|The New York Trilogy (Contemporary American Fiction Series)
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"City of Glass
As a result of a strange phone call in the middle of the night, Quinn, a writer of detective stories, becomes enmeshed in a case more puzzling than any he might have written.
Blue, a student of Brown, has been hired by White to spy on Black. From a window of a rented room on Orange Street, Blue keeps watch on his subject, who is across the street, staring out of his window.
The Locked Room
Fanshawe has disappeared, leaving behind his wife and baby and a cache of extraordinary novels, plays, and poems. What happened to him--and why is the narrator, Fanshawe's boyhood friend, lured obsessively into his life?"
- Intelligent and inventive
"New York Trilogy" is intelligent, interesting, and inventive, albeit problematic in some ways. The trilogy contains three novellas that largely stand on their own, but also bear some relationship to each other. The novellas could be considered reinvented or perhaps dysfunctional detective stories of sorts. While each involves a mystery, they lack the action and denouement of traditional detective stories. Instead, the mystery behind each story is something of an intellectual conundrum that engages the reader with the act of authorship. Who and what is the writer? What are the writer's motives? What happens when the writer attempts to solve a mystery (as in "City of Glass")? What happens when the writer is the source of a mystery (as in "The Locked Room")? The novellas are largely metaphorical (the writer as a detective, the writer's brain as a locked room, the writer as more than one person) and are rewarding on a symbolic level. Unfortunately, Aster is a skilled enough detective writer to lead us down a non-existent path of genuine mystery. "The Locked Room" contains enough tension and ingredients to make us believe we are reading a real detective story. The largely intellectual conclusion comes as something of an anti-climax and almost makes me wonder if the story ran wild in Auster's head to the point where he could not think of a suitable way to finish it. Issues like this and the stiffness of the language bothered me to some degree but did not diminish my appreciation of Auster's work. This is certainly one of the more inventive books I've encountered and I enjoyed it tremendously. Whether or not it is Post-Modern or can be attributed any other academic trope is of course irrelevant....more info
- Pretentious, weird, and I'm fairly certain brilliant
This is one of the strangest books, actually three short novellas, that I've ever read. It's almost like a university-sponsored experiment in avante garde literature...no traditional beginning-middle-end structure, no formulaic plotline, no standard 'protagonist' and 'antagonist' characters, odd, stilted dialog, difficult to figure allegory, etc...all of the rules are broken here. It communicates on a bizarre, almost visceral level that is hard to describe, almost as if Auster creates a seperate reality that makes sense as you're reading it and later confuses the hell out of you when you stop and think about it. I couldn't really say that I "enjoyed" this book, honestly it kind of gave me 'the willies', but I keep a copy in my collection because it is just so odd, so amazingly unique and quite probably the work of a bona-fide genius. I have never read anything quite like this....more info
- detached perspective on the world
The stories are well written, easy to follow and maintain a consistent flow. Which is all very commendable because this is difficult to do. But the greatness stops there. The characters are likeable enough, but for some reason, I did not care about them. I can not explain why either. Gradually, I just lost interest. Perhaps it was because of the style of the author. Possibly, the text is too perfect. By that I mean that it lacks passion, energy and --- elan -- or something. Again, I can not put my finger on it. Auster seems to be like a voyeuristic, transcendent being, detached from the world, watching things from above, simply recording events like a court reporter...... I really wanted to like this book. I just couldn't....more info
I might be ignorant, but this book didn't appeal to me at all. I read it during my summer holidays, and it wasn't bad entertainment. However, I don't like the plot of the three stories, and especially City of Glass is a bit too "pseudo". Some passages are like reading Umberto Eco, but without his brilliance and more important without importance to me as the reader!
I rate this book 2 stars; 1 for Auster's writing, which (without doubt) is good ,and 1 for his description of New York. I've never had the pleasure to visit the city, but in this book it comes alive.
My conclusion will be: If you want mystery novels stick to Raymond Chandler, and if you want the rest stick to Umberto Eco ;-)...more info
- Add to the permanent collection
This book has the rare combination of qualities that qualify it as re-readable. There is enough fibre to it to allow digestion to occur over a long period of time, and each reading will reveal new perspectives.
If at first you're confused and think you've stumbled onto some sort of high-art form of detective novels, you've basically got the right idea. Fortunately, Auster goes much deeper, weaving an intricate and complex thread throughout the stories of this trilogy. Though each can stand on the strength of its tale on its own, together they form a triptych which forces you as the reader to continually refer to each portion again and again....more info
- The best trilogy ever
The three different stories are all dark and thrilling psychologically. The style is fluid and intense. A real pleasure for the ones who like to avoid the regular "happy ending" novels....more info
- Long Live the Novel! The Novel is Dead!: Postmodern Postmortem
When I was an English grad-student in the 90's, there was a certain kind of guy I observed who loved language passionately, a word-geek, you know? Pale, fastidious, carrying his fountain pen or carafe of espresso with him everywhere he went, along with his worn copy of "Ulysses," he either went the Ph.D. route or decided to write, in which case he went from MFA workshop to writing fellowship, bouncing from place to place every year or so, aspiring to semi-permanence as an instructor somewhere. Sensitive, intelligent, aware of his lack of machismo, he relied on words as a weapon, and as his 20's turned to 30's, his troubles increased, for now he was the impoverished writer/student type, while the extroverted, less-idealistic types had the wives and homes and you get the picture. For the aspiring male writer, in my opinion, the subconscious sense of suspended adulthood and marginalized masculinity could sometimes be acute; pushing 40 in an elite fellowship, where he was paid a stipend to finish his novel, the one he'd started in his 20's about a boy saddened by his parents' divorce, say, he was in a dangerous place: rootless, essentially without life experience and family responsibilities, without knowledge of work or craft beyond academia, coddled yet deprived by its protective culture, his work ironically de-potentated by its paternalism.
Very often, this type of guy showed certain preferences in his work: his stories might have "tough" male types, like those from noir films, expressions of his desire to be active in the world and streetwise and tough; very often his stories would begin with a male character who'd lost his wife and child, conveniently making the character sympathetic, by giving him a back story, an explanation for his current state of almost autistic insularity, while also protecting the writer from having to write about such things. The writer now had to compensate for many weaknesses in his work due to his lack of life experience, compounded perhaps by his innate introversion, love of words, sensitivities, etc., and so, in lieu of real human interaction, his main character might spend a lot of time smoking cigarettes, visiting "blowsy tarts" or doing something shocking (!) like sitting on the toilette. (Oh, I'm sure Auster spawned "Fight Club" at the very least.) A story could be written in such a way that if, for example, the setting was New York, someone who'd never been there and was only referencing a map, could do it. Then he'd display his one true strength in a bit of aggressive word-play, going philosophical with puns and ideas about language and its limits. Professors of creative writing, jaded in appetite, likewise insulated, seemed to especially approve of violence or sexual perversion to spice-up those intellectual interludes.
Any of this ring a bell? Auster's work here jogged my memory of this smart yet developmentally-delayed male type, so aware of his sensitivity that he resorts to images of violent masculinity and portrayals of women as mommies. Mommy, the desire to return to infancy. The death instinct. All of which is not to say that his work is not compulsively readable here; it is a test-case for the effectiveness of suspense as a device within plot, carrying the reader along against her will. But I feel cheated, and I don't like to be so tightly controlled by a writer's agenda. I prefer a messier aesthetic, an excess of consciousness and life, as one gets in Proust or Shakespeare, spilling over the edges, as one gets in much good non-fiction, the letters of Van Gogh, for example. The coolest thing about these novellas, I think, is how Auster came up with an analogy to describe the writer's paradox, the writer's problem, in his angry deconstruction of the mystery genre--how someone temperamentally a writer, who craves solitude necessary to write, who believes that real life is the internal life of thoughts and emotions, can somehow perform the alchemy necessary to create fiction with its demands for action in the physical world, for plot, for drama. That's what I love best about this schizoid, paranoid, hermetic, manipulative, redundant and disingenuous trilogy. But I still want more life------!
- Loved it. This book got me started on reading all of Auster's work.
I've had a range of reactions to his various books, but when I love one (I don't always), I really love it. This is my favorite of his works. There's something dreamlike about Auster's writing and once I enter the dream I'm reluctant to leave it. I'll bet you will be too. Give it a read....more info
- A collection of novelas about identiy and writing
This book is advertised as detectives stories, but they are not in the strictest sense of the word. These are stories about trying to find and maintain your identies, and not about finding murders or kidnappers.
The first story "City of Glass" is about a writer, Quinn, who has lost his family and seems to be lost without a purpose. One day he recive a phone call for by mistake, the call is for a detective Paul Auster. Out of interest Quinn decides to say he is Paul Auster and takes the case. Quinn gets so involved in the case he loses everything else in his life. His only lifeline during this time is a red notebook that he makes notes about the case in. It is in this notebook that he tries to figure out who he is.
The second story, "Ghosts," is meant to be like an old dective story, a la Dashell Hammett. It has a very surreal quality about it none of the charcters have real names, they are named after colors. The story centers around Blue who is hired to watch Black. All Black does is sit in his apartment and write. Just like Quinn in the first story Blue loses his himself in the case and in Black. The question is who hired Blue and why?
The third story, "The Locked Room," is about a man who is never given a name, and his childhood friend Fanshawe. Fanshawe has disappeared leaving his wife, child, and his unpublished work. He leaves the task of deciding what to do with the unpublished work to his friend. As his friend goes about getting the work published he becomes closer to Fanshawe's wife and son. The friend and Fanshawe's wife finally marry. The friend's troubles begin when he is asked to write a book about Fanshawe's life. He becomes so absorbed in Fanshawe's life he almost loses himself in it. Can Fanshawe's friend save himself and his life before it becomes lost in Fanshawe's.
Each character in each story struggles with who he is. Auster plays with his role as a writer in these stories. In the first story he puts himself in by name, and at the end of the last story he tries to explain why he wrote this collection of stories.
Overall this is collection is well worth the read. It is full of imagery and well written. I highly recomend this book for anyone who is looking for a book that will make them think, but is a quick read....more info
- detached perspective on the world
The stories are well written, easy to follow and maintain a consistent flow. Which is all very commendable because this is difficult to do. But the greatness stops there. The characters are likeable enough, but for some reason, I did not care about them. I can not explain why either. Gradually, I just lost interest. Perhaps it was because of the style of the author. Possibly, the text is too perfect. By that I mean that it lacks passion, energy and --- elan -- or something. Again, I can not put my finger on. Auster seems to be like a voyeuristic, transcendent being, detached from the world, watching things from above, simply recording events like a court reporter...... I really wanted to like this book. I just couldn't....more info
- Surveillance of the self
If you're looking for detective stories, look elsewhere. Auster isn't interested in the classic noirish private eye tale as anything but a way into territory vastly more compelling. Though his three novellas ostensibly revolve around men hired or driven into the pursuit of others, they end up being more about the psychology of the pursuer than the pursued. Surveillance of the self and the collapse of what we assume is our own identity is the abiding theme here, and Auster gives it three fascinating spins with simple plots which quickly spiral to literary altitudes. But don't expect simple resolutions. There are no straightforward answers here. If these were simple issues, they wouldn't justify the exploration Auster gives them. I had the pleasure of reading this immediately prior to Auster's "The Art of Hunger" (1997), a collection of essays and interviews which reveals, among other things, how "The New York Trilogy" blends aspects of his autobiography, literary theories and abiding interests into a fascinating work of fiction. Read them together. Then read everything else he's written. You won't be disappointed....more info
- Reality is what you make of it
How do you discuss a mystery that's not a mystery? More importantly, how do you WRITE three mysteries that aren't? And still manage to create involving, memorable, and deeply disturbing novels? I don't know how, but Paul Auster has figured out. In the space of three short novels, Auster has developed mysteries that are more concerned with ideas than plot, with the style of writing rather than the content. He has, in short, written THE NEW YORK TRILOGY.
Describing the plots does no justice to the novels (they are, after all, practically plotless), but I will endeavor to summarize. CITY OF GLASS tracks Quinn, a frustrated novelist who agrees to accept a detective case, after being mistaken for the detective Paul Auster. GHOSTS follows the exploits of Blue, a detective hired by White to spy on Black, for reasons which remain obscure. THE LOCKED ROOM is centered on an author who has been charged with the task of tending to an old friend's vast literary output, after the friend has mysteriously vanished from civilization.
As mentioned previously, these novels ARE mysteries, on their surfaces. (That's initially what drew me to their pages.) But Auster isn't concerned with the intricacies of the detective genre. He is far more fascinated with the image of the author, that person who creates people out of thin air and smoke. Auster delves into what the make-up of such a person may be, a person who's public character is defined by the artistic output, not by whom the author actually is. Who the author actually may be, or what the author's opinion is as to his or her own writings, is not important. It is a schizophrenic life, to be sure, and Auster knows it. Are we defined by our inner monologue, or do our actions govern our identities? Is who we purport to be as important as how we appear to be?
CITY OF GLASS is an excellent example of Auster's musings on this theme. As Quinn slowly begins to develop his detective persona, he can feel his previous author persona begin to slip away. By his inadvertent creation of a new persona, he erases his past; but as he was only really defined by his novels, it is a far easier task than it first appeared. This culminates in an exploration of the inner workings of personal discovery that reminds me of nothing so much than Arthur C. Clarke's elliptical finale to 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY.
Is it environment, or public perception, or biology that determines what we turn out to be? Auster interweaves this theme into all three of his novels. The character of Stillman, in CITY OF GLASS, is so obsessed with this idea that he deprived his son of any form of contact, trying to discover the hidden, secret language of God. Fanshawe, in THE LOCKED ROOM, is determined that he distance himself from what he was perceived to be, unwilling to accept anyone's characterization of his psyche. Blue, in GHOSTS, discovers that what he fears the most is true, that his existence is his job; outside of that, nothing he thinks or feels has any effect.
Mind you, none of this would raise the themes above the quality of a academic treatise without Auster's remarkable writing ability. While he may be loathe to be judged by his output, the fact remains that Auster can relate a story with the best of them. His characters, while purposefully vague, still manage to create an empathy with the reader. The quest for identity, that search for the ego, is a universally understandable topic. Auster achieves the feat of simultaneously having the characters understand themselves at the same time that the reader does. Any discussion of the past is irrelevant, it's the NOW that matters. The author in THE LOCKED ROOM gradually understands this in his quest for the missing friend Fanshawe. What he discovers about Fanshawe only serves to confuse. Perhaps he was better off with his own personal memories, rather than try to incorporate the recollections of others.
Auster also realizes that one's opinions about a novel can differ from another's; it makes no difference. What is important is what YOU thought, not what others may tell you to think. The NEW YORK TRILOGY seems designed to provoke different responses, alternate beliefs as to what it all means. I personally haven't been privy to such a possibility as to the ultimate meaning of a thing since witnessing Peter Greenaway's remarkable film THE COOK, THE THIEF, HIS WIFE AND HER LOVER. What does it all ultimately mean? Who knows? What's important is that it affected me, on a level I wasn't expecting. It is a pleasant surprise....more info
- Austerys darkly delightful, experimental detective series
Paul Auster burst onto the literary scene in the mid-eighties with The New York Trilogy, a series of experimental detective novels (or should I say detective-style novels as only one features an actual detective). In the first installment, City of Glass, a wrong number draws a hermetic novelist into mentally disturbed man's conflict with his religious fanatic father. In the next, Ghosts, a private eye named Blue is hired by a man called White to spy on the isolated Black. In the final episode, The Locked Room, a literary critic searches for a childhood friend who has disappeared, leaving behind a wife and child and a wealth of extraordinary, unpublished fiction. After each tale's somewhat cryptic ending, the truths behind the shady events are still mostly obscure and so is the piece's general meaning. Both of which are especially disappointing given the amount of suspense Auster builds-up. The author is often accused of being clever for clever's sake and is easy to understand why. But if those are your concerns, you are missing what makes these books truly special: atmosphere. Mixing detective noir with postmodern surrealism, Auster paints eerie netherlands that make the reader readily accept the most bizarre circumstances in his fiction. Everything the New York Trilogy lacks in substance, it more than makes up for in style....more info
- Language and Story Examined Through Existentialism
What can I say? There is nothing quite like this trilogy out there in the world of modern literature. Auster hit his stride with these three novellas, which stand as a kind of examination of language and existentialism masked by a cloak of private eye genre fiction.
If I had to rate the stories individually, I would say 'The Locked Room' is the weakest. Not that it is bad or worse than the others, it just seemed to serve more as an autobiography of the author, so after finishing the first two this one seemed a little less daring. The other two, 'City of Glass' and 'Ghosts', are equal in my view. A great price and edition for three innovative and intriguing stories. ...more info
- A Crystal Ball
In City of Glass, Paul Auster establishes a dialogue between the genre of the mystery novel and the mystery of life. One's exploring the counter-physical architecture of that magnificent imaginative space. A touchstone for critique is lodged in the first encounter between Quinn, an author turned detective, and Stillman, the man who is perhaps the mad, ex-scholar he is pursuing. In a metalinguistic interchange, Stillman asserts that words have a life of their own, meanings and sounds which reading pleasure is greatly enhanced by keeping a journal (preferably a red spiral notebook) for reflection and elaboration of the book's multifaceted themes. The experience for me was like entering Escher's painting, House of Stairs, and "...[fly] off in so many little directions at once." The character further explains that the common view of words "...as stones, as great immovable objects with no life, as monads that never change" breaks down upon immediate inspection. That is, stones wear down, erode, turn into dust, scatter into the wind, compile into sedimentary rock...etc. And thus does the plot perambulate from the upper West Side of Manhattan to the motivation of a character, to the relationship between the author and his character, to the relationship between the author and the reader, back again into works of literature, particularly Don Quixote, now summoning the grand biblical image and orthography of the Tower of Babel, finally wending its way into the precincts of bodily desire and the comforts of home and family...making its way back toward that inexplicable of inexplicables, love. So choose your meditation: Does the author become detective descend into madness or ascend into divine embrace? Is there a difference between the two? Why does the book constantly turn a mirror upon the reader? Have we solved any mysteries at all? Do we really know, for example, that the author has not made Quinn a pseudonym for himself? Are not their thoughts a little too intimately interwoven? Where does Auster stand in relation to the author? To Don Quixote or Miguel Cervantes? To Mookie Wilson? to yourself? Whatever strand of DNA you try to decode, you should come to appreciate that while discussion of the text is open, "[e]verything becomes essence; the center of the book shifts with each event that propels it forward." And so will grow your feeling of awe and wonder at being alive. The City of Glass is really a crystal ball where you can gaze upon a Universe that looks back upon itself....more info
I havn't read the book yet but I did receive it in the amount of time stated and in good condition....more info
- the emperor has no clothes
Somewhere along the way Paul Auster was decreed a "literary author," so if you dare to say he's boring, pretentious, and not really all that good with words, you are simply one of the great unwashed who don't get it. The first two novels in this book book are flat our lousy, no two ways about it (I lost the book after the I slogged through the second novel and didn't much miss it. The concluding story looked better than the other two but that ain't saying much). Auster's characters are wan bloodless abstractions. You can have abstractions in your stories and still write engaging stuff, look at Kafka, but make us feel for your abstractions; that's the secret. Auster doesn't come close to managing this feat. Auster writes "literature" for philosophy students who never got literature or maybe "philosophy" for English students who never understood philosophy. At any rate it's boring and self important drivel, worse when you get down to it Mr. Auster's great insights are really rather insipid. They're the kinds of things fifteen year olds happen on and feel really, really deep and special for thinking of, for a year or two anyway. James Ellroy and Dashiell Hammett have written much better books, but unfortunately they're crime authors so we can't take them seriously now can we? But Mr. Auster, talentless though he may be, is a literary author, deigning to write crime albeit in an oh so clever postmodern way so we can't not him serioulsly at risk of looking dumb. If you read to actually enjoy a book pick up Ellroy or Hammett, but if you want to impress the grad student crowd at parties then go for Auster. But you'll always wonder just how many of them actually like him, and how many are just saying they do are because they're too afraid of looking stupid to say differently....more info
- A Puzzle of a Book About Mysteries
Unfortunately, Paul Auster's unique work, "The New York Trilogy," is one of those books usually purchased because of word-of-mouth advertising than off-the-shelf interest. The problem with people telling you about this little collection is that you often build a preconceived notion about what to expect from the work, either good, bad, or strange. If a book ever existed that should be read without any prior knowledge of it whatsoever, The New York Trilogy is it.
The book - really a collection of three novellas, originally published separately - follows the adventures of three different men on three different pulp-novel-style investigative cases. To give away more plot does the reader a disservice; after all, while one can describe a series of exhibits on a carnival's "Freak Row," recreating the emotions involved in walking down that alley defies the conventions of language. Language, and its employ, surrounds many of the events in these books. Auster plays with the reader, offering a mystery as engaging as the ones his characters attempt to solve. He scattered the clues throughout the book, but the responsibility of creating meaning from them - and, by extension, from the book - lies solely with the reader.
If that seems unfair of Auster to expect of a reader, and too intellectual and highbrow for people interested in a casual experience, "The New York Trilogy" contains plenty more to recommend it. The mystery of meaning (provided the postmodernists and their odiously pretentious "scholar"-lapdogs haven't ruined such fun things for you) is an optional part of enjoying this work, and those looking for a great read should not be turned away. Vivid, haunting descriptions of The City (by all means, read this book in New York if you have the chance) mingle with stories that show an obvious awe and respect for film-noir and pulp detective stories. Hopelessness, sorrow, happiness, luck and chance, double-crossing, and redemption all combine to form three solid stories that tickle the mind. One gets the impression that Auster wrote this work almost as a tribute to the noir-pulp style, while attempting to offer the reader another mystery, should the reader desire such a challenge.
The seeded subcontext in the book offers quite the literary experiment, and like all experiments it doesn't always work. It usually lies in the background, suggesting its presence, but occasionally comes forward and distracts - and detracts - from the main work itself. In addition, the content matter and strange circumstances might put off those with preconceived ideas (thus, my attempt to say much while revealing little). Auster's "Trilogy" certainly merits a read, although it may not immediately appeal to all sensibilities....more info
- Dark, Brilliant, Intense
Paul Auster's New York Trilogy is one of the finest books I've read in a long while; it's riveting. Auster is one of my favorite writers, and for those new to his writing The New York Trilogy is a good place to start.
Essentially, these three novellas are detective stories with film-noir atmosphere, but the themes Auster tackles go beyond those of your standard spy novel. There are questions of identity, power dynamics, the relationship between the writer and his characters, the relationship between a detective and his suspects.
Additionally, this is a wonderfully bookish book; references to Lewis Carroll, Cervantes, etc. abound. There are books within books within books; all the lines that separate reality from writing from fictional reality from fictional writing are blurred, turning the reader inside-out and upside-down as he or she reads.
Most importantly, these novellas are highly engaging and evocative. Though Auster's writing has been described as cold and austere, these are compelling stories; it is easy succumb to the swift, gripping narrative.
A truly lovely collection, very conceptual, breaks all the rules and wriggles its way out of any genre to which one might try to confine it....more info
- The Existential Dashiell Hammett
This is the first book that I read by Paul Auster. I had heard of him for years, but I always assumed that he was another New York Writer. In order words, stuffy and primarily writing for "intellectuals" and the Pulitzer Prize or the National Book Award. I could not have been more wrong. These three loosely connected short works contain some of the most gut-wrenching emotional writing that I have laid eyes on. It hit me almost as hard as John Steinbecks "East of Eden". Don't get me wrong, these books have nothing in common other than a willingness on the part of both authors to let dark things come to the surface and then not just explain them away. (Actually, there is a bit of self reference in Steinbeck's book as well, but it is merely a mention and not the intense existential experience that Auster's book is. Anyway, this is merely an aside.) Auster's Trilogy takes the form of detective stories, but this is only the most rudimentary framework for these incredibly powerful explorations into the nature of identity and the disappearance of one's self or the many selves that one man possesses. I'm not going to tell anything about the plot, but suffice it to say that this stuff is pretty dark. Don't be fooled by the cartoonish cover (done by Art Spiegelman of "Maus" fame), this is not a fun genre exercise. It is art....more info