Sunday, April 15, 2007

The New York Trilogy

Book 5: City of Glass
Book 6: Ghosts
Book 7: The Locked Room

by Paul Auster

Originally published as separate books, the three novellas have since been bound together within a single volume known as The New York Trilogy. Since I have in my possession the 1st edition Penguin paperbacks, I’m listing them as separate entities (jackpot!). Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find the original paperback covers of my 3 books on the web and thus, am making do with what's currently displayed.

Wikipedia’s plot introduction for 'The NY Trilogy' begins with: Ostensibly presented as detective fiction, the stories of The New York Trilogy have been described as "meta-detective-fiction"; "anti-detective fiction"; "mysteries about mysteries"; a "strangely humorous working of the detective novel"; "very soft-boiled"; a "metamystery"; "glassy little jigsaws"; a "mixture between the detective story and the nouveau roman".

If anyone’s familiar with Martin Amis, Don DeLillo, etc etc, ‘The NY Trilogy’ definitely wins the “meta-fiction” stamp of approval, as the author subtly (but more often not so subtly), insinuates himself into the narrative, and adds layers of internal/external references and clever complexity into each story.

But don’t let these Literary Labels fool you. Even if you find this meta self-reflexive stuff boring (as I sometimes do), or you don’t much like Auster’s later work, the stories in ‘The NY Trilogy’ are surreal, playful little gems. If you’re into detective fiction and postmodern lit, you’re in for a treat. But even if you tend toward the classic hard-boiled genre, and not so into the meta- self- post-whatever, the stories are short enough and fascinating enough to draw you into Auster’s strange and eerie world.

All three stories are distinct from each other, but thematically linked together, with a few of the same 'characters' weaving in and out. Like film noir, the stories start off in a harmless enough, even wisecracking, tone. But eventually the main character's identity unravels, and the protagonist sinks deeper n' deeper into whatever obsessive morass he got himself into in the first place, and ends up in a nihilistic hole he can't get out of.

The first volume, City of Glass, was adapted in 1994 into a critically acclaimed experimental graphic novel by Paul Karasik and David Mazzucchelli, which was subsequently published as City of Glass: The Graphic Novel in 2004. I saw some sample panels on the web and the images looked very compelling; I’d be very curious to check this out too.

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