Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The New York Trilogy, by Paul Auster

Some of the best bits...

"I wandered in my mind for several weeks, looking for a way to begin. Every life is inexplicable, I kept telling myself. No matter how many facts are told, no matter how many details are given, the essential thing resists telling. To say that so and so was born here and went there, that he did this and did that, that he married this woman and had these children, that he lived, that he died, that he left behind these books or this battle or that bridge--none of that tells us very much. We all want to be told stories, and we listen to them in the same way we did when we were young. We imagine the real story inside the words, and to do this we substitute ourselves for the person in the story, pretending that we can understand him because we understand ourselves. This is a deception. We exist for ourselves, perhaps, and at times we even have a glimmer of who we are, but in the end we can never be sure, and as our lives go on, we become more and more opaque to ourselves, more and more aware of our own incoherence. No one can cross the boundary into another--for the simple reason that no one can gain access to himself." (242-243)

"Everyone knows that stories are imaginary. Whatever effect they might have on us, we know they are not true, even when they tell us truths more important than the ones we can find elsewhere." (245)

My thoughts...

Astounding, astounding read. Auster's three intertwined novellas are an exploration of writing, the author as detective, chance, and the dark confusing parts of human nature. Disguised as detective fiction this postmodern whirl of overlapping stories and intertextual goodness just makes my head spin. The best way I can describe my love of this novel is to say that it's a puzzle. I want to re-read to root out all of the allusions and layers and authorial tricks. For this very reason it's probably not a book for everyone. Many would hate its experimental style and what might be considered a pompous manipulation of form. Having read several of Auster's memoirs, I further appreciate the narrative for all of the little bits that Auster pulled from his own life. While I usually despise looking at an author's fiction as a reflection of his personal life, Auster continually draws from his own experience and it's easy to see how issues of chance have deeply influenced his writing.Knowing Auster's story further humanizes these complicated tales.

Watching: Bukowski: Born into This (documentary)


  1. Good Luck on your Thesis Defense! I am sure you will jam out with your clam out!

  2. I've got to re-read Auster. I was crazy about him (and Siri) years ago. I have read The Bell (Iris Murdoch) and really liked it.

    Can't wait to hear how great your thesis defense was.

  3. T., you know I will!!!! :D

    Purl, I'll have to bump The Bell back up on my to read list. I've got all weekend to lounge around since I'm housesitting and they have the perfect big squishy chaise for reading.

  4. I never realized what Auster's trilogy was actually about, but you make it sound absolutely fantastic. If I ever locate my brain again I'll put this on my list. Right now it seems to have been replaced by mush, which I'm hoping will pass with the holidays.

  5. I'd prefer to read your book Andi rather than reread Auster's trilogy. I've adored the other few books of his I've read but your take on it is more than I could ever get out of it. Let me know when your book hits Amazon! And Snappy Holidays too!!

  6. Lisa, I knowww the feeling. LOL I hope you get a chance to read it. I think (hope) you'd like it!

    Dale, thanks!! I look forward to the day when I have time to write a book(s). :D Snappy Holidays to you too.


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