I finished Auster's In the Country of Last Things several days ago. Reading it while reading Bacigalupi's The Windup Girl proved to be somewhat problematic, in terms of getting my head into each text, since both took place in the profoundly wounded cities of dysfunctional futures. Both feature characters wandering through those cities in search of meaning and assistance. Auster's novel uses this—even on its face—metaphorically, and the "facts on the ground" shift from one day to the next for our protagonist, Anna Blume. Bacigalupi's tale has several protagonists, and certainly part of its agenda is to suggest that their city joins them while it separates them at the existential level, and none of them is seeking the same sort of satisfactions. The styles of prose differ radically: Auster is spare; Bacigalupi somewhat self-consciously ornate, though one could argue that it fits the exoticism of the novel's locale as much as Auster's honed prose fits the deprivations of that novel's world. Auster's tale is a fable and Bacigalupi's science fiction, but both are grounded in realistic appraisals of character.
Did a fair bit of work on my story "Clockworks" this past (vacation) week. I'm feeling confident about it. I just need to somehow apply myself to the work in the days ahead, as I return to teaching.