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City of Glass
 
by
Paul Auster
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City of Glass (New York Trilogy #1)

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  7,461 ratings  ·  436 reviews
Nominated for an Edgar award for best mystery of the year, "City of Glass" inaugurates an intriguing "New York Trilogy" of novels that "The Washington Post Book World" has classified as "post-existentialist private eye... It's as if Kafka has gotten hooked on the gumshoe game and penned his own ever-spiraling version." As a result of a strange phone call in the middle of t...more
Hardcover
Published April 7th 1987 by Turtleback Books (first published 1985)
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Glenn Russell

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...more
Paul
Paul Auster, a guy who ushers you into the silky interior of his brand new Nissan Infiniti, makes sure you've got your seatbelt on, proffers bonbons, then drives you to distraction.

This book is in contravention of TWO of PB's commandments:

- Thou shalt not have a character in thy book with thy own name

- Thou shalt not portray the writing of a novel within thy novel such that the novel within the novel turns out to be the novel the reader is reading

Daniel
A very intriguing exploration of the power of language to make (and unmake) the borders of our existence and the reality we experience.

The main character, Quinn, is a writer of detective stories. One day, he decides to take on a serious detective job. His decision to do so, prompted by a mere phone call, seemingly represents the enthralling power of suggestion.

Quinn's willing engagement with the caller, and the events that unfold from there, convey a heavily slanted view of language-experience...more
Bob Redmond
In my review of Paul Karasik and David Mazuchelli's graphic novel version of CITY OF GLASS, I wrote: "The graphic artists give it so much dimension that the text-only version seems (in my memory) to be no more than a screenplay to this version's fully-realized presentation."

My memory was wrong. I re-read the original and found it as multi-dimensional as the graphic novel version. Or perhaps the two versions together compounded the book into something greater. Or perhaps they cancelled each other...more
Rauf
Jun 02, 2010 Rauf rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of Don Quixote ?
Not a real review. Just some random selection from my notes. Hope I can clarify some things for myself 'cause the book stymied me. Stymied, I says!
May contain spoilers. Probably. I have no idea, man. Just to be safe, though, I don't think anyone oughta be reading this.


1. Our main character, Daniel Quinn, wrote a series of detective novels using the moniker William Wilson. The detective's name was Max Work. When Quinn went to see Peter Stillman, he said his name was Paul Auster.
(Just a vessel for...more
Nikki
I find that I don't know what on earth to say about City of Glass. Perhaps that will resolve itself as I read the rest of this trilogy. I was intrigued by it, at times confused; I found it easy to read, but very quiet, muted. It doesn't spark off the page and leap about, at all. It sounds as if it's going to be very strange and dramatic, and yet it quietly slims down -- in the way the main character does -- to something else entirely. And what that thing is, I haven't figured out.

Like I said, pe...more
Drew
What a disaster. This is like a vastly inferior The Crying of Lot 49. People who like it presumably call it a brilliant subversion of traditional mystery-genre expectations. I call it bullshit.

Basically there's this writer, Quinn, who gets a mysterious call looking for a detective called Paul Auster (Auster, the author, is apparently the sort of author who includes himself as a character in his books...sigh). Quinn of course takes on both the case and Auster's identity. The only good parts of th...more
Darwin8u
An interesting PoMo novella. Auster's first novel/second book/first of his 'New York Trilogy', 'City of Glass' is simultaneously a detective novel, an exploration of the author/narrative dynamic, and a treatise on language. I liked parts, loved parts, and finished the book thinking the author had written something perhaps more interesting than important.

My favorite parts were the chapters where Auster (actual author Auster) through the narrator Quinn acting as the detective Auster explored Stil...more
Esther
Just goes to show how good of a writer Paul Auster is. Writers like him and Cormac McCarthy get away with writing stories that I can't imagine writing, let alone understanding how to keep the momentum. The protagonist, Daniel Quinn (mistaken for Paul Auster), even in his most unbelievable moments, stays believable. The metafictional aspect of this book combined with the mystery novel nature was an intriguing cerebral mind fuck that kept me reading frantically. Not a book for plot cravers (not at...more
F.X. Altomare
I had mixed feelings going into this novel given Auster's ambiguous relationship with critics; but he pulls a rabbit out of a hat here, weaving a metaphysical "detective" novel that might be considered a primer for postmodernism. All the elements are here: the author appearing as a character, questions about what is real, works-within-the-work, etc. Auster asks the big questions and gives us a relentless work that never quite answers any of them. Auster writes a tough lean prose that reminds one...more
Tim Lepczyk
I picked City of Glass off the bookcase because I heard Paul Auster interviewed on Radiolab. In the interview he described getting a phone call, after the novel was published, by a man asking for Quinn (the character in City of Glass who takes on the identity of Paul Auster). It sounded like an intriguing novel, and I decided to give it a chance.

It's no secret that I'm not a Paul Auster fan. At times, it seems like he is more interested in exploring identity, whether it is that of his characters...more
Seth Hahne
City of Glass was not what I expected. Which is not a bad thing.

I expected a well-crafted, pulpy detective fiction, perhaps borrowing liberally from Hammett, Chandler, and maybe Leonard. And it was to be fraught with New York-ish details and ambiance. I expected it to more or less follow the expectable twists, turns, and general direction of the genre I believed it to take part in.

What I got was something different. Not entirely so, of course. But different enough for me to not quite realize wha...more
Daniel
I told the guy in the bookstore (whose name is also Daniel) that I wanted a book that would open my brain up. He didn't think too long before he pointed me towards this short weird book.

Imagine that David Lynch and Haruki Murakami got punchy one night and decided to write a noir detective novel together. And Samuel Beckett stopped by to contribute a chapter or two? I recognize this sounds crazy, but it's hard to imagine that this book was written by a single person. There are so many thoughts cr...more
Bandit
Absolutely incredible book. To simply describe it as a NY detective story would be an epic understatement. Paul Auster has been one of the authors I've discovered this year and he continues to amaze me. The man is a natural storyteller and he weaves his stories with such cleverness and ease and warmth. His stories are interesting in the way that M.C. Escher's art is, particularly in this case it reminded me of the Drawing Hands, the way the author so cleverly wrote himself into the story, the mu...more
Hamid Hasanzadeh
نیویورک فضایی بی انتها بود، هزار تویی از مکان های بی انتها؛ و مهم نبود چقدر راه می رفت و چقدر محله ها و خیابان های شهر را می شناخت، همیشه احساس می کرد گم شده است.نه فقط در شهر بلکه در خود هم گم شده بود.هر بار که قدم می زد، احساس می کرد گویی خود را جا می گذارد و با تسلیم شدن به چرخش خیابان ها، با تقلیل خویش به چشمی نظاره گر قادر می شود از اجبار فکر کردن بگریزد و این بیش از هر چیز لحظه ای آرامش و خلا درونی و خوشایند برایش به همراه داشت.
دنیا بیرون از وجودش، در اطراف و روبرویش بود و با چنان سرعتی تغ...more
Sean Duffy
Something about a guy following an old guy and Humpty Dumpty being profound and then the Tower of Babel and stuff. I guess I'm too dumb. Incomprehensible. Either I have been stricken with the curse of Babel, or this is a pretentious mess. You be the judge. Also, the artwork may have been ahead of its time, but after so many great graphic novels, it looks rather pedestrian. SORRY!
Judy Mann
This book is complete crap. It's one of those books where you read the critic's reviews and you think- what in God's name are they talking about?? Kafka? Post modern ? Are they crazy?? This book first of all- was boring.
I skipped 10 pages at a time.Second of all-it was boring. Third of all - you get it. BORING.
More than anything-this book lets you see the pretentiousness of New York critics. Why is that now? Because the critics are so pompous and so full of hot air- using all these high brow te...more
Mary
I found this book to be a remarkably inventive work of fiction. Auster is a tremendously intelligent, and surprising writer who seems to create an almost continuous suspense in part by creating new mysteries and questions as he goes along. We wait and watch with the former writer Wilson Wilson now become the detective Daniel Quinn who is known to his client Shipman and his wife Virginia by the name Daniel Auster as Quinn tries to keep track of Shipman's father just released from prison who he fe...more
Sophie
If I wanted to be simplistic, I would call this a weird book. Also pretentious. It's the sort of book that I feel has been written to be dissected (for example, for people to work out which bits he's intended as homage to other writers, who has influenced him etc). Daniel Quinn (same initials as Don Quixote) is a writer of detective stories (the hero of his books is called William Wilson - referencing Edgar Allan Poe's short story about doppelgangers) who is mistaken for a real detective called...more
Bill Johnson
What makes a storyteller an artist? My answer is that an artist is concerned not just with a story's movement and how it transports and affects an audience -- creating an action story that thrills, for example -- but with why an audience desires particular story experiences. The artistic storyteller uses a story to create an experience that illuminates some aspect of the artist's world.

A question I'm asked is, are the principles that an artist uses to create a story the same as those that apply...more
Sammy
I have a feeling Paul Auster (the novelist) and I would not agree on very much. I also have a feeling that, in spite of this novel's postmodern (post-existentialist?) structure, Auster most definitely made this book up as he went along (although I suppose one could argue that was in keeping with the novel's overall themes?).

Working within the broad framework of the "hard-boiled" detective novel, the real mystery Auster is investigating is that of inherent meaning: if we start to deconstruct the...more
Jana
City of Glass by Paul Auster is another book I read because of the monthly book club meetings I am attending. I never read anything by Paul Auster before but I can honestly say that I really enjoyed it. I actually read it in just one afternoon. It is a short story and belongs to the New York Trilogy but even though I read only the first one, it was compelling and I couldn‘t stop reading until the last page. The story of of the book is about a writer who becomes a detective by accident and tries...more
Julia
I purchased the 2006 edition of The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster, which has a wonderful cover by Art Spiegelman, author of Maus I and II. City of Glass is the first book of the trilogy; here is one critic's comment:

"Nominated for an Edgar award for best mystery of the year, City of Glass inaugurates an intriguing New York Trilogy of novels that The Washington Post Book World has classified as "post-existentialist private eye... It's as if Kafka has gotten hooked on the gumshoe game and penned...more
Max
Great initial premise, acceptable execution, sloppy and overly self-conscious finish. When Paul Auster is on, he's an excellent writer with a knack for description. It just takes more to make a novelist. Sure, he raises some questions about the Nature of Fiction and of Language, but he never follows through with them, so who cares? His characters start off believable people but by halfway through they lose all semblance of humanity. As a post-modern exercise, the book might succeed if it could s...more
Carolyn
Paul Auster is the author of this story about author Daniel Quinn, who writes as author William Wilson, who writes about detective Max Work, but Daniel Quinn is mistaken for Detective Paul Auster, whose identity he assumes, although he later meets Author Paul Auster. The plot is really not as confusing as I've implied, though; the mental gymnastics come as a result of Auster's kaleidoscopic fragmentation of his characters.

Protagonist Quinn has recently lost his wife and son; we're not told how,...more
Tommy
Auster does not start his trilogy strongly. Interwoven with multiple themes and lacking a central moving force, City of Glass is a metropolis of many skyscrapers with few people to occupy them. Sparse at two-hundred pages, the novel shows how a good idea tends to sour when the author grabs too many grapes. Auster’s austere style, short sentences and plain imagery seduce the reader into believing that this is a one night read about a detective and a rich, wheelchair-bound client. But Auster has u...more
Akira
Aug 02, 2012 Akira rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone who want a nice reading experience
This is an amazing book. I have read a LOT of (valid) opinions about this text that put it as "pretentious", or "only for PhD Philosophy Students" (that it seems to be a synonym of pretentious).

The only thing I can say is: Pretentious people is exactly THAT one who don´t give any chance to a complex book. Paul Auster is not making a stupidity test, he is writing a story about the relationship between humans and language, about human nature, about the most epic adventures in literature, he is in...more
Sarah Horn
I was told this was the "post-existentialist private eye" novel with some Kafka influences. In other words, my jam. And I must say, FANTASTIC. I really am looking forward to reading the rest of the trilogy.

Detective Quinn gets a weird phone call asking for Paul Auster (author's name...not weird to anyone else? Um ok) and finds himself in the most difficult case yet. As Quinn struggles with the frustrations of figuring out this case, and perhaps descends into insanity, the reader is taken on a jo...more
Andrew McCarthy
I read this for my family's book club (I feel weird saying that since my family are the only ones who will probably read this review) and I liked it much more than I expected to, but admittedly, I had no legitimate expectations. The only thing I had experienced of Paul Auster before this was the movie Smoke, about which I had mixed feelings.

The book touched on a lot of themes that related to philosophy that I have studied. Specifically, the problem of personal identity, the incongruity between l...more
Julius
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Paul Auster is the bestselling author of Report from the Interior, Winter Journal, Sunset Park, Invisible, The Book of Illusions, and The New York Trilogy, among many other works. He has been awarded the Prince of Asturias Prize for Literature, the Prix Médicis Étranger, the Independent Spirit Award, and the Premio Napoli. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the American Ac...more
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“Each time he took a walk, he felt as though he were leaving himself behind, and by giving himself up to the movement of the streets, by reducing himself to a seeing eye, he was able to escape the obligation to think, and this, more than anything else, brought him a measure of peace, a salutary emptiness within...By wandering aimlessly, all places became equal and it no longer mattered where he was. On his best walks he was able to feel that he was nowhere. And this, finally was all he ever asked of things: to be nowhere.” 83 likes
“He would conclude that nothing was real except chance.” 13 likes
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