MEMORIES OF THE STRUGGLE
AS A WRITER AND DIRECTOR, Paul Auster has built a cult following through brilliant, quirky works like his 1995 film Smoke, about a Brooklyn cigar shop owner, and its sequel (also '95), Blue in the Face, which features Madonna
and Roseanne talking until, well, they are blue in the face. Not exactly blockbusters, but Auster, 50, says he isn't in it for the money: "I don't crave anything."
Perhaps not now, but at one time in Auster's life money became his sole obsession, a period of artistic struggle he chronicles in a new book, Hand to Mouth (Holt, $25). After bouncing from job to job, including one as a floor mopper aboard an oil tanker, Auster found himself, at 27, with "under $10 in my pocket and not a single concrete plan for the future." After the birth of his son Daniel in 1977, he set out on a series of get-rich-quick schemes that included writing a detective novel and peddling a baseball-card game he had invented as a child. "Everything I tried to do ended up in disaster," he says.
Including his first marriage. Divorced in 1979, Auster eventually found success—beginning in 1985 with his first novel, City of Glass, the first volume of his acclaimed The New York Trilogy. No longer scraping by, he lives in a stately Brooklyn brownstone with his second wife, novelist Siri Hustvedt, and their daughter Sophie, 10. His memoir, he hopes, will inspire other writers to persevere. "I'm doing what I want to do, which is a very lucky thing," he says. "I'm very grateful. I want to fall down on my knees."