The New York trilogy


I’ve been out of town for a couple of days – a lot of shopping and a bit of sightseeing…and some plane reading. So, I’m done with Paul Auster’s “New York trilogy”. At first sight, it’s not at all what I expected – and it’s not at all disappointing, but just different. The 3 short stories are “City of Glass”, “Ghosts” and “The Locked Room” and they are mostly presented as detective stories – and maybe that’s why I expected the crime and the chase. But there is no crime, which makes the chase a lot more interesting and painful.

The first story, City of Glass features a writer who, after living isolated from the world for 5 years (after the death of his wife and son) becomes a detective when he receives what seems to be a misdirected phone call. A certain Peter Stillman is looking for the famed detective Paul Auster to follow his father who has just been released from prison. Stillman Sr., a scholar in his youth, tried a strange experiment on his son (again, after loosing his wife) – he locked the child in a boarded room, forbade him to speak or be spoken to, thus hoping he could retrieve an ancient speech of legend – the speech before Babel. As the story unfolds, reality is intertwined with mystery and myth and the demarcations between identities and events are more and more blurred until they are lost completely.

Ghosts is, in short, about a man named Blue, hired by a Mr. White to follow a Mr. Black. In the end, Black and White are one and the same, a writer who writes 😀 about Blue watching him.

The Locked Room also features a writer – but this time a writer who has no confidence in his ability to create, a writer who lacks creativity. When, by chance, he starts editing the work of his childhood friend Fanshawe (who has unexplainable disappeared and was thought to be dead), he ends up marrying his wife and adopting his child. It all seems idyllic until a letter from Fanshawe himself throws our writer on a self destructive path, which, by the end, will prove to be the spring of his creativity as he will turn out to be the author of all 3 stories.

The strongest connector these 3 narrations share is the recurrent loss or mutation of identity in the main characters – they all undergo a transformation which will render them unrecognizable; also, in each story there is a strong symbolism of the double or the twin (most transparently in The City of Glass); and Peter Stillman or Daniel Quinn reemerge in each story with a new role. It’s not a difficult read and even if it seems pessimistic or gloomy at times, it’s very interesting and captivating. This and another review of Brooklyn Follies has definitely convinced me to return to Mr. Auster as soon as I can 🙂

And – no connection whatsoever – there’s this really cool new project going on (Citeste o poveste!) and I was thinking I’d give a try to a chapter from a Harry Potter book but I’m not entirely  confident on my abilities to read with any kind of intonation 😉 so I’ll have to see about that. Still, I think the idea is great fun and could turn out to be quite useful, so anyone who remembers how great is was to listen to stories on vinyl as a child should pitch in 😀

~ by ameer on February 13, 2008.

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