Paul Auster’s 2008 novel, Man in The Dark, imagines the United States falling into civil war after the election of George W. Bush. So the tragedies of Iraq, kidnappings and beheadings, the World Trade Center, Afghanistan — everything that happened or only got worse for the U.S. and the entire world under the dim-witted guidance of George W. Bush — none of it happens. That’s one hell of a vision. Auster makes it feel real by telling a story of how ordinary people are affected by some of those catastrophic events, which spurs the envisioning of the alternate reality for one of the characters.
Some critics have referred to Man in the Dark as Auster’s Slaughterhouse Five. Having finished the novel about 20 minutes ago, I agree. It’s laced with some black humour that had me laughing out loud more than once, though overall it’s a sad and tragic story about how the world really sucks thanks to people like George W. Bush — with just a dash of hope.
Like all of Auster’s novels (the 10 or so that I’ve read, anyway), Man in the Dark is a good read. For most of its 180 pages, it felt like a minor addition to his work that rambled off into nowhere land. But the last 5 pages puts it all into place, and that’s when I got it. And now I’m tempted to read it again.