Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats
Saturday, April 2, 2011
"The New York Trilogy" by Paul Auster
Between the siren song of my garden during this beautiful spring weather, and unexpectedly finding the wind knocked out of me more than once during the time I was reading it, I fear I've made the mistake of waiting too long to post about Paul Auster's New York Trilogy. If my thoughts were chaotic and disorganized upon completing the book, my literary amnesia has done nothing towards unifying them in the space of a week. It doesn't help that the stories have already begun to fade from my memory.
While my procrastination might be unfortunate in any case, it's quite a shame with this specific book, because it was AMAZING. I do remember that much.
This trilogy contains three novellas, each set in New York City. (Would you ever have guessed?) The stories are not obviously related in the sense of belonging together as a series, but there are tenuous links between the characters from one story to the next, and the similarities in themes are conspicuous.
In each story Auster gives us a sense of a writer who is isolated from those surrounding him, living as a quiet spectator rather than a participant. All three novellas are mysterious, but they can't be considered mysteries in the traditional sense. As Auster himself puts it, “Mystery novels give answers; my work is about asking questions.” Though each of the three stories could stand alone, they are well-matched in theme with a main character in the midst of an investigation, writing down all of his observations as his obsession with his subject grows. Auster examines solitude and the introspection it invites, dissolution of identity, and descent into madness.
This book is definitely a keeper. I certainly will want to re-read it some day. You'll find it lacking if you're a reader who needs all the answers, but for me it was an entirely satisfying read. And if you've read and loved this trilogy, you should really read The Amnesiac. It's a similarly mysterious story with more questions than answers, but it's also more fully developed than these three novellas of Auster's, and its comparably ambiguous ending is carried off more effectively.