The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster – A Book Review

This work is actually a collection of three different stories called “City of Glass,” “Ghosts,” and “The Locked Room.”  However, upon finishing the work, it becomes rather obvious why they are all collected into one volume.

Let me say this from the outset: If you are a person who very much needs clear closure, this book is not for you.  I don’t want to get too much into the nuances of the work for fear of spoiling certain elements for a first time reader, but let’s just say that this is as much an experimental exploration of theme as it is anything. 

There were times when I was quite certain that Auster had absolutely no idea what he was doing and where he was going with these stories, and there were other times when I thought I must have been reading the work of a certifiable genius.  I believe that was exactly Auster’s purpose after having finished reading The New York Trilogy.

What else can I say?  If you’re a reader open to experimental craft, you will love this work; if you’re a reader who needs a definite A to Z plot, I’d pass on this if I were you.  Frustrated as this book sometimes made me, it was never boring, and it made me think harder than many books I’ve read of late.  I believe I’m a better writer (and reader) for having experienced it.

Mr. Vertigo by Paul Auster – A Book Review

I have to tell you, I am more than impressed with Paul Auster.  The only other work I’ve read of his is the collection The New York Trilogy, and I took him as essentially an experimental writer who deals more with theme than storyline.

Mr. Vertigo proved me wrong and then some.  The plotline is preposterous, and every time I tell someone about the book they look at me like I’m nuts.  That being said, Mr. Vertigo is about a young orphan from St. Louis who is recruited by the enigmatic Master Yehudi.  Master Yehudi promises that he will teach the boy, named Walter Rawley, to walk on air.  And, lo and behold, he does.

Crazy, I know.

But, Auster writes it in such a delightful, realistic fashion that never once do you doubt what you read.  And his dialogue is pure joy.  I love the speech patterns his characters employ.

Of course, there is much more to the novel than Walt simply learning to walk on air, but I won’t ruin it for you.  Let me just tell you that as fanciful as this book sounds, there are some grim realities in it, some perhaps too potent for just the casual reader. 

Remarkably, as the story begins in the late 1920s, Walt’s tale mirrors that of his native homeland, the USA.  His ups and downs match America’s in such a way that a real study of theme could be employed just as with The New York Trilogy.

You will greatly enjoy this novel, and I daresay you’ll be stunned at how connected to the characters you will become.

The Brooklyn Follies by Paul Auster – A Book Review

Every once in a while a book comes along that completely engrosses you both on an intellectual as well as an emotional level.  The Brooklyn Follies is one such book.

I’ve read two Paul Auster books and found myself utterly impressed by both.  The New York Trilogy astounded me because of its experimentalism and form.  Mr. Vertigo forced me to fall in love with it because of its superb story and characterization.  Because of these two drastically different styles by the same author, I wasn’t sure which was the true Paul Auster.

Simply put, they both are.  Unlike so many authors, Auster is not a one-trick pony.  From what I’ve seen, he can write anything about anything.  Don’t get me wrong, he has his favorite themes and such, but he’s not one of these writers who essentially delivers the same story book after book after book.

The Brooklyn Follies offers a very complex story delivered in such a fashion that the reader doesn’t even realize the true complexity unfolding, which, of course, is the sign of a master writer.  What would seem to be nothing more than coincidences are both a statement by the author about life as well as what I can only assume was the result of careful planning on Auster’s part.

But the characters!  Few authors so perfectly convey the characters found within their work.  I tell you, I completely became friends with the characters in this book and it saddens me that their story came to an end.  I don’t mean that in the fatal sense, I literally mean I finished the book. 

If you want a story that will truly be a joy to read, I urge you to try The Brooklyn Follies.

Oracle Night by Paul Auster – A Book Review

Stylistically somewhere between The New York Trilogy and The Brooklyn Follies, Oracle Night encompasses what I loved about both.

Auster gives us a bit of a plot, but there is also much experimentation in this rich novel as well.  And, like with The New York Trilogy, if you are a fan of linear storytelling with a concrete introduction, body, and conclusion, Oracle Night may not be for you, though there are elements of all three.

That being said, Oracle Night was a captivating read with deeply charismatic characters who were not difficult to emotionally connect with at all.  However, there are many (literal) footnotes and several asides, all of which I enjoyed immensely.  Unfortunately, I’m not certain a casual reader would feel the same.

So, all in all, if you’re an Auster enthusiast, this is more greatness from a wonderful writer.  If you’re unfamiliar with Auster but are open-minded and interested in trying out a mixture of traditional and experimental storytelling, I think you’d like Oracle Night.  However, if you’re into more conventional storytelling, I recommend Auster’s Mr. Vertigo or The Brooklyn Follies

Timbuktu by Paul Auster – A Book Review

I absolutely admire Paul Auster because whenever I pick up one of his books, I totally have no idea what to expect.  You’ve surely noticed how some authors basically tell the same story over and over again?  Not Auster.  I’ve read quite a few of his works by now, and while he has similar themes delving into aspects of humanity, he delivers each and every one of said themes in a totally original and captivating manner.

 

Timbuktu is unlike anything I thought Auster capable of writing.  Our narrator and protagonist is Mr. Bones, a through-and-through mutt owned by a delusional and kind-hearted vagabond named Willy.  We see life through Mr. Bones’ eyes, and Auster does a magnificent job of breaking we humans down to our most essential characteristics.  Mr. Bones sees life as it is, and sees us for who we are.

 

The story took a while to heat up because Willy proclaimed early on that death awaited him.  The only problem was, while death certainly awaited him, I got irritated waiting for Willy to finally die so that Mr. Bones’ next step in life could begin.  Once Willy headed for Timbuktu and Mr. Bones blazed a new trail in the world, I could hardly put the book down.

 

Again, I can hardly believe the man who wrote The New York Trilogy, an utterly experimental and complex work, also wrote Timbuktu, a short novel told to us from the experiences of a dog.

 

Auster is a true artist, a man willing to write whatever he wants despite externally imposed conventions, and I dare you to resist the warmth and charm of this story and Mr. Bones.  Furthermore, I challenge you to keep a dry eye on the last page.