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The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster
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The New York Trilogy (1987)

by Paul Auster

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The New York Trilogy (omnibus)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
6,845110538 (3.9)312
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Showing 1-5 of 84 (next | show all)
Paul Auster is this (Brooklyn) borough’s poster-boy for story-telling – but I don’t get it.

The New York Trilogy is the work that first put him on the literary map. This is my third novel by Paul Auster (or, if you count each third of the Trilogy as a novel – which he apparently does – my fifth. And still, I don’t get it.


Auster’s prose is certainly competent – even compelling, as I discovered in the first two-thirds of “The Locked Room” – the third story in the Trilogy – but for my money at least, his story-telling leaves a lot to be desired.


To quote from that same “Locked Room”: “(t)he entire story comes down to what happened at the end, and without that end inside me now, I could not have started this book. The same holds for the two books that come before it, “City of Glass” and “Ghosts.” These three stories are finally the same story, but each one represents a different stage in my awareness of what it is about. I don’t claim to have solved any problems. I am merely suggesting that a moment came when it no longer frightened me to look at what had happened. If words followed, it was only because I had no choice but to accept them, to take them upon myself and go where they wanted me to go. But that does not necessarily make the words important. I have been struggling to say goodbye to something for a long time now, and this struggle is all that really matters. The story is not in the words; it’s in the struggle” (p. 346).


I beg to differ, but I think the story is in the words – if you’re a writer. We all struggle, Paul. But we don’t all claim to be writers.


I’ll conclude this review with one other citation, this one on p. 370: “I lost my way after the first word, and from then on I could only grope ahead, faltering in the darkness, blinded by the book that had been written for me.”


As a very good and close friend used to say to me decades ago whenever I’d raise some ridiculous ‘philosophical’ point: “That’s the kind of epistomo-ontologico-metaphysico question I don’t deal with.” I have to say the same thing after having just finished Paul Auster’s New York Trilogy.


RRB
6/23/14
Brooklyn, NY

( )
  RussellBittner | Dec 12, 2014 |
Looking at the reviews here on Goodreads it’s clear that Paul Auster’s New York Trilogy is a divisive book, and really that’s no surprise. Those who go into it expecting an actual trilogy of mystery stories will almost certainly be disappointed, as will those who want a book that reaches any form of resolution or delivers any concrete message. Instead the New York Trilogy will be loved by those willing to let the experience wash over them, and by those who enjoy noticing connections and themes repeated between the three works but who don’t mind the fact that these connections don’t really amount to anything in the end. It’s a book where the atmosphere is the main draw, and as the same atmosphere pervades all three stories you’re likely to either quite like this work or else very much despise it.

The atmosphere Auster creates is one of perpetual uncertainty, where many of the things we rely upon to make sense of life have eroded without much explanation. Identities are constantly shifting, with people adopting new names and patterns of behavior or else getting those names and actions forced upon them. Disguises are worn, or masks, and characters disappear suddenly or perhaps reappear down the road (or is it just someone with the same name? We’ve no way of knowing). Auster repeatedly explores the idea that names are inadequate means of identification, as names are mutable, and aren’t even unique to begin with. Furthermore identity isn’t something that exists inherently, as again and again characters find their identities subsumed by the identities of others. In addition to the shifting identities the actions of the many characters are also divorced from reality. Again and again we read as a character lets himself fall deeper and deeper into a rabbit hole, restraining himself from doing something he wants or forcing himself to do something he hates or doesn’t understand for no discernable reason. Men of means degenerate into crazy homeless people, throw away relationships, put their lives and livelihoods on the line because of forces or motivations they don’t discuss, or perhaps they themselves are ignorant of what’s pushing them. Men hire private detectives for reasons that make a kind of sense, but which nevertheless feels like it’s logic from another world. Finally each of the three stories ends, but doesn’t resolve. The characters fade away, or go on the run, or some threshold is crossed, but almost no answers or explanation is given, either to the reader or to the characters.

This lack of solution is sure to frustrate some readers, as these stories are couched in the world of dime-store mysteries, with private eyes tracking down suspects and investigating leads. Such stories typically end with some answer being reached, but such is not the case here. In a way, however, this has to be the way in which the stories end. You can’t explore the lack of identity if you let a character reaffirm their identity by solving a problem, you can’t discuss the meaninglessness and irrationality of life by revealing a logical reason for the events of the story occurring, you can’t present the idea that characters are creations subsumed and consumed by their stories if you give those characters a happily-ever-after ending, or even any type of ending. The final story explicitly references the other two stories, and it makes a claim that the stories are all the same story told in different ways, for the purpose of illustrating how characters can’t let go of the story they’re assigned to tell, but this eleventh-hour explanation doesn’t ring true. There is no resolution or message here, except for perhaps an extratextual one that you invent for yourself, and the ideas of identity and the nature of fiction presented aren’t likely things you’ve never thought of before, but that wasn’t enough to sink the book for me.

Does the above description sound appealing to you? If so then definitely pick this book up, as the other aspects of the book won’t give you reason to regret your decision. The stories are well written, and the feeling of New York City pseudo-noir is pulled off impressively well. Characters often feel very similar, but that’s part of the theme of the book after all. Overall because I was in the mood for something like this I enjoyed Auster’s New York Trilogy, despite the lack of resolution or fresh ideas, because the atmosphere was so masterfully done. If you’re on the fence give it a try, and if you’re not feeling it by the end of sixty or seventy pages (or certainly by the end of the first story) don’t feel bad about dropping it, since if you stuck with it you’d be exploring the same labyrinth passages for the rest of the book- although you might be walking on the maze’s ceiling the next time around instead of the floor.
( )
  BayardUS | Dec 10, 2014 |
If you want to try a metafictional detective novel, then look no further than The New York Trilogy by Paul Austen. Originally published sequentially as City of Glass, Ghosts and The Locked Room, these three interconnecting stories have been since collected into a single volume. Heavily influenced by the post-modernist movement, this novel blends elements of neo-realism, soft-boiled fiction and of course, metafiction. Even the pulp style cover (illustrated by Art Spiegelman) has a metafictional style to it.

I really wish I had a better grasp on post-modernism; there is a lot of literary theory that must go into fully understanding a novel like The New York Trilogy. My level of understanding of post-modernism might hinder this review but I will do my best to add something valuable here. Starting with a look at any example of one of the narrators; such as the one known as Peter Stillman, or is he? Maybe his name is something entirely different; maybe it is Paul Auster. This gives you an idea of just how you have to read this book; continuously questioning everything and assuming things are not as they have been told. This does make the novel difficult to read, I had to take my time with it and reread almost everything.

The first story City of Glass follows a detective fiction writer that becomes a private investigator. This unnamed narrator explores layers of identity and reality; often to Paul Auster (the author), Paul Auster (the writer), Peter Stillman (the mark), the other Peter Stillman (the son) and finally Daniel Quinn (the protagonist). The story follows this narrator as he descends into madness as the reader follows close behind. This is story that explores the relationship between the author, characters and the reader in a twisted kind of way. Essentially asking us to consider who has the real power in this relationship?

Ghosts follows the story of a private eye called Blue who is hired to follow Black; he has been hired by White to write down everything Black does. Only problem is that Black doesn’t do too much apart from sit and write all day, which means Blue spends all day sitting and writing. This is a story that explores the issue of who has the real power, the author or their characters. Paul Auster is showing us his views towards writing (sitting and watching what the character does).

Finally in The Locked Room, the title suggests that the story is referencing the locked room mystery archetype. It tells the story of a writer that doesn’t have the creativity to produce any fiction. When a childhood friend disappears, he has been hired to write his works and determine if they should be published. While one this job he finds himself taking the place of his friend and becoming husband and father to his family. This final story looks at the relationship between character and reader and asks us to consider if we are under the control of the author or do we interpret what is happening for ourselves.

It is interesting that a novel like The New York Trilogy can leave you perplexed and confused but when you try to articulate what happened and slowly dissect the novel into its three parts it all makes sense. I’m often surprised with how much I get out of a post-modern novel, especially since I often freak out and feel like I have not understood it. Then it all makes sense and I often wonder how I did not pick up on this while reading or after reading the novel. I hope I’ve made enough sense out of The New York Trilogy, a bizarre novel that requires very close attention but I’ve conquered it and I feel proud.

This review originally appeared on my blog; http://literary-exploration.com/2014/04/13/the-new-york-trilogy-by-paul-austen/ ( )
  knowledge_lost | Dec 4, 2014 |
The New York Trilogy is a collection of novellas originally published separately and later collected into this one volume. All three can stand on their own, but they definitely share themes and the last story sort of ties in to the first two. These are all hard to describe. In a simple way, they are detective stories, but they are also much more than that. There is something modern in the writing style of all three, though I don't know the correct literary terms to describe his brand of modernism. The primary link between the three novellas to me was that the main detective becomes obsessed with the case, actually the person, that he is working on. Auster also inserts himself into his writing, but from a distance. In the first novella, he actually uses his name, has a Scandinavian wife, and is a writer. All true. It's not the important part of the book, but it lends to this modern fiction feel in a weird way. There are many questions of identity that lead to madness and confusion over what is true.

I'd recommend this book to anyone interested in detective stories who likes a modern twist. I've had a hard time describing them, but I imagine that the layered themes and interconnections within the detective framework would appeal to many readers. ( )
  japaul22 | Nov 7, 2014 |
I have seldom actually forced my way through a book that I disliked this much. I was stuck in teh middle of teh second for over a month, fortunately the third was more satisfying than the other two, and by then I had dramatically lowered my expectations. Auster's remarkably flat, almost unattractive prose, his arbitrary characters and situations, and his failure to deliver a satisfying payoff for his complicate authorly contrivances were annoying and ultimately disappointing. Each of the three short novels deal with identities, misplaced, confused, and questioned. When an author totally controls his characters and their environments by creating a completely arbitrary space for them, the reader expects more pleasure, more imagination, more intellect. The intellectual content here is pompous and sometimes almost silly, so sincerely serious is it. What an unpleasant experience. ( )
  sjnorquist | Nov 1, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (23 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Paul Austerprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Frank, Joachim A.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jääskeläinen, JukkaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sirola, JukkaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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It was a wrong number that started it, the telephone ringing three times in the dead of night, and the voice on the other end asking for someone he was not.
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"For our words no longer correspond to the world. When things were whole, we felt confident that our words could express them. But little by little these things have broken apart, shattered, collapsed into chaos. And yet our words have remained the same. They have not adapted themselves to the new reality. Hence, every time we try to speak of what we see, we speak falsely, distorting the very thing we are trying to represent."
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0143039830, Paperback)

Paul Auster's signature work, The New York Trilogy, consists of three interlocking novels: City of Glass, Ghosts, and The Locked Room—haunting and mysterious tales that move at the breathless pace of a thriller.

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 hace written

Ghosts

Blue, a student of Brown, has been hired to spy on Black. From a window of a rented house on Orange street, Blue stalks his subject, who is staring out of his window

The Locked Room

Fanshawe has disappeared, leaving behind his wife and baby and a cache of novels, plays, and poems. What happened?

First time in Penguin Classics A Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition with French flaps, rough front, and luxurious packaging Features an introduction from Luc Sante and incredible cover illustrations by Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic artist Art Spiegelman, creator of Maus and In the Shadow of No Towers

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:49:47 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

City of glass: A writer of a detective stories becomes embroiled in a complex and puzzling series of events, beginning with a call from a stranger in the middle of the night asking for the author. Ghosts: Introduces Blue, a private detective hired to watch a man named Black, who, as he becomes intermeshed into a haunting and claustrophobic game of hide-and-seek is lured into the very trap he created. The locked room: The nameless hero journeys into the unknown as he attempts to reconstruct the past which he has experienced almost as a dream.… (more)

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