Paul Auster weaves his magic over the three stories. This, being Paul Auster, the stories interconnect in mysterious ways leaving the reader satisfied. Paul Auster's strength is his depiction of the doubts and failings of humanity and how people somehow survive through it all
My short recommendation is that as soon as I finished this book I wanted to turn back to the first page and read it again. I suspect you keep drawing new things from it the more times you read it. Just like listening to very good music...
Three intriguing short stories about three different writers/detectives who each become involved in a search that becomes an obsession. An obsession that all but destroys their lives. And then at the end the three stories are one man's effort to deal with his own demons and to put things into a context and to move on with his life. The three stories are all beautifully written and the book is just a superb read.
Two things I have got out of reading this book. First, this author must be one of the best in breaking down complex characters and take the plot where you don't expect it to go. Second, he never finishes the story, at least not in a normal way. I read his book "Travels in the scriptorium" last month and got the same feeling. Nevertheless a five star rating is the least you can give to such a wonderful read.
"Three seemingly independent novellas packaged together as a single volume. BUT WHY?" The detective bashed his fist on the table, making cups fly everywhere. I'm still asking myself that question. The three novellas have a common theme of somebody pretending to be somebody else, and putting so much effort into this that he eventually becomes a different person. Reading through the book, you spot lots of other small details that the three stories have in common too. It's one of those books that stays on your mind when you've finished it. I'm still asking myself what it was really all about.
I have just finished re-reading this outstanding trilogy, although it really stands as one complete work. This is one of the most subtle, understated but effective novels in existence. There are echoes of e.g. Kafka but ultimately Paul Auster has forged his own unique voice and viewpoint, especially using his own name as a 'character'. There is an apparent narrative pull towards ...what? And this is the intriguing part for me - to understand what the author is getting at because there is no unilinear story progression. It soon becomes apparent that this is very complex and like the thoughts of a writer writ large on the page the book moves across themes, feelings of identity, diversions and dead ends. I love this book, even more the second time around.
I feel it was very much like a piece of abstract art, say, for example, a single rectangle of solid colour. It is interesting that someone should produce it and it is thought-provoking why the artist has done it. So it is a valid peice of art. The difference is that one has to spend hours reading Auster's book, many wasted hours. With the abstract art, you can look for a couple of minutes, think and then move on.
I don't believe any other reviewer here could claim they'd done justice to this novel or made even 50% sense of what it's all about with such a limited number of words and I'm definitely not going to try. That's because these 3 stories are almost impossible to deconstruct satisfactorily, although I personally did enjoy trying. But as simple reading material, you won't just be getting an engrossing read, you'll also be forced to think, because while the questions are never-ending here, the answers are never as forth-coming. So, the only difinitive analysis I can offer is that you certainly won't be dissappointed with this collection of inter-connected short stories that are an engrossing and original read and should not be missed. Brilliant in fact!
This is a series of subtle interlocking novellas set in New York published over 85 and 86: City of Glass, "Ghosts" and "Locked Room with the first set in the period, the 2nd in the 40's and the last one in the 70's. They use mystery conventions of the gumshoe detective (think Humphrey Bogart) but in a subversive way as an existentialist reflection on writing, and story creation and communication but at the pace of a thriller; it more Kafka then Chandler with haunting imagery and surreal coincidences. But it also has deep emotional and psychological depths.
To give you a flavour of the book, in the City of Glass the main Character is Daniel Quinn a writer who has abandoned writing except for mystery writing owing to the death of his wife and child. He is successful enough to only need to write one novel a year which he has just done and then he drifts. He is clearly depressed and only feels alive when he is the private eye of his novels. One night he receives a midnight phone call asking for a detective called Paul Auster( yes the real author is also a later character in the story) and after several rejections he decides to act as if were his private eye character. His clients are a child-man who is a survivor of a dreadful abuse by his father (he was deprived of language as part of an experiment in discovering the natural language of man before the fall of the Tower of Babel) and his wife a nurse who had married him so that he could leave the hospital. The father now elderly is being released from Mental hospital and they fear that the son will be killed and want protection.
The story then takes many twists and turns and ends with the author as character being criticised by a final narrator who may be one of the characters from the other stories for what happens to Daniel Quinn during the course of the story.
In the Locked Room all the characters are named after colours and it's a classical stake-out story but is it? Or is it a reflection on the lives of characters once that have been created and written about?
The final story is of two friends who have drifted apart, one wanted to be a writer and is now a critic unable to create works of his own imagination. He discovers that his friend has disappeared leaving a wife and baby and a locked room of manuscripts. These turn out to be masterpieces of novels, plays, and poems far beyond his capability of writing. In preparing those for publishing he re-enters and re-evaluates his life long friendship and what it meant but at a cost as he faces a secret that tests him and his relationships to destruction.
Paul Auster's draws on his own colourful work life in his struggle to become a writer so the stories have a grain of gritty realism. But they are interlinked by an interest in the impact of coincidences and lives lived in minimalist even ascetic ways against a background of a loss, failure and absent fathers and reflections on writing and storytelling. If you want a painless way into postmodernist metafiction then this is the book for you. Highly recommended