Paul Auster

Man has not one and the same life. He has many lives placed end to end, and that is the cause of his misery. -- Chateaubriand

If all these books were put together in one volume, they would form the book of my life so far, a multifaceted picture of who I am. -- Paul Auster

This idea of contrasts, contradictions, paradox, I think, get very much to the heart of what novel writing is for me. It's a way for me to express my own contradictions. -- Paul Auster

Writing is no longer an act of free will for me, it's a matter of survival -- Paul Auster

I had never heard of Paul Auster until a friend gave me a copy of The New York Trilogy to read. [see BCID 5339576]

Three stories set in New York, set around 'it's a dark and stormy night', only in this case, it was the telephone that rang late at night.

Three stories: 'City of Glass', 'Ghosts', 'The Locked Room'.

Three short stories, 'City of Glass' more a novella than a short story.

William Wilson is a crime writer invented by Quinn. His fictional detective Max Work.

Late one night Quinn gets a telephone call. It is a wrong number. What they want is the detective Paul Auster of the Auster Detective Agency. But Paul Auster is the author of our trilogy? Weird!

Surreal. Echoes of Franz Kafka, Edgar Allan Poe, Hermann Hesse, George Orwell.

Quinn decides to take on the case, posing as the detective Paul Auster. Eventually though he has to concede defeat and on the point of throwing in the towel he decides to consult the 'real' Paul Auster. He checks out the only Paul Auster listed in the telephone directory. When Quinn meets Paul Auster he finds he is not a detective at all, but a writer, not only a writer, but a writer of poetry, fiction, essays, or exactly what Quinn himself was writing, before he started writing detective fiction under the guise of William Wilson. On leaving, Quinn learns Paul Auster has a wife called Siri and a son called Daniel. Paul Auster, the author of The New York Trilogy, writes poetry, fiction, essays, has a wife called Siri and a son called Daniel!

Layers of identity and reality, but which are 'real'?

There is an obsession in The New York Trilogy with great American writers, Walt Whitman, Herman Melville, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe. Characters become Walt Whitman and Herman Melville, one of the characters is reading Walden, another character is named Fanshawe. At times I felt as though I was reading three short stories by Edgar Allan Poe.

A common theme in the works of Paul Auster is that of coincidence, or what Carl Jung would call synchronicity.

Moon Palace is a story that spans three generations, Marcus Stanley Fogg is on a quest for identity, 1969, when Man landed on the moon, is a significant date. The New York Trilogy is a collection of three short stories, a quest of identity, in which 1969 is a significant date. Marcus Stanley Fogg is given 1492 books by his Uncle Victor, 1492 is the date Columbus 'discovered' America, as part of his quest, Marcus Stanley Fogg moves West. The New York Trilogy features the discovery of America as the discovery of Paradise lost, a move to the West. Columbia University features in both books. [see BCID 5763674]

The Brooklyn Follies, a more recent Auster novel, starts out as at best a dreary account of life in Brooklyn, interspersed with a few interesting anecdotes. It starts to improve when little nine year old Lucy, quite literally, walks into our trio's life. [see BCID 5745322]

Comparisons are at best meaningless, if you try, The Brooklyn Follies is a grave disappointment compared with the promise of The New York Trilogy, and even that paled by the time you reached the third story. The Brooklyn Follies lacks the Paul Auster weird of The New York Trilogy, though still has plenty of Brooklyn weird.

Although greatly dissimilar to The New York Trilogy, The Brooklyn Follies has all the Paul Auster trademarks. A lost soul trying to discover himself through his writings, coincidence or synchronicity, appearance under one guise or another of the writers Walt Whitman, Herman Melville, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, Franz Kafka.

Paul Auster (1947- ) was born in Newark, New Jersey. After attending Columbia University he lived in France for four years. Since 1974, he has published poems, essays, short stories, novels and screenplays. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Books by Paul Auster have been registered as BookCrossing books.

BookCrossing books are released into the wild and their progress tracked through the Internet via a unique Book Crossing ID (BCID).

(c) Keith Parkins 2007-2008 -- February 2008 rev 5