Not Entirely Literate Lit-Crit

I don't like to do this, but I have to open this with a pre-emptive apology. My book reading days ceased when like many, I discovered rock'n'roll. I blame Thom Yorke for a good number of things. Back in my youth I led the entire year group pretty much, on a one-merit-per-book-read English scheme. Bring them on, I said. Then, I got a guitar and didn't really look back - my reading dried up and tended to be only when I felt guilty. Just recently I came to the conclusion that I had no real excuse for not reading, and set about catching up. Had I continued in my Year 8 fashion, I'd probably be Literary Editor-In-Chief at the Guardian by now. As it is, don't be expecting anything as straightforward as worthwhile comparisons, or knowledgable reference points.

Paul Auster, New York Trilogy. Paul Auster's new on me, completely. I had a couple of trusted recommendations, but that was it.
New York Trilogy is essentially just that, a trilogy, with three distinct books that can be read separately if so desired; however, you'd merely be getting the benefit of a distinctive and fairly attractive writing style if you did so. These are three detective stories in their own way: one a straightforward private eye engagement, one less linear detection story, and one involving tracing a history and a whereabouts. It's this last, The Locked Room, that is the key pulling the separate strands of this novel together, but it's still neccessary to read the others despite completely different stories in each. There's nothing so easy to explain as interweaving characters, or even immediately recurrent themes, only the idea of the protagonist involving himself so deeply with the case, whatever it may be, that he loses touch with reality, or with commonly perceived decency. I'd even go so far to suggest that each loses touch with his own sense of decency, be it Blue's fairly upright and socially-acceptable standing in Ghosts, or Quinn's isolated sense of self-awareness and vicarious living through several different figures, in City Of Glass.

The Independent review quoted on the back cover says it "yields nothing so easy to extract as 'meaning'," and this is as good a summary as any of the conclusion of the book. In fact, it would almost be betraying the narrative to wrap everything up too neatly - the separate tales are all so disparate, even within themselves, that a traditional, or expected, ending would not suit at all. Instead Auster manages to convey a sense of delirium and panic, or he veers to forbidding and forboding, or even to resolution and resignation in tying up the story, so that it no longer feels like a narrative, more like the consciousness of the protagonist of The Locked Room.

But, thats probably revealing too much. Is that a spoiler? I don't even know anymore...
This is a book that's certainly going to play on your mind after you've put it down. Once you invest so much in a character, as you must to do to appreciate his viewpoint, then it becomes difficult to let down, and Auster has done this better than most. New York Trilogy is one of those thought-provoking novels that occasionally seems like it might be more trouble than it's worth, but ultimately captures a mood really evocatively and stimulates one's mind.

How very high-sounding! Maybe Martin Amis' Time's Arrow next, if I don't decide this was a really bad idea...

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