Thursday, June 13, 2013


Identity, Solitude, Language

The New York Trilogy is a series of novels by Paul Auster. 
Originally published sequentially as City of Glass (1985), 
Ghosts (1986) and The Locked Room (1986),
it has since been collected into a single volume. 
- Wikipedia
This is one of those rare books that work on many levels of mystery, philosophy, and drama.  While this was coined as a trilogy, it was not written in that sense.  The stories were related thematically, rather than narrative or plot. Yet after reading, I realized that writing an individual reflection on each story will not convey the wholeness of the book -its different stages of awareness.
Books must be read as deliberately and reservedly as they were written.

I've read somewhere that these stories were referred to as “meta mystery”, which honestly I don’t know what.  So, I am not going to pretend that I do.  What I do understand is that this is a mystery book, because the whole book is the mystery itself.  For even if we remove the identifying marks of a mystery novel -antagonistic characters, plot twist, and deathly climax- the book remains to be mysterious.  And, although there are detectives or, at least, characters involve in detecting, none of the three is a detective story.
In the good mystery there is nothing wasted, no sentence, no word that is not significant.  And even if it is not significant, it has the potential to be so –which amounts to the same thing.

Plenty of adjectives had been shot, ricocheting on the walls, to describe this book.  If a reader wants to enjoy this book, he has to dodge them all.  Paul Auster wrote a very readable book.  It is not arduous, but it will ask you to think.  The concepts echoed across the book were about man's subconscious control of his constant and definitive identity, the different causes and effects of solitude, and the limitation of language to convey all thoughts.  All of which were tested in extremely unusual situations, yet believable.  The testing variables were simple by imagination, yet the effects were staggering.  Time and again, while reading, I asked -what the hell did he do that for- then realized that I was merely looking from the outside.  To be in such a situation is more than mere thought can comprehend.
“We imagine the real story inside the words, and to do this we substitute ourselves for the person in the story, pretending that we can understand him because we understand ourselves.  This is deception.  We exist for ourselves, perhaps, and at times we even have a glimmer of who we are, but in the end we can never be sure, and as our lives go on, we become more and more opaque to ourselves, more and more aware of our own incoherence. No one can cross the boundary into another – for the simple reason that no one can gain access to himself. 

Paul Auster had the good sense to tackle all this through fiction.  The concepts he presented were unlikely to be accepted as a day-to-day occurrence.  But if we are to understand that our lives are stories itself, and we being the author of it, it is foolish indeed to overlook the times that our identity was challenged, or when solitude bogged us down, or even when our thoughts stunted the words we wished to convey.
No one wants to be part of a fiction, and even less so if that fiction is real.

I suspect that all these leaves more questions behind, rather than answers.  Maybe that is well because this is not a traditional fiction; it requires a certain level of engagement from the reader.  The stories will not end at the last page of the book, it continues on with our lives.  How we deal with it is entirely up to us.
Everyone knows that stories are imaginary.  Whatever effect they might have on us, we know they are not true, even when they tell us truths more important that the ones we can find elsewhere.  As opposed to the story writer, I was offering my creations directly to the real world, and therefore it seemed possible to me that they could affect this real world in a real way, that they could eventually become part of the real itself.  No writer could ask for more than that.

Book details:
Title: The New York Trilogy
Author: Paul Auster
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication: April 1st, 1990
Genre: Metafiction
Rating: ★★★★★

F2F23, Frankie's, November 30, 2013
Moderated by Aldrin Calimlim
Photo courtesy of Joy Abundo


  1. Thanks for the recommendation, Mommy Louize! Will definitely be on the lookout for this. :)

    1. You're welcome.
      And you can always borrow my copy, if you want to read it sooner. :)

  2. Hello, Louize! I have the same edition! Unlike yours though, mine is still shrink-wrapped!

    I see lots of Post-Its on your book. I'm guessing that this book would make for a lively discussion.

  3. Hi, Peter! You should unwrap its mystery soon. And yes, the concepts are very interesting to discuss. :)

    A bit of spoiler... after this book, I see Humpty Dumpty more than just an egg now. hihihi