HomeGroupsTalkMoreZeitgeist
Search Site
This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Loading...

City of Glass (1985)

by Paul Auster

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The New York Trilogy (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,3242910,703 (3.72)29
A late-night phone call from a stranger involves Quinn, a mystery writer, in a baffling murder case stranger than his novels.
Loading...

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 29 mentions

English (26)  Danish (1)  Dutch (1)  French (1)  All languages (29)
Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
Stunning use of the graphic novel form, using all the formal options available to tell a story in a way that would be impossible in any other medium.

Intrigued to read the original Auster novel now, I can't imagine it working nearly as well. ( )
  arewenotben | Jul 31, 2020 |
By far the best of the triliogy. ( )
  GirlMeetsTractor | Mar 22, 2020 |
I'm not sure what I just read, but I definitely liked it. ( )
  bcpeterson727 | Dec 4, 2019 |



Paul Auster's City of Glass reads like Raymond Chandler on Derrida, that is, a hard-boiled detective novel seasoned with a healthy dose of postmodernist themes, a novel about main character Daniel Quinn as he walks the streets of uptown New York City.

I found the story and writing as compelling as Chandler's The Big Sleep or Hammett's The Maltese Falcon and as thought-provoking as reading an essay by Foucault or Barthes. By way of example, here are three quotes from the novel coupled with key concepts from the postmodern tradition along with my brief commentary.

On the first pages of the novel, the narrator conveys mystery writer Quinn's reflections on William Wilson, his literary pseudonym and Max Work, the detective in his novels. We read, "Over the years, Work had become very close to Quinn. Whereas William Wilson remained an abstract figure for him Work had increasingly come to life. In the triad of selves that Quinn had become, Wilson served as a kind of ventriloquist, Quinn himself was the dummy, and Work was the animated voice that gave purpose to the enterprise." ---------- Michel Foucault completely rejected the idea that a person has one fixed inner self or essence serving them as their individual personal identity. Rather, he saw personal identity as defined by a process of on-going, ever changing dialogue with oneself and others. ---------- And Quinn's interior dialogue with Work and Wilson is just the beginning. As the novels progresses, Quinn takes on a number of other identities.

In his role as hired detective (quite an ironic role since Quinn is a fiction writer and has zero experience as a detective), he goes to Grand Central Station to locate a man by the name of Peter Stillman, the man he will have to tail. This is what we read after Quinn spots his man, "At that moment Quinn allowed himself a glance to Stillman's right, surveying the rest of the crowd to make doubly sure he made no mistakes. What happened then defined explanation. Directly behind Stillman, heaving into view just inches behind his right shoulder, another man stopped . . . His face was the exact twin of Stillman's." ---------- The double, the original and the copy, occupies the postmodernists on a number of levels, including a double reading of any work of literature. Much technical language is employed, but the general idea is we should read a work of fiction the first time through in the conventional, traditional way, enjoying the characters and the story.

Our second reading should be more critical than the first reading we constructed; to be good postmodernists, we should `deconstruct' the text to observe and critically evaluate such things as cultural and social biases and underlying philosophic assumptions. And such a second reading should not only be applied to works of literature but to all our encounters with facets of contemporary mass-duplicated society.

"As for Quinn, it is impossible for me to say where he is now. I have followed the red notebook as closely as I could, and any inaccuracies in the story should be blamed on me." ---------- One key postmodern idea is that a book isn't so much about the world as it is about joining the conversation with other books. ---------- Turns out, the entire story here is a construction/deconstruction/reconstruction of a book: Quinn's red notebook. Life and literature living at the intersection of an ongoing conversation - Quinn's red notebook contains references to many, many other books, including the Diary of Marco Polo, Robinson Caruso, the Bible, Don Quixote and Baudelaire. And the story the narrator relates from Quinn's red notebook is City of Glass by Paul Auster. Again, Raymond Chandler on Derrida.

One final observation. Although no details are given, Quinn tells us right at the outset he has lost his wife and son. Quinn's tragedy coats every page like a kind of film. No matter what form a story takes, modern or postmodern or anything else, tragedy is tragedy and if we empathize with Quinn at all, we feel his pain. Some things never change.


New York City author Paul Auster, Born 1947

“Would it be possible, he wondered, to stand up before the world and with the utmost conviction spew out lies and nonsense? To say that windmills were knights, that a barber’s basin was a helmet, that puppets were real people? Would it be possible to persuade others to agree with what he said, even though they did not believe him? In other words, to what extent would people tolerate blasphemies if they gave them amusement? The answer is obvious, isn’t it? To any extent. For the proof is that we still read the book. It remains highly amusing to us. And that’s finally all anyone wants out of a book—to be amused.”
― Paul Auster, City of Glass ( )
  Glenn_Russell | Nov 13, 2018 |

Paul Auster's City of Glass (1987) reads like Raymond Chandler on Derrida, that is, a hard-boiled detective novel seasoned with a healthy dose of postmodernist themes, a novel about main character Daniel Quinn as he walks the streets of uptown New York City. I found the story and writing as compelling as Chandler's The Big Sleep or Hammett's The Maltese Falcon and as thought-provoking as reading an essay by Foucault or Barthes. By way of example, here are three quotes from the novel coupled with key concepts from the postmodern tradition along with my brief commentary.

On the first pages of the novel, the narrator conveys mystery writer Quinn's reflections on William Wilson, his literary pseudonym and Max Work, the detective in his novels. We read, "Over the years, Work had become very close to Quinn. Whereas William Wilson remained an abstract figure for him Work had increasingly come to life. In the triad of selves that Quinn had become, Wilson served as a kind of ventriloquist, Quinn himself was the dummy, and Work was the animated voice that gave purpose to the enterprise." ---------- Michel Foucault completely rejected the idea that a person has one fixed inner self or essence serving them as their individual personal identity. Rather, he saw personal identity as defined by a process of on-going, ever changing dialogue with oneself and others. ---------- And Quinn's interior dialogue with Work and Wilson is just the beginning. As the novels progresses, Quinn takes on a number of other identities.

In his role as hired detective (quite an ironic role since Quinn is a fiction writer and has zero experience as a detective), he goes to Grand Central Station to locate a man by the name of Peter Stillman, the man he will have to tail. This is what we read after Quinn spots his man, "At that moment Quinn allowed himself a glance to Stillman's right, surveying the rest of the crowd to make doubly sure he made no mistakes. What happened then defined explanation. Directly behind Stillman, heaving into view just inches behind his right shoulder, another man stopped . . . His face was the exact twin of Stillman's." ---------- The double, the original and the copy, occupies the postmodernists on a number of levels, including a double reading of any work of literature. Much technical language is employed, but the general idea is we should read a work of fiction the first time through in the conventional, traditional way, enjoying the characters and the story. Our second reading should be more critical than the first reading we constructed; to be good postmodernists, we should `deconstruct' the text to observe and critically evaluate such things as cultural and social biases and underlying philosophic assumptions. And such a second reading should not only be applied to works of literature but to all our encounters with facets of contemporary mass-duplicated society.

"As for Quinn, it is impossible for me to say where he is now. I have followed the red notebook as closely as I could, and any inaccuracies in the story should be blamed on me." ---------- One key postmodern idea is that a book isn't so much about the world as it is about joining the conversation with other books. ---------- Turns out, the entire story here is a construction/deconstruction/reconstruction of a book: Quinn's red notebook. Life and literature living at the intersection of an ongoing conversation - Quinn's red notebook contains references to many, many other books, including the Diary of Marco Polo, Robinson Caruso, the Bible, Don Quixote and Baudelaire. And the story the narrator relates from Quinn's red notebook is City of Glass by Paul Auster.

One final observation. Although no details are given, Quinn tells us right at the outset he has lost his wife and son. Quinn's tragedy coats every page like a kind of film. No matter what form a story takes, modern or postmodern or anything else, tragedy is tragedy and if we empathize with Quinn at all, we feel his pain. Some things never change.
( )
  GlennRussell | Feb 16, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review

» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Auster, Paulprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Frank, Joachim A.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Geisen, HerbertEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jääskeläinen, JukkaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Information from the Finnish Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Epigraph
Dedication
First words
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.
Quotations
"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."
Last words
Information from the Finnish Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
This work is the original prose novel City of Glass by Paul Auster. Please do not combine it with the comic adaptation.
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Original language
Information from the Finnish Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Canonical DDC/MDS

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English

None

A late-night phone call from a stranger involves Quinn, a mystery writer, in a baffling murder case stranger than his novels.

No library descriptions found.

Book description
Haiku summary

Quick Links

Popular covers

Rating

Average: (3.72)
0.5 2
1 5
1.5 1
2 25
2.5 7
3 80
3.5 28
4 110
4.5 15
5 74

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 160,243,373 books! | Top bar: Always visible