Timelessness is not easy to come by, but The New York Trilogy achieves this both in the writing and subsequent narration. Paul Auster's debut novella collection features a set of everyman characters in highly philosophical predicaments, and Joe Barrett voices their frustrated decision-making with a deep empathy that declines to mock the very absurd dilemmas in which the characters embed themselves. Barrett's is a well-oiled baritone, practiced in several of Audible's Paul Auster offerings as well as other new classics from their Modern Vanguard series.
He reads these three tales of psychological misgivings almost like an introspective Casey Kasem, laying down the Top 40 obsessions of one character after another, though the particulars all boil down to the same few human errors. All three stories feature a man who is both a writer and a detective, highlighting what happens to a mind left to work on a project in solitude for too long, with an emphasis on the quandaries of language and the roles of coincidence. There are no less than four characters named Peter Stillman, two named Daniel Quinn, and even one pretending to be Paul Auster. One character is named for a Nathaniel Hawthorne novel, and all characters find reason to become well-versed in Thoreau's Walden. Barrett is for the most part not called upon to do any fancy voice work for these innovative detective stories. His most remarkable feat comes quickly in the collection, during an early chapter in the first story, "City of Glass". One of the Peter Stillmans is a young man who was kept in a windowless room for his entire childhood. Barrett's lengthy chapter of monologue as this character is truly refined and heartbreaking an unforgettable masterpiece of stilted and sputtering refrains, paranoid and childish tones, eerie laughter and ugly detail. The second story, "Ghosts", is an exercise in interchangeable vocals and the loss of identity as White hires Blue to live on Orange Street and investigate Black. The third story, "The Locked Room", involves a man's duty toward the writing and family of a childhood friend who may or may not be dead.
Paul Auster is postmodernism at its best, changing the particulars in these three tales to create suspense and humor, but never losing sight of the sad and lonely threads that tie the three stories together. As a bonus with this book, there is a 15-minute interview with the author where James Atlas touches on many of the commonalities between this book and Auster's others. Auster intelligently discusses his use of New York as a setting, his interest in revealing the interior mental landscape of his characters, and the odd inspiration for using himself as a character. It's clear from Auster's responses that he took pains to write the inner life of characters in this collection with precision, and the result is appropriately narrated as such by Joe Barrett. Megan Volpert
City of Glass combines dark, Kafka-like humor with all the suspense of a Hitchcock film as a writer of detective stories becomes embroiled in a complex and puzzling series of events, beginning with a call from a stranger in the middle of the night asking for the author Paul Auster himself. Ghosts, the second volume of this interconnected trilogy, introduces Blue, a private detective hired to watch a man named Black, who, as he becomes intermeshed into a haunting and claustrophobic game of hide-and-seek, is lured into the very trap he has created.
The final volume, The Locked Room, also begins with a mystery, told this time in the first-person narrative. The nameless hero journeys into the unknown as he attempts to reconstruct the past which he has experienced almost as a dream. Together these three fictions lead the reader on adventures that expand the mind as they entertain.
As an added bonus, when you purchase any of our Audible Modern Vanguard productions of Paul Auster's books, you'll also get an exclusive Jim Atlas interview added to your library.
©2006 Paul Auster; (P)2009 Audible, Inc.
"Auster harnesses the inquiring spirit any reader brings to a mystery, redirecting it from the grubby search for a wrongdoer to the more rarified search for the self." (New York Times Book Review)
"Eminently readable and mysterious....Auster has added some new dimensions to modern literature and – more importantly even – to our perspectives on the planet." (Boston Globe)
"By turning the mystery novel inside out, Auster may have initiated a whole new round of storytelling" (The Village Voice)
This book is a little too much for a lot of people, but I like how Auster riffs on identity issues and then pairs it up with the classic icon of the private detective. If you're looking for something that will take you back to Chandler, this might not be up your alley, but if you're seeking something a bit experimental and somewhat quirky, check out the NYT.
I truly welcome these recordings. Though, I have to admit, Auster's LEVIATHON is the real gem. But, all of his early books are deeply revealing. Starting with these three novellas. If you read all his early works in order, there is this umbrella...well, it...uh...it evolves from book to book. You'll see. This is great literature.
Being a native New Yorker, I love reading stories about New York, its people, its energy, its quirkiness. That's what attracted me to this trilogy. But these three novellas are just too, too bizarre. They read like a cross between The Twilight Zone and The Naked City. In fact, each would probably work better as a teleplay than as a novella. I finished the three being totally befuddled and disappointed.
Although the material left me cold, the production values were first rate. Very well read and produced with great sound listening at the enhanced level. Audible did a great job producing this version of the work.
I am into self exploration. I love complexity, intrigue and an ending that I may have to participate in. I do not need to be told of all little details. This book starts cohesively with proper train of thought and use of language. As it evolves the language is there but it is absent of cogent meaning. Might as well be "word salad". Disconnected ideas that are supposed to have some higher meaning. Simply tell me who or what brings Wilson/Quinn/Auster(or whatever the protagonist wants to be called) the food when he's in Stillman's apartment. Am I being too concrete. If the purpose of this book is to raise questions about "who knows what" then it has achieved its goal. If its purpose was to raise issues about, identity, language or metafiction as other reviewers suggest or possibly allow for introspection, I believe it did and does not. Maybe the ultimate goal of the book is to increase confusion and to collect dust in my library. Job well done.
Just didn't like it. Just didn't capture my imagination or my any part of any of my memories of NYC where I lived for 12 years.
Maybe it is partly because I just finished a Dostoevsky Classic, but the New York Trilogy was quite possibly the worst book I have ever read. I may have to rethink using the New York Times Book Review for download suggestions. It was so bad I almost strained my eyeballs rolling them so often at the juvenile and boring descriptions given by the author. I was angered often at the thought of paying money for this book. The only positive aspect in reading this drab waste of time is the encouragement of knowing that even though I have never actually written anything, I believe I could have written so much better without even trying...when I was 12!! If this guy didn't sleep with somebody to get his book published, then somebody needs to get out more.
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