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Sun goes down on Auster!,
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This review is from: Sunset Park (Hardcover)
Count me in as a long-time follower of Paul Auster's work, even if somewhat browned off (being polite here) by the post-modern jiggery-pokery of 'Travels in the Scriptorium' and 'Man in the Dark'. Disappointing therefore, to find little in Auster's latest novel 'Sunset Park' that would signal the return to form for Auster that someone like myself (who regarded Auster as a favourite author) would love to see. Part of the 'old' Auster appeal for me is that there's no guessing where a Paul Auster novel will take you. You may start off in New York as happens in 'Moon Palace' my favourite Auster novel to-date, and incredibly, find yourself transported in the blink of an eye to the American West. Another novel, 'Mr. Vertigo', whisks you off on a magical tour across the USA. You never knew where you would end up with Auster. Count me in for more of that 'old' Auster of his younger days!
In 'Sunset Park', Auster offers insights into writing and publishing and makes some pertinent comments on the state of present-day America and its ongoing overseas misadventures ("a sick destructive monster") but count me out of all the trivia on baseball and the arty stuff on the film 'The Best Years of Our Lives'. Ditto for all the bits on erotic drawings; and Auster's stylistic touch of using lists and then more lists (IMO) is another annoyance.
The intriguing situation presented in 'Sunset Park' involving the occupation of an abandoned house in New York City by four twenty-something squatters Miles, Bing, Alice and Ellen - each in turn taking their place on centre stage as Auster switches the focus of the narrative from one to the other, relating the story through their eyes - looks promising, creates anticipation of.... struggle?... strife?... confrontation perhaps? - a situation that begs the kind of imaginative treatment at which Auster has excelled in earlier novels such as 'The Music of Chance', 'The Book of Illusions' and 'The New York Trilogy'. Given the set-up, I had hoped a story with 'fire in its belly' would ignite from the squatters' illegal occupation. Yet Auster makes little of the dramatic potential of the situation and the disappointing end result (IMO) is a busload of pedestrian characters plodding through a lacklustre plot where nothing much happens that isn't expected, where there's no real drama in the interaction of the four squatters sufficient to yoke this reader's attention to the narrative. I soldiered on manfully to the end but in the end found myself starting to gloss over pages as my interest in the proceedings waned. Nope, not one of the 'select few' Auster novels I would run through smoke to save from a fire. On this one count me out! Comment | Permalink