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This review is taken from PN Review 185, Volume 35 Number 3, January - February 2009.

OLD NEWS PAUL AUSTER, Collected Poems (Faber) £16.99

It is an easy critique of a contemporary writer to suggest his early work is better than what he's producing currently. If said writer happened to be a poet beforehand, all the better - then his poetry was better than his fiction all along, sure, and those in the know have sworn by it since the beginning. Paul Auster is one such writer, whose poetry is now back in print and calling for a re-examination. His fiction has been easy to critique since the appearance of his first novel - it is derivative, his characters are cyphers and hardly have depth (more so if the character is female), any sense of description or style is so lacking that we might say his is an anti-style, and his work's reputation is so heavy in PoMo circles that it is certain to be an insult in the future to call a work teachable (no one should have to read another student essay on the double in In The Country of Last Things, or on mise en abyme in The New York Trilogy - or vice versa for that matter). But none of these things have stopped Auster from being one of the most popular American writers of his generation. And the Faber edition of his collected poems is sure to cash in on that.

But even in his poems, derivation is a strong issue: there is ...
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