Since I was unable to discuss a passage during class, the passage I would have chosen to talk about was the Quinn’s entry in his red notebook regarding the “bums.” Even before his own realization that he had become a bum, I had begun noticing the parallels between what his own “experiment” was turning into and the things that he wrote about the people on the street. There were so many similarities between him and the people he wrote about, yet there was one main difference: he was voluntarily choosing to live his life on the street. He had a nice apartment, a fairly steady income plus what he was receiving from the Stillman’s through the real Paul Alter.
As for the similarities, the first part of Quinn’s notebook entry that later applied to him was the way that the bums did not acknowledge passerby’s. These people were as Quinn said, “defeated”, but he chose not to interact with other people in an attempt to remain invisible to them. This similarity also distinguishes him from the other bums. He notes the people using all of their different talents in order to get by. We as readers are well aware that Quinn has an outstanding talent for writing. If he had been just like the other bums, he would have used this talent to earn some kind of income for himself. But in fact, this was not necessary since he was the one who put himself on the streets, leaving a pleasant apartment and filled bank account left behind.
The next moment of the notebook entry that stood out was when Quinn told the story of the man playing the clarinet behind the wind-up monkeys. “To be inside that music, to be drawn into the circle of its repetitions: perhaps that is a place where one could finally disappear.” (Auster, 107) This moment has a striking resemblance to the moment when the ticking of the church clock became like Quinn’s own pulse. “Quinn lived by the rhythm of that clock, and eventually he had trouble distinguishing it from his own pulse.” (Auster, 113) Not only had Quinn become totally lost in the ticking of the clock to the point where it seemed to be a part of his being, as the clarinet music was to the man playing it, but the idea of time in the two situations was the same. Quinn found it harder to leave the clarinet player the longer he was there, the same way that he grew more and more attached to his space in the alley.
Lastly, even though Quinn did not write about it in his red notebook, there is one final similarity between him and the bums: what they are working for. For the most part, those people were just doing what they could to get through each and every day. Quinn thought he was working for an important cause. He thought that each of his days spent on the street was allowing Peter Stillman to live under great protection, when in reality; the threatening Stillman had already died. Quinn, like the other street people, was working so hard for no end result other than torn-up, dirty clothing, scruffy hair, and no money or a place to live. Eventually his similarities between himself and the street people turned him into one. He was no longer a well off writer choosing to live on the streets in order to fulfill a duty or a promise. He became a “lost soul” in that “particular hell.” To describe the situation we left him in at the end of the book with one of his own sentences, “Even though they seem to be there, they cannot be counted as present.”