black hole.

Oh okay, thanks.