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    Dear Jonathan,

    A couple of years ago you gave a presentation of Maxwell Sim in Lecce in Puglia, where I have lived for the last 9 years or so, and I held back from going to see you as I would have wanted to introduce myself (being an Englishman abroad, I suffer from these impulses), which would then have entailed admitting, shame-faced, that I hadn’t read any of your work.

    Well I’m currently half-way through What A Carve-Up, which I am finding immensely and compulsively and entertaining, and am bitterly ruing the accident of chronology that means I can’t now drop by the Liberrima bookshop and enthuse to you in person.

    Two points of curiosity: the character of Michael Owen, his lost-ness, his anti-social detachment, his accidental involvement in the Winshaw saga, the powerful tidal influence of this involvement on his life, his motivation and his outlook – all of this puts me strongly in mind of Paul Auster’s protagonists (I’m thinking of The Book of Illusions in particular, which also shares the cinematic obsession), most of which actually post-date Carve-Up. Sorry if this is an old or banal observation, but I wondered whether you feel a kinship with Auster’s work? Or, as far as you know, vice versa?

    I’m aware that I’ve got a lot of catching up to do, that I’m asking you about a work of 18 years ago: sorry to be so slow on the uptake. But while I’m at it, here’s another thing that I was curious about: the line-drawings of the Winshaws that preface each of their sections are not credited anywhere in my edition: silly question, but are they your own work?

    Best wishes,

    Robert Marcus


    Hi Robert

    I think Auster’s New York Trilogy predates Carve Up and I was certainly a reader and admirer of that at the time. Not sure if it was a strong influence, but these things often operate under the radar of your conscious mind anyway.

    There is a little section about those line drawings on the ‘Odds and Ends’ page of this website. I wish I knew who the artist was! He/she did a tremendous job, but I never got to meet or thank whoever it was.

    Hope you are coping with the August heat in Puglia. I have very fond memories of my event in Lecce.



    Glad to read that there’s a connection between my two favourite writers. Over the past few years it was especially Auster who has enchanted me with his amazing novels. There certainly is a connection between both authors, as, more than other writers, both storytellers are able to create a storyworld in which I can completely lose myself, characters that grow on me and never let go, passages that belong to either the most funny or the most moving of English literature, etc. I think Paul Auster would be a great recommendation to any Coe fan.

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