Paul Auster is one of those authors whom having read a few of his books I still have difficulty defining. His style and stories weave in and out of being lucid, conventional narratives to the outright extreme and surreal. My first Auster book was leviathan, a book which defied my expectations of what a book could be. I was concerned that the impression that leviathan had left with me was so great that nothing else by the author would be able to compare with it.
The New York Trilogy is a book that consists of three separate books, seemingly unconnected to one another, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. If you were to take these three books and separate them out and judge them on their own merits you would find three rather good noir novellas. Some stronger than others. But placing them side by side you begin to see a piece of work emerge which is astounding.
Trying to describe the plot of this book would do a disservice to the work. At many points, it’s feels less like you’re reading just another book, but experiencing something far greater. A work of art that confronts the stereotypes of the genre that Auster is playing into, that of a detective novel, and then twisting it, moulding it into something else, something beyond recognition. Taking the idea of the lonely private eye and allowing the role to evolve from a hulking brute into a thoughtful philosopher. Auster allows the protagonist (and you by proxy) to explore ideas of self and of place.
Auster is an author with a sense of personhood, he has the rare and much sought after ability of being able to create a character that feels real. When I say this, I do not mean he has found a way of creating a character that you believe you could exist, but he creates characters that feel as if they have lived lives full of mistakes, littered with past lovers and missed opportunities.
I’d recommend this book and if you enjoy it take a look at some of his other novels. Leviathan, Moon Palace, 4 3 2 1, Timbuktu and the list goes on.