The New York Trilogy
By Paul Auster
From my shelves
The New York Trilogy is a collection of three novellas, each a detective story in its own right. In City of Glass, a man named Quinn gets a phone call. The caller is searching for a private detective named Paul Auster. Quinn, however, is a mystery writer. After many insistent phone calls, Quinn says that he is Auster and is hired to protect a young man whose life may be in danger. Ghosts tells the story of a detective named Blue. He is hired by a man named White to watch a man named Black. Blue settles into an apartment across the street from Black and takes note of his every move....which seems to mostly consist of staring out of his window and writing. In the final novella, The Locked Room, a writer is contacted because his childhood friend Fanshawe has disappeared. Fanshawe has made him the executor of an amazing collection of work. He is to decide if it is worthwhile and if so, have it published. In the meantime, our narrator manages to find a place in Fanshawe's family. But the question of what happened to his friend is one that consumes his thoughts and refuses to allow him any happiness.
Auster is a complicated writer, but his work can be read at multiple levels. A reader could enjoy the stories in The New York Trilogy simply for their twists and turns and meticulous noir style. But these are much more complicated than detective stories. I feel as if I could read them again and again and find new connections each time. Of course, calling them detective stories is much too simplistic. These stories feature excellent writing and an ongoing exploration of the ways that books and the act of writing can impact our lives. Classic books like Walden and Don Quixote play pivotal parts. Quinn, Blue, and our unnamed writer are all constantly writing in an attempt to make sense of their situations.
The title of this trilogy comes from the setting. Each story is set in New York City and Auster brings NYC to life with ease. As his characters walk down the streets and visit its establishments, you feel like you are walking with them regardless of how many times you have actually been there. The city becomes a character itself, always present and always observing the action of the stories.
My favorite part of these stories was Auster's Hitchcock-like decision to place himself within the stories. Or perhaps a version of himself? Although I won't attempt to reason out why he does this exactly, I found it great fun to compare Auster the character(s) with Auster the author and find the places where they diverge.
The New York Trilogy is something akin to a giant puzzle for your brain. You won't figure it all out, or at least I know I didn't. Somehow this isn't a disappointment. Instead, it's an invitation to read and re-read. Going for the ride is a fascinating experience all by itself.