Blair's Reviews > The New York Trilogy

The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster
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Jul 24, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: contemporary, read-on-kindle, 1980s-90s-release, favourites
Read from July 24 to 29, 2011

The New York Trilogy comprises a trio of interconnected stories: City of Glass, Ghosts and The Locked Room. Each of them presents a spin on the detective genre. In City of Glass, a writer is mistaken for a private detective and is drawn into the entanglements of a rich, eccentric family. Ghosts, the shortest of the three, sees a detective tasked with observing a man and becoming increasingly paranoid about his target's life, as well as the intentions of his employer. The Locked Room, which has the most traditional format, follows another writer's obsession with his childhood best friend, who has been missing for years but becomes a celebrated author some time after his disappearance.

I had to delete my first review of this book and start all over again. I began by reviewing each part of the trilogy separately, assuming that, although I knew they were interlocked, it would be possible to treat each of them as a standalone novella. However, when I reached the end of The Locked Room, I realised that the connections between the stories are so close and complex that this would be impossible. The first two stories only really make sense in the context of the third; and the third would seem too slight without the previous two to add substance to it. All of the stories appear to take place in some very slightly altered parallel universe, but the first and second are more blatantly parable-like and almost have a fairytale feel to them. The third has a more conventional narrative, in that it could almost be taken at face value as a mystery about a man who disappears, but when you go back to the others, to their significance both inside and outside the narrator's actual story, there seems to be much more to it than meets the eye.

This is definitely the sort of book that demands, rather than suggests, a re-reading. There's this constant uneasy feeling that nothing is quite as it seems, but not in a sensational horror-story way, rather just that everything is slightly out of kilter. Because I didn't fully understand the relationship between reality and fiction in these stories at the begnning, certain things left me feeling very frustrated. Upon reaching the end of City of Glass, I was left with numerous questions, some of which I later realised were completely irrelevant. At the same time, the perspective offered by The Locked Room made me wish I'd taken more note of certain details, or thought harder about who/what various characters/situations were meant to represent. The key to 'getting' this book, I soon realised, was to recognise that much of it is symbolic, designed to explore themes - identity, perception, the importance of names, the power of stories and imagination - than to describe believable events.

There's a scene in The Locked Room which involves the narrator and a colleague discussing the elusive nature of the appeal of Fanshawe, the missing writer. 'The book gets stuck somewhere in the brain, and you can’t get rid of it,' one of them says. 'You can't stop thinking about it.' For me, the same could be said of Paul Auster's prose. This gave me the same feeling I experienced with Oracle Night; I didn't think it was the greatest thing I've ever read by a long shot, but the style constantly kept me coming back for more and I came away from it feeling dejected at the idea of having to read anything that wasn't written by Auster. His writing seems to give you a thirst for more of the same. I've got another couple of his novels on my to-read stack now, so let's see whether this fascination endures.
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07/27/2011 page 239
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Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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Lila Lamrabet One of my favourite books! It's brilliant.


Blair I really love his writing - I'm in one of those stages where I just want to read stuff he's written and nothing else, indefinitely.


message 3: by Amy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Amy I liked this but I admit that I struggled a bit with it. Definitely want to come back to him again at some point, though.


Blair Having finished it, I think I'd like to read it again. There were definitely unanswered questions for me. I think I like his writing more than what he writes about.


Ingrid I read this really recently and struggled. I went in thinking they were 3 seperate stories and then read the 3rd one before the second for some reason which I obviously lived to regret haha. Would definitely re-read it though, I loved his style and it has made me want to read all of his books.


message 6: by Michael (new) - added it

Michael One of my favourite books of all time too... Haven't gone back to it, since reading over a decade ago - maybe now's the time!


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