Primarily known as a novelist, Paul Auster has also written essays, poetry, memoirs, and screenplays. Auster mines the themes of shifting identity, arbitrary influence, and elusive truth. He sees life as filled with "unexpected events and strange twists," a view reinforced by a pivotal event in his own life, when as a fourteen-year-old he went hiking with a friend who was killed by lightning. Swayed by mysterious coincidences, Auster's characters navigate surreal settings as they search for meaning and identity. In The Book of Illusions (2002), the discovery of a blue notebook containing a mystery offsets a man's grief over the sudden death of his family. Other critical favorites among his ten novels are The New York Trilogy (1985-86), Oracle Night (2004), and The Music of Chance (1990), nominated for the PEN/Faulkner Award. In the 1990s, Auster branched into screenwriting for Smoke, Blue in the Face, and Lulu on the Bridge, which he also directed.
After earning an M.A. from Columbia, Auster assumed the role of starving artist, scraping out a living as a census taker, translator, and merchant seaman. Described by one critic as a "Francophile existentialist with a touch of Gothic," he enjoys a strong following in France, where he lived in his twenties. Auster has received the French Prix Medicis for Foreign Literature as well as a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship.
"Prose unfailingly limpid, supple, and energetic" ?The Wall Street Journal
Siri Hustvedt is an accomplished novelist, poet, and essayist. She was born and raised in rural Minnesota, the setting of her second novel, The Enchantment of Lily Dahl (1996), which she calls an "allegory of psychic life" played out in a small town. Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times hailed her first novel, The Blindfold (1992), for its "thoroughly original style and lucid contemporary voice." While critics have invoked Kafka and Rilke in describing Hustvedt's writing, she credits her childhood reading of the Brontes and Dickens for inspiring her to become a writer. Like her husband Paul Auster, she portrays a dreamlike world of eerie uncertainty and emotional intrigue. What I Loved (2003), narrated by art historian Leo Hertzberg, scrutinizes the art and academic world of Manhattan with a penetrating but compassionate eye. She also writes on literature, art, and sensuality in the intensely personal essays Yonder (1998), The Mystery of the Rectangle (2005), and A Plea for Eros (2006).
Siri Hustvedt grew up in Northfield, Minnesota. Her father was a professor of Scandinavian literature, and her mother emigrated from Norway at the age of thirty. Hustvedt holds a Ph.D. in English literature from Columbia. She and Paul Auster have a teenage daughter and live in Brooklyn. What I Loved, an international bestseller, won the Prix des Librairies du Quebec for the best foreign book of 2003.
"Hustvedt is that rare artist, a writer of high intelligence, profound sensuality and a less easily definable capacity for which the only word I can find is wisdom." -Salman Rushdie
Added by pugetive on January 6, 2006