Wow, this book. There were two words that immediately came to mind after I finished reading: difficult and brainy. I’d like to say that the book was easy to read – the words flowed, the vocabulary was simple (I only hit the Dictionary feature of my Kindle for a few times) but the plot itself? The themes? The philosophy? They were all mind-numbing. I recently read a tweet stating that the books we say to be easy reading are actually difficult to write. And I am inclined to agree. I salute Paul Auster for employing simple and easy words but still managed to make the story perplexing and difficult to comprehend. Brilliant. Absolutely, decidedly, brilliant.
I usually shy away from brainy, philosophical books but alas, I was “misled” by the blurbs I’d read mostly stating that this book consists of interlocking novels that are “haunting and mysterious tales that move at the breathless pace of a thriller.” You see, I am always drawn into books that are mysteries or thrillers. These are the genres that got me hooked into reading in the first place. That was why I didn’t hesitate to jump right into the book and dove right into the first story.
And boy, it was a dive I wouldn’t want to make again. After the first story, I was stumped. I had to turn back a few pages to reread and then stare for several seconds at the last page. My mind kept saying: What the h*** was that, Paul Auster? This same mantra would be repeated upon finishing the each of the stories that followed.
In City of Glass, the story begins with a telephone call. Quinn, a writer, receives a mysterious phone call in the middle of the night from a caller who is looking for Paul Auster, an investigator (yes, a character is named after the author.) Quinn pretends to be Auster, meets with the caller, and thereafter accepts a task to look for the caller’s father, an ex-convict whom the caller fears will kill him. What happens soon after is an engaging mystery which undoubtedly made a mess out of my mind. Despite the baffling turn of events, I liked the Biblical references especially on the Tower of Babel and the Fall of Man and the surrounding theological discourse regarding the origin of language. The ending caused a great headache, I had to stop for a while (a few days, a week?) before I started the next story.
The second story, Ghosts, is equally perplexing. Blue, an investigator, is hired by a man named White. “White wants Blue to follow a man named Black and to keep an eye on him for as long as necessary.” (44%) Yes, the characters are named after colors. Ain’t that quaint? But then Blue finds out that Black does nothing except write, with occasional walks outside the house, but other than that, Black is confined in his little room doing nothing except to write. If you were Blue, what are going to do? I liked Blue’s soliloquys during the “investigating” process. And then came the ending, which would stump me. Of course. I was already warned that the third book would be as confounding, so I (again) took a mini-break (a week?) before reading the last installment in this totally mind-bending trilogy.
The Locked Room is told through the voice of an unnamed narrator who receives news that his long-time friend, Fanshawe, has disappeared and that he is tasked by Fanshawe himself through a letter to evaluate whether Fanshawe’s manuscripts and writings are fit to be published. All along, he thinks that Fanshawe is dead and then he receives an unsigned letter apparently coming from Fanshawe. Troubling and disturbing, yes? This could be my most favorite story of the three despite the fact that I was left baffled (as expected) by the ending. I liked how the three stories interlocked with each other and the similarity of the themes (identity, language, meanings), not to mention that they all made me feel intelligent. 😛
The New York Trilogy is the kind of book I want displayed on my shelf. It makes me feel (and appear) smart. Haha.