on 30 October 2013
This novel has certainly received some poor reviews since its publication but I think it to be one of Auster's best books, perhaps for no other reason than a lot of the subject matter resonated with me personally.
The overarching story (if we can call it that) follows the lives of four young people who, through various misfortunes, have found themselves having to squat a dilapidated house in Brooklyn. Each character is given a separate chapter in which we learn more about their backgrounds and how their lives are entwined.
It is told from the point of view of an omniscient narrator and there are large parts of exposition in which we are spoon-fed what each character is thinking and feeling and this makes it difficult for the reader to then bring their own thoughts and emotions to the text, which is usually one of joys of reading Auster.
The books deals with themes of poverty and wealth, love and hate, family and friends, inner peace and inner torment, property, space and what it means to be young and old.
I can understand why this book has had a mixed reception but overall `Sunset Park' for me is a mature, engrossing and insightful piece of work by a writer well into his craft.
on 17 November 2010
After a recent run of good, but not quite great, novels Paul Auster returns with his strongest work in years. Beautifully and sparingly written, regular readers will enjoy the recurring Auster themes - broken relationships within families, the collection of seemingly junk items, isolation, another side of America. The characters live outside of the pages - in contract to some of his recent books. It's not the New York Trilogy or even The Music of Chance but there are strong signs here that Auster is almost back on the form that made him one of the most important writers of the 80s and 90s.
on 15 September 2011
I read an interview with Paul Auster shortly after the release of Sunset Park,and he intimated that maybe writing wasn't as important to him as it use to be,and that he didn't know if he would write anymore.This book for me highlights that attitude.I found this slow,dull and ultimately pointless.The characters were very two dimensional and I just didn't care about any of it.It seems as though he just chucked in a couple of life changing events that shaped the protaganists life and filled in the gaps.It was almost like reading someone trying to copy Auster. I loved "Invisible", I though that was typical Auster class.But this left me feeling let down and a bit pissed off to be honest.Lazy.I hope his best years aren't behind him.Come on Paul give us something worthy of your name.
Having said all that,I'd imagine people new to Auster may find this ok,fair enough, but if you're one of them, do me a favour and pick up New York Trilogy and compare.There is no comparison.It's two different writers.One full of ideas, the other who can't be bothered anymore.
I find Paul Auster's writing highly readable and thought-provoking but for me, not everything he does entirely works. So it is with "Sunset Park", ostensibly a book about how the global economic crisis of 2008 impacts a set of characters squatting in a dilapidated building in the area of New York that gives the book its title, although really the focus is less on finances and economics and more on relationships - romances, sexual encounters, family interactions and friendship.
I raced through this novel as Auster's prose held my attention, even if at times his subjects - e.g. erotic drawings, baseball, the father-son dynamic - were not ones that really spoke to me. Some readers may have an issue with the less than structured narrative, jumps in perspective and the nature of the denouement, but my real criticism of the book would be of its characters. Too many are introduced and a number are insufficiently developed, rendering them unconvincing. Father and son Morris and Miles Heller ring true, together with Miles's actress mother, but Ellen and particularly Alice, the female contingent at the Sunset Park house, are not particularly well-drawn. Personally I didn't really buy the Bing character at all. And whilst Miles leaves an impression on the reader, for me it was hard to see why everyone around him warmed to him so much and wanted his approval; that didn't really strike a real chord with me, either.
Having made criticisms of the characterisation, I'll return to the engaging writing as a good reason to pick this book up, although it doesn't show Auster at his most imaginative, experimental or original, which means longstanding fans might find it one of his lesser works and those new to his novels might want to start elsewhere. If you are looking for a compelling read with some interesting stylistic flourishes and a literary novel that keeps you turning the pages, however, this might not be a bad bet.
on 14 February 2011
I would characterise myself as a die hard Paul Auster fan, I have read everything he has ever written. Unfortunately I have found his recent works haven't left me quite as satisfied as his classics such as New York Trilogy and Oracle Night. His prose is still utterly compelling and I find that from the first page I am drawn in and want to read more. The substance of works such as this one is however somewhat lacking. I agree with an earlier critic that the characters weren't sufficiently developed or compelling, that there were too many and that the focus of the book was a little confused. And so, I reached the end with a sigh of disappointment, glad to have read the book but not happy with the emptiness it left me with. I will ofcourse buy his next work and probably the one after that as soon as is it published, but (and I hate to say this) my admiration for Mr. Auster may be on the wane.
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
on 9 April 2013
This is a wonderfully stylish novel. The beauty of the prose does not interfere with the story. The continual use of lists and the multi narrator /subject add to the sense of humanity of the main protagonist. Miles Heller is 27 years old living in Florida having fled his family believing himself repsonsible for the death of his step brother . Following his relationship with a high school girl he heads back to New York to escape her sister's blackmail attempts . He becomes a part of a squatter community in a house in Sunset Park in New York.
Along the way we explore the work of PEN ,the temporary nature of material possessions , latent homosexuality, the fragile nature of love and loss.
on 30 January 2011
This novel was a local book club choice and is the first time I have read Paul Auster. I found the book a fantastic read that I would recommend to others. The author has several quirks (such as sentences that run for 1.5 pages) but in the context used it proved to be a really effective device. One of my fellow book club members did comment that the ending seemed rather abrupt, almost as if the book had run its alloted number of pages and then was closed quickly, but that didn't spoil it for me, it just gave me greater reign to imagine what might have happened next.
on 5 January 2014
When reviewing a previous Auster book, my one criticism was the somewhat clunky dialogue. In Sunset Park, he comes up with an interesting solution to such problems by not having any. Instead, the book is told in a series of first person essays, revealing different perspectives on the same story. This certainly helps it stand out from the plethora of credit crunch fiction out there and my only criticism would be that the ending felt a bit sudden, when there was perhaps more to say. But perhaps the fact that it leaves the audience wanting more shows what a good book this is.
Paul Auster's 2010 novel Sunset Park is another worthy effort from my favourite author of his generation. As with a number of recent Auster novels, Sunset Park does not quite capture the downright inventiveness of earlier masterpieces such New York Trilogy, The Music Of Chance, Leviathan or The Book Of Illusions, but there is enough narrative trickery and typically sublime prose here to keep most Auster fans content (if not ecstatic) and to leave the vast majority of other contemporary authors in the shade.
In Sunset Park, Auster revisits a 'generation gap' premise which he has tackled impressively before, whether it be Walt and tutor Master Yehudi in Mr Vertigo or Nathan Glass and his nephew Tom in the more recent The Brooklyn Follies. The main protagonist of Sunset Park is Miles Heller, 28-year old son of book publisher, twice-married Morris. The novel begins with Miles, having deserted his parents seven years earlier as a result of mutual disaffection, working in Florida as a 'trasher out', namely someone who reclaims possessions from houses subject to mortgage default as a result of the financial meltdown in 2008. Auster uses a number of the main characters in the book to narrate the story thereafter, including Miles' father and the 'tenants' squatting in the New York residence to which Miles flees in an attempt to evade the Florida law enforcement agencies, who are likely to take a dim view of Miles' ongoing relationship with 17-year old schoolgirl Pilar.
Auster's concerns in Sunset Park reflect a gamut of issues, both political and personal, ranging from the aftermath of the banking crisis (albeit dealt with rather superficially) and the familial impact of the Iraq war, through to the decline of the book publishing business and personal tragedies of lost love and family revenge. Auster has clearly moved on (for better or worse) from his earlier more fantastic, mysterious and suspense-filled work to a more measured, humanistic style, which is perhaps more emotionally charged.
For me, therefore, Sunset Park does not attain the level of his absolutely best work, but is a must read nevertheless.