Of the four authors discussed in this study, Paul Auster takes on the role of storyteller most self-consciously. He looks back to the origins of storytelling: “the greatest influence on my work has been fairy tales, the oral tradition of story-telling, the Brothers Grimm, the Thousand and One Nights-the kinds of stories you read out loud to children.”1 As a result of this interest, however, he is enmeshed in a peculiarly complex bind; in his view it is essential to understand stories, what they are, how they work, precisely because we need them so desperately, an atavistic, and decidedly non-elitist, need, in the blood: “stories are the fundamental food for the soul. We can’t live without stories. … People do not necessarily need novels to satisfy their need for stories. They watch television or read comic books or go to the movies. It’s through stories that we struggle to make sense of the world.”2 Yet while self-conscious writing, metafictional writing, is our by-now accustomed method of determining what stories are and how they work-as he claims early in “City of Glass,” “the question is the story itself, and whether or not it means something is not for the story to tell”3-its detached dissection of storytelling’s clichés, conventions, and universal appeal cannot in itself feed our souls, cannot supply us with what Auster feels we cannot live without. As he himself notes: “self-conscious experimentation is generally a result of a real longing to break down the barriers of literary convention…most avant garde works do not survive.”4