In The Story of My Typewriter – a book of paintings by the artist Sam Messer of the Olympia typewriter Paul Auster has written on since 1974 – Auster illuminates his relationship with the machine that has transmitted his work: ‘Letter by letter, I have watched it write these words.’ In part this fragmented notion of authorship reflects the nature of his collaboration with Messer, who compelled Auster to look at the typewriter anew with his muscular pictures – keys as seething teeth in one, the letters dancing between Auster’s hands to reveal the word ‘chance’ in another. The question of who is writing whose story is itself a theme that runs through Auster’s work.
It is present in this graphic-novel version (published in America in 1994 and now in Britain) of City of Glass, the first part of Auster’s New York Trilogy. The story of Daniel Quinn – a writer of mystery novels who, after a call from a man who has the wrong number, takes on a case meant for a private detective called Paul Auster by pretending to be him – is told in spare black-and-white drawings. Although Auster appears as a character, he is not the narrator.