Meera's Reviews > The New York Trilogy

The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster
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Apr 21, 2012

it was amazing

(I'm moving a few old reviews over from an abandoned book photo project on Flickr.)

The New York Trilogy has been on my reading list for over a year now, and it was one of my New Year's Day buys. It has the distinction of being the first book of 2011 that I truly loved—though love is perhaps an imprecise word for the relationship I formed with these three distinct, but intricately connected, novellas. It's hard to feel so messy and ardent a thing as love for an allegory, which is what the stories feel like (even though Auster denies that his work has any allegorical or symbolic intent).

It's also hard to describe the Trilogy in any way that doesn't impoverish its power. On the most basic level, it's a book about three men who—either by choice or chance—are playing the role of detective. Each spends his days and nights watching another person closely, tracking him, tracing his steps through the world—all the while trying, and utterly failing, to comprehend the scraps of information so meticulously collected in the process.

In each case, the follower is transformed, by turn, into the followed. Each man begins to lose his grip on who he is. Identities are fluid, confounding, and often exchanged—sometimes over and over. Words lose their meaning; coincidences strike with the force of fate. Is what a person does equivalent to who he is? If you perfectly mirror the moves of another, do you become him?

I believe Auster when he says "Nothing in any of my books means anything, as far as I know, except what I'm putting down on the page. There are no hidden meanings. On the other hand, if you're able to tell a story that resonates with the same power it has inside you, it's almost as if it's coming out of your dreams."

Reading The New York Trilogy is, in fact, a rather dreamlike experience. It's not a book whose characters you are likely weep over; but when you recognize yourself in them, as you will, you may well weep for yourself.
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