Excerpt from The Invention of
Solitude, Paul Auster, 1982
He remembers that he gave himself a
new name, John, because all cowboys
were named John, and that each time his
mother addressed him by his real name he
would refuse to answer her. He remembers running out of the house and lying
in the middle of the road with his eyes
shut, waiting for a car to run him over.
He remembers that his grandfather gave
him a large photo of Gabby Hayes and
that it sat in a place of honor on the top
of his bureau. He remembers thinking the
world was flat. He remembers learning
how to tie his shoes. He remembers that
his father’s clothes were kept in the closet
in his room and that it was the noise of
hangers clicking together in the morning
that would wake him up. He remembers
the sight of his father knotting his tie and
saying to him, Rise and shine little boy.
He remembers wanting to be a squirrel,
because he wanted to be light like a squirrel and have a bushy tail and be able to
jump from tree to tree as though he were
flying. He remembers looking through the
Venetian blinds and seeing his newborn
sister coming home from the hospital
in his mother’s arms. He remembers the
nurse in a white dress who sat beside his
baby sister and gave him little squares
of Swiss chocolate. He remembers that
she called them Swiss although he didn’t
know what that meant. He remembers
lying in his bed at dusk in midsummer and
looking at the tree through his window
and seeing different faces in the configuration of the branches. He remembers
sitting in the bathtub and pretending that
his knees were mountains and that the
white soap was an ocean liner.
good and bad) that stand out from
your own early childhood?
Working from Memory
Have students write their own third-
person autobiographies about some-
thing remembered from childhood.
They might write a word web or a
mind map first, then write in para-
graph form. Finally, have students
create a collage based on their memo-
ries using a variety of colored papers,
different textures of cardboard, and
When all the artworks are complete,
have each student share his or her
autobiographical collage with the class,
explaining the story that it tells.
Michele Wallach is a middle school art
teacher from Valley Stream, New York.
Students compare the characteristics
of works in two or more art forms that
share similar subject matter, historical periods, or cultural context.