Paul Auster's The New York Trilogy (three novellas published in one volume) makes me feel smart, and makes me feel like my English major has at least some use. Auster clearly knows his literary theory and is the first writer I have found who incorporates it seamlessly into his bizarre characters without making it seem like he himself is pretentious. He is clearly self aware -- he names a character after himself--but I felt like I was getting an extra layer by recognizing Saussure (signified and signifier), Lacan(layers of language, literary application of Freud), Freud, and Barthe (death of the author) in his writings rather than feeling like Auster was showing off.

"I like your name very much Mr. Quinn. It flies off in so many little directions at once."
"Yes. I've often noticed that myself."
"Most people don't pay attention to such things. They think of words as stones, as great unmovable objects with not life, as monads that never change.
"Stones can change. They can be worn away by wind or water. They can erode. They can be crushed. You can turn them into shards, or gravel, or dust."

There's a tiny dialogue full of Lacan's metaphor and metonym, full of the idea that words can have association through both meaning and sound-similarities (Quinn is compared to its rhymes and to other things that start with the "Qui" sound). There are better examples, but I didn't want to give the book away.

The book is beautifully and tightly written and the three novellas stand on their own, but justify being read together.

The plots, which I am artfully ignoring here because they are hard to summarize, are well executed and gripping. I swallowed the 400 page book in only about five sittings.

It brings up wonderful and compelling questions about words, stories, plot, writing, authors, and all of their uses. And, even if you are not hungry for books about books like I am, the novellas are all subtle detective stories, so they make for fun reads on that level as well.

1 Response to 'From My Bookshelf: The New York Trilogy'

  1. Anonymous said...'> March 14, 2007 at 8:16 PM

    Glad I could change your life :-)


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