Leviathan

ISBN: 0140178139
ISBN 13: 9780140178135
By: Paul Auster

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About this book

New York Times bestselling author Paul Auster (The New York Trilogy) opens Leviathan with the tearing of a bomb explosion and the death of one Benjamin Sachs. Ben’s one-time best friend, Peter Aaron, begins to retrospectively investigate the transformation that led Ben from his enviable, stable life to one of a recluse. Both were once intelligent, yet struggling novelists until Ben’s near-death experience falling from a fire escape triggers a tumble in which he becomes withdrawn and disturbed, living alone and building bombs in a far-off cabin. That is, until he mysteriously disappears, leaving behind only a manuscript titled Leviathan, pages rustling in the wind.

Reader's Thoughts

Sabra Embury

I barely made it to chapter three of Leviathan, and by the time I got there I wanted to throw the book on the ground. The character development lacked luster, the dialogue was stupid, and the narrative was outright boring, aside from its style seeming contrived and rudimentary. I'll admit that this is my first real glimpse into Auster's writing. And I also just finished Jerzy Kosiński's the Painted Bird, which was so beautiful, rich and complex, I would feel bad for any after book having to follow its shadow, since Kosiński's "Paint" makes Leviathan look like a used yellow crayon.But I have to give Auster credit for carving out an apparent niche in postmodernism; through gimmicks that revolve around confusing people with absurd twists and lines like "We starting kissing. Mouths open, tongues thrashing, slobbering onto each others chins, we started kissing like a couple of teenagers in the backseat of a car." When I got to that point, I decided that the book was unreadable. I felt like I'd wasted enough time getting closer to cynical--regarding the doomed consensus of taste in modern American culture. I'm not trying to be violently critical here, or contrary for the sake of being contrary. In fact: I'm going to read the New York Trilogy next. I hear City of Glass is one of his best. But if any essence of Auster's masturbatory rock star jive gets on me, or hell forbid--leaves a stain, I'm sending him the bill for my lobotomy.

Jim Elkins

This is, by most people's account, a minor novel of Auster's, and so it may be an especially go one to raise the question of what drives the work, as opposed to what happens when the writing succeeds in some more specific way. This book has a kind of unremitting literalism in its narrative. In a nearly blank, neutral voice, the narrator tells us dozens of dates, places, and names; in part that's justified by the notion that this is a book written at speed in order to provide legal evidence about one of the narrator's friends. But aside from that, the studiously neutral tone is increasingly difficult to understand. Auster barely uses adjectives; he doesn't pause to pick the write phrase, or find the right image; his writing is utilitarian and evidential, even when the subject is sex, love, murder, or jealousy. After fifty pages or so I finally realized what that was all about: Auster is driven, in this book at least, with an overpowering desire to keep my attention, to be the one whose stories I want to hear. It's a kind of underlying urge to write, independent of his subject matter. It pushes so hard on his imagination that it even prevents him from pausing long enough to construct metaphors, analogies, figures of speech, or other tropes that could make the writing interesting in itself. A typical example of a trope is this:"But a new element was added to the already unstable mixture of the past twenty-four hours, and it wound up producing a deadly compound, a beakerful of acid that hissed forth its dangers in a billowing profusion of smoke."This passage, like others involving figures of speech, is a rare interruption in a generally prose that's generally free of metaphor, and it's awkward: first the "element" is a "compound," then it's a container of acid. The acid "hisses forth" (an overdone image, and a dramatic and clichéd qualifier), and then the "hiss" becomes "smoke." The sentence is confused and hard to picture; it's as if Auster were writing at speed, and couldn't be bothered to stop and tune up his images. That sense of the rush to write also comes out in passages that seem never to have been re-read:"Iris was just twenty-four back then, a dazzling blond presence, six feet tall with an exquisite Scandinavian face and and the deepest, merriest blue eyes t be found between heaven and hell."It's not hard to find yourself writing boilerplate text, but even a single editing session should reveal and correct drivel like this.In "Leviathan" it's as if the psychology, politics, characters, style, and mood of the novel are all arbitrary, and what matters is writing continuously, adding new plot elements with every sentence, propelling the story onward. I began to feel this (his intense desire to hold my attention no matter what the subject might be) as a kind of unslakable desire to compel attention, and in that way the book began to be more and more what it almost is: a book about an ambitious author and his struggle to write.Auster is known for metafiction, and for writing about writing, and those devices might be the best expressions of what really matters to him--by which I don't mean participation in postmodernism and its possibilities, but his own ambition to keep a reader's undivided attention. I hope this observation can't be generalized across metafiction or literary postmodernism--that is, I hope many more things are at stake in self-referential fiction. It's often said that Auster practices a literary fiction version of popular crime fiction, blending metafiction with complex narratives. I imagine people generally mean that his work is an interesting, literary variation on the sorts of tight, complex narratives typical of crime fiction. But I wonder if it might not be better to say he uses devices of postmodernism in order todo what popular trade press authors do--write what Naipaul disparagingly called "puzzles." I can't imagine a reason for reading another of his books.

Ian Paganus

A NICE NIGHT'S ENTERTAINMENT ON THE FOURTH OF JULY:Fireworks Over BrooklynWe're at a party in a modern bohemian fourth floor apartment in Brooklyn. The guests include publishers, writers, artists, film-makers, musicians and various minders, acolytes and drummers disguised as waiters. It’s July 4, 1981 (or is it 2003 or 2012 or all three, I don't know, the script doesn't say), barely twenty minutes before the fireworks are due to begin.LYDIA DAVIS (who has just arrived, it’s her second party of the night and she’s already tipsy): Hi, Sophie!SOPHIE CALLE: Bon jour, Lydia. Would you like a drink?LYDIA DAVIS: One more won’t do any damage, I guess.Sophie notices her looking at a freshly made martini on the bar.SOPHIE CALLE: Here. Take one of these.LYDIA DAVIS: A votre santé.SOPHIE CALLE: À la votre.Lydia tilts her glass and downs the martini in one smooth movement.SOPHIE CALLE: Another?LYDIA DAVIS: Why not!Don DeLillo walks past, in the direction of the kitchen. He hasn’t noticed Lydia yet. She air kisses Sophie goodbye and heads after Don, tapping him on the shoulder just as he enters the kitchen and reaches for the first hors d’ouvre on a newly-assembled tray.DON DELILLO (turning around): Lydia, you look divine, fresh from your experience with Proust.LYDIA DAVIS: It’s finished, mercifully. His sentences were so long.DON DELILLO: You must be glad they’re just a remembrance of things past?LYDIA DAVIS: In search of lost time, don’t you mean?DON DELILLO: Oh, of course, I forgot. In search of lost punctuation marks, as well, I suppose.Lydia has been watching over his shoulder, where through the kitchen window she has just spotted Paul Auster with a dazzling six foot tall blonde with an exquisite Scandinavian face who he has just met ten minutes before.LYDIA DAVIS: Don, who’s that Amazon with Paul?Don turns around to see Paul Auster sit on the railing and then swing both feet around over the top, until they dangle above the street. DON DELILLO: Oh, um, ah, that’s Siri Hustvedt, she’s a grad student in English Literature. Columbia.Now Don notices Paul wobble on the railing. He’s doing something indistinct with one of his feet or perhaps his shoes. Siri moves up behind him, nervously, placing her arms around his waist. Don thinks he notices her lips graze the nape of Paul’s neck. Or something.Lydia hasn’t noticed any of this yet, apart from Paul's presence outside the kitchen window with the blonde.LYDIA DAVIS: Don, could you hold my glass for une moment?As elegantly as one can in her state of sobriety, Lydia lifts her left leg over the waist high window sill and places her left foot on the balcony. She tries to reclaim her glass from Don DeLillo, while pulling her right leg through behind her.DON DELILLO: Careful, Lydia...But, it’s too late, the glass falls onto the kitchen floor as Lydia fails to clasp it securely, and she projects backwards into Siri, striking the vicinity of her left kidney with her elbow. Siri lets go of Paul Auster in agony, and Paul falls forward into the night sky, initially holding his hands out in a diving posture, before rocketing headlong in the direction of the street.A screaming comes up the hollow streetscape, even though barely a second has elapsed. Nobody has had time, let alone is game enough, to look down, until they hear the inevitable crash or thump.Yet, there is no crash or thump, and the screaming gets closer again.DON DELILLO (who seems to have some understanding of what’s happened and calls out): What was it like, Paul? PAUL AUSTER: Fucking amazing, Don. Can you guys grab hold of the bungee cable?Don looks at Siri and Lydia.DON DELILLO: No.TATTOOED EX-NEW ZEALAND ALL BLACK: It’s right, I’ll pull him up.LYDIA DAVIS: I don’t suppose you could leave him hanging a bit longer?DON DELILLO: My turn next.Paul Auster climbs back over the railing, the top two buttons of his Polo shirt undone and not a hair out of place.SIRI HUSTVEDT (resuming her grip on Paul Auster, this time front on): Oh, Paul, I think it’s love at first sight. PAUL AUSTER: I was only ten minutes behind you, Iris.SIRI HUSTVEDT: Iris? PAUL AUSTER: Sorry, I meant Siri, you just looked like an Iris from down there.LYDIA DAVIS: You were looking at her upside down.THOMAS PYNCHON (turning to Lydia): He must have loved her from the bottom of his arc.DON DELILLO: Tom, what are you doing here?SOPHIE CALLE (looking at Thomas Pynchon): Jump, jump!Disclaimer:No reference to the name of a real person is intended to suggest that the character is or shares any of the characteristics of that real person. Very much.REVIEW:Auster Railing SkepticismWhile I’ve never had a negative experience with any of Paul Auster’s novels, I detect a skepticism about his works on GoodReads, so was alert to what others might find questionable.Still, this book grabbed me from the first sentence and never let me go.Unlike some elements of his friend Don DeLillo that you have to excuse or laugh at, I found “Leviathan” word-perfect from beginning to end.The story is told in the first person, yet the narrator, writer Peter Aaron, is not the main character, who is another writer and Peter’s best friend, Benjamin Sachs.Stylistically, the only reservation I have is about the detail with which Peter recounts Ben’s story, which involves events and conversations (not all of them involving Peter) from over 15 years. Some of these conversations go for several pages. How did Peter remember them? As a writer, is he just a good listener? Is he just very retentive?Force of CircumstanceThe other issue which seems to concern some readers is the role of chance and coincidence in Auster’s novels.While both play a role in “Leviathan”, I think they are a secondary, not a primary concern.Coincidences occur, but they are equally confounding for the characters affected by them.They are not [just] ridiculous set-ups or convenient solutions. They form part of a continuum of circumstance and circumstances, in which “anything can happen”.For Peter, the events he witnesses are similar to what he does as an author, “writing stories, putting imaginary people into unexpected and often unlikely situations”.Auster examines individuals within their environment, some of it physical, some of it mental, some of it social.He is interested in how Free Will, Intention, Determination, Causation, Knowledge and the Desire for Certainty interact with Determinism, Chance, Coincidence, Mystery, Randomness and Uncertainty.To what extent are we in control of the events that occur around us? What if the answer is very little? What if everything is improbable and unpredictable? What is the implication for our sense of identity and self-esteem?Can we live a life of happiness?Are our lives destined to end in catastrophe?This is what’s happening at an abstract, meta-fictional level, yet the novel is written in a highly realist manner, in many places like detective fiction, as Auster tells us who-dunnit on the first page and then proceeds to tell us what.Personal PoliticsWe know from the first sentence that someone blew themselves up six days before today (which is July 4, 1990) and within pages, when two FBI agents visit Peter, we learn that it was Ben Sachs.Ben was interested in personal politics, not necessarily affiliated with any particular party, although he was idealistic and would no doubt have favoured the old-style Left Liberal Democrats over the Republicans, if he had to vote for one over the other.He was a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War and went to jail for his beliefs rather than abscond to Canada or Europe.Since then, he has grown more and more despondent as mainstream America embraced the conservative politics of Ronald Reagan and in his view betrayed the idealism of American Democracy that should be embodied and respected in the American Flag (which is now often a divisive symbol)."The New Colossus"The national icon that Sachs most objectifies and identifies with is the Statue of Liberty.It stands over New York Harbour like a new Colossus and holds the incandescent torch of Democracy and Freedom up high.However, its brightness has faded over time, and Sachs believes that this trend is symbolized by the proliferation of 130 fake miniature Statues of Liberty around the country.Sachs’ first novel is actually named “The New Colossus” after the poem that is engraved at the foot of the statue.As a boy in 1951, Sachs also experienced fear and apprehension, when his family climbed the staircase inside the statue and they grew increasingly scared of heights.Inside the WhaleThis experience of being inside and frightened leads to the second metaphor of the novel, the Leviathan itself, the great whale in the Biblical books of Job and Jonah, which Hobbes adopted as a metaphor for the State in his book of the same name.It’s interesting that the Hebrew name upon which Leviathan is based can also refer to a dragon, which in Eastern culture can be an enemy of light.Thus, in Sachs’ eyes, the name “Leviathan” symbolizes the tendency of the State to enclose and squash individuals, restrain their freedom and plunge them into darkness.No matter how much independence he shows in his personal life, he is gripped by the social and political claws of the Leviathan.As Sachs realises that his literary audience is declining and the message of his writing is going unheeded, he embraces more and more radical politics and quasi-terrorist tactics.The relatively innocent Peter Aaron sits by as he reconstructs the story of Sachs and his obsession, ultimately choosing for his own novel (and Auster’s) the name of the novel that Sachs had only partly completed at the time of his death.Reversing FallsJust as the Statue of Liberty symbolizes light and the ascent of humanity, the decline of Democracy represent a metaphorical fall from grace and a descent into darkness.However, Sachs’ childhood experience is replicated by a literal fall of his own, while attending a party to celebrate Independence Day in 1986, the 100th year of the statue's dedication.The parody at the beginning of this review is based on Aaron’s/Auster’s description of the event, which unfortunately preceded the days of widespread bungee jumping, but fortunately for Sachs was not fatal.Sachs’ initial response to his recovery is to withdraw from those around him and maintain a silence:"To be silent was to enclose himself in contemplation, to relive the moments of his fall again and again, as if he could suspend himself in midair for the rest of time – forever just two inches off the ground, forever waiting for the apocalypse of the last moment."Similarly, in his private life, his self disappears within a “sanctuary of inwardness”. His retreat and silence shelter him from danger and temptation, but equally from the full experience and exuberance of life.Ultimately, he re-engages psychically and sexually. He also becomes more engaged politically, if only as a lonely anarchist working in the darkness, dangerously, symbolically drawing attention to how America is failing its own symbols, icons and values.Beware "Leviathan"When Peter Aaron discovers that Sachs has died, he starts writing his story.Without it, he knows that the only account of Ben’s life and his activism will be the dossier prepared by the FBI agents, working inside the whale of the Leviathan, painting him as a terrorist.He rushes to piece together the reality of their shared life, under the deadline of a return visit from the FBI:"The fact is that everyone dies, everyone disappears in the end, and if Sachs had managed to finish his book, there’s a chance it might have outlived him."Ultimately, the importance of Aaron’s book, Auster’s novel, is that it encapsulates Sachs’ warning even more effectively than Sachs might have been able to do himself in the end.The novel is a warning about the oppressive power of society, conformism and the State.These forces are the ones we have to look out for, not the distractions of chance and coincidence, which after all are mere entertainments in comparison.No matter how much Free Will we might think we have, there are other, more powerful forces at work.By writing Sachs’ story, Aaron and Auster ensured that Sachs’ message, “his amulet against forgetting”, outlived him, so that we might know the danger of Leviathan.Dedication:This review is dedicated to Bird Brian and the/his courage to speak out.In the words of George Orwell (from "Inside the Whale"), he fights the temptation to perform the "Jonah act of allowing himself to be swallowed, remaining passive, accepting", in other words, "quietism".For any non/un-Americans who mightn't be familiar with it, here is the full text of the poem at the foot of the Statue of Liberty:The New Colossusby Emma LazarusNot like the brazen giant of Greek fame,With conquering limbs astride from land to land;Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall standA mighty woman with a torch, whose flameIs the imprisoned lightning, and her nameMother of Exiles. From her beacon-handGlows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes commandThe air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame."Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries sheWith silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

Roz Ito

** spoiler alert ** This is the Auster novel with the character named Maria who is based on the real-life conceptual artist Sophie Calle. After the book was published, Calle completed a photography project or two in which she "resembled" Maria. Anyway, the character of Maria might be the #1 reason to read this book. Like Calle, Maria puts herself in dangerous, weirdly intimate situations for the pursuit of her particular brand of stalker-art. Actually, I might have that backwards. Like Calle, Maria seems deeply compelled to seek out these risky encounters/almost-encounters with strangers, and it's through the meticulous process of documenting these experiences that the art emerges. It's like she wants to dissolve herself, disappear into the anonymous/intimate encounter in order to experience the extreme rapture or terror of being. Compare this with the ontology of Auster's main character study Benjamin, who increasingly disappears from society in order to make a violent, newsworthy impact on it a la the Unabomber. Maria craves the intimacy of anonymous being, while Benjamin craves the power of influencing the world from an anonymous position (interestingly enough, he was a literary journalist/critic in his former life). So is Auster offering some kind of thesis here on the gendered experience of anonymity in late 20th century America? I don't know. I do know that this novel continues to haunt me years after reading it.

Luis Maggi

Excellent novel, always aiming to keep the reader interested by small glimpses or preludes of what's coming next.This is the second Paul Auster's novel I have read and I've noticed two main characteristics that keeps mi attached to the novels and eager to read a third one.First, every story begins with an current event that goes out of the ordinary or mundane rutine people have, only to keep you interseted in what past actions and circumstances led to that specific moment.Second, the book has actions merely as a secondary feature, or as a complimentary need. The interesting stuff here is the conversations and the line of thoughts in every character that develop those conversations.I definitely recommend not only this book but also the New York Trilogy

Alika Yarnell

An Auster classic. Again he explores themes of people disappearing, characters who are writers, voyeurism, unconventional habits, and stories within stories. And for anyone who's had a teacher who preached the rule of "show don't tell," throw this book in their face and see what they say. There is a lot of summary throughout, and yet somehow Auster gets away with it. Maybe because he's a master.

David Sweeney

WOW! WOW! WOW! No wonder Siri married him. I really think serious stalking in Brooklyn is a possibility my next trip to New York. I utterly ADORED this book. Complete satisfaction. It is not a very long book but it is incredibly dense and the narrative moves along at a good clip. This is the fourth Paul Auster I have read this year and none have been the same. BUT BUT I strongly suspect that this may not be for everyone. It is almost review proof because you really can't say much about the plot.What I can tell you is that the book starts with the sentence "Six days ago a man blew himself up in Wisconsin" but what happens after that is not what you expect. Relationships, a thriller, political comment (written 20 years ago and warning of US decay) and a very lovely twist at the end.AND finally I was up at 5am to catch the 7am to Sydney and came back at 10pm but had to update this.I would NOT recommend this as the first Auster, but I'm addicted now.... Dear Paul....,It's no What I Loved but for originality and writing it completely satisfies. (If you insist on complete plot perfection and don't like coincidence then give it a miss.)Sorry- had to fix a couple of typos, most notably NOT the first Auster to cut your teeth on - so far that would be Brooklyn Follies

Tim

Paul Auster's Leviathan], like most of his other work, hinges largely on chance and coincidental relationships. At the same time, this novel is much more fatalistic than his other work, mostly due to the frequent use of foreshadowing including the start of the book in which it is revealed that Benjamin Sachs, the character that the book focuses on, has recently blown himself up accidentally. Leviathan is an interesting title for a couple of reasons. The more obvious reason for this title is as a reference to Sachs. Not only is he unusually tall, there is also something big about his refusal to settle and let things be. He is a writer by trade but unlike Peter Aaron, Auster's alter ego and narrator, he isn't content creating fictions. Even the fiction he writes is largely based on fact and is written for explicit political purposes. He spends more time on his even more explicitly political non-fiction but eventually he begins to feel that writing about the world's problems isn't enough and he begins to take action. Thus, his own life functions as a criticism of writers, including himself and both versions of Auster. The title Leviathan also functions as a reference to the famous Thomas Hobbes work of the same title in which the leviathan works as a metaphor for government. Even a big man like Sachs is still just a man, and his efforts are weak compared to the power of the state. So, once again Paul Auster has managed to create a novel that features a gripping narrative and some complex, thought provoking ideas. Even though his style is beginning to look a bit limited to me now (I've read The New York Trilogy, Moon Palace, and The Music of Chance previously) he has still managed to rapidly become one of my favorite writers.

Neil Fox

Auster is a genius. Wonderfully constructed book that weaves a tale that feels like it's going to be of global significance but ends up being smaller, but no less powerful, a masterstroke. Love him

Clay

It really looks like he manages to write all those good novels completely effortlessly. In fact he writes so well that it keeps me reading, but the problem is that even though all the books I've read by him were good, there was always something very important missing. This is of course just personal taste, but there's no warmth at all. The characters are there, you get to understand them, or maybe not even that, Auster gives you a couple of impressions of them, gives you all kinds of information, but it's hard to connect. So after I've finished his books it's always like I don't even quite understand why I kept on reading, since I neither cared for even one of the characters nor was I really excited about how things would develop. So the only thing that's left was the excellent writing. I'm not saying it was a bad book, it just didn't make a deep impression on me at any point.

Sarah

I've read a lot of Paul Auster's nonfiction and enjoyed it. His fiction is another matter - this book must have some of the worst dialogue ever, and the scenes feel very forced in general. However, this book contains the phrase "The Eden of her buttocks."Really, though, I should say that it is a page-turner. But it's a page turner because the author withholds a lot of information from the reader until near the end of the book. It's not worth reading it to get to the end of the mystery. Very disconnected and rambling by the end. I'd suggest reading his nonfiction: "The Invention of Solitude."

Tuck

my very first paul auster novel, and oh my. while the story is not so spectacular (egg head novelist goes anarcho and underground, to good effect) the dialog, reasoning, flow are just so perfect. but perhaps will be my last paul auster novel too? you'll see.this from pg 41, takling about said egghead's novel"No one can say where a book comes from, least of all the person who writes it. Books are born out of ignorance, and if they go on living after they are written, it's only to the degree that they cannot be understood."

Bindu Manoj

"Six days ago, a man blew himself up by the side of a road in Wisconsin,"thus starts the gripping tale of Benjamin Sachs. There are books that make you cry, ones that make you smile and sometimes laugh, some make you think and a few that refuse to leave your mind. Then there are those rare ones that leave you with a haunting , disturbing feeling that is beyond any definition. And this is one of those rare ones.As soon as author Paul Aaron catches the news item in The New York Times, he is absolutely certain about the identity of the dead man. It is confirmed once the FBI reaches him after finding a piece of paper with his name and number from the explosion site. Paul denies any knowledge about who the man could be. He knows he is just buying some time, but for him , however small that time is, he has something important to do before the man's identity is out in the open."It's not that I want to defend what he did, but since he is no longer in a position to defend himself, the least I can do is explain who he was and give the true story of how he happened to be on that road in northern Wisconsin."What follows is a brilliant narration of Paul's friendship with Sachs. From the moment they meet in a deserted bar, buying drinks for each other till both of them run out of money, there is an instant bond between the two writers. While Aaron is at the beginning of his literary career, Sachs already has a published novel to his credit, one that he wrote while in prison. He is also a well known author of regular articles in varied publications. The book takes you through the lives of both of them and their families. As Paul's life and career becomes stable, we find Sachs' life getting more and more troubled. He starts questioning his existence, he feels guilty about his wife's love for him, in fact he even feels guilty about being alive. This leads him to an attempt on his own life. And this proves to be a crucial turning point of his life.The three female characters that Auster introduces plays a pivotal role in Sach's life - his wife Fanny of twenty years, the eccentric Maria Turner whom he considers his friend and the seductive Lillian Stern. It is as though they are destined to come into his life and turn his life to a different direction at each juncture till it ends up in pieces on a cold morning by a roadside.To call it a story would be sacrilege. It is the pouring out of a bleeding heart, a futile attempt to make some sense out of the hopelessness that Aaron feels when he thinks of his friend. The more you get engrossed in the life of Benjamin Sachs, the more difficult it is to believe that this is a work of fiction. The characters are deeply etched with all the flaws and weaknesses that a normal or even a slightly abnormal human being could have. Aaron's love for his friend seeps into you as well and you end up feeling as though you know Sachs as much as Aaron did. Some might find the narrative style too descriptive, but I felt that was the real strength of the book. This is one book that will really leave you shaken for some time and even question some of the things that you believe in.Verdict : If you are looking for the normal path a plot would take with a clever play of dialogues, please turn away immediately. But, if you are someone who loves a brilliant piece of narration and characters that are so strongly developed that you end up feeling like someone close to them, this is pure gold.

Jamie

An enjoyable, swift read. Is this a political novel? I'm uncertain, if only because I'm not sure what sort of relationship between the people and politics is propagated in the novel. There's certainly an anxiety/pleasure directed toward the possibility of domestic terrorism, and parallel to this, a major questioning of the connections between art and action. Peter Aaron, the protagonist, strikes me as a bit of a Mary Sue extension of Auster, a figure through which a great deal of self-aggrandizing wish-fulfillment transpires. Ben Sachs becomes the "dark double" of Aaron, though I eventually had the same problem with his positioning in the narrative (re: wish-fulfillment).I bought the novel basically until the point at which female characters entered the narrative; they constituted, to my mind, the monstrous flaw of the novel. The writing is a bit facile, but fun to read, and it's definitely a smart page turner with some interesting meditations on late-20th century Americanness. BUT women in the novel are so ridiculously flattened out by Auster that I could hardly stomach it. Each of them, even the ones that start out as interesting, potentially complex characters, eventually becomes purely functional; erotic without autonomous sexual desire; in fact, vacated of any sort of desire at all. They're paper dolls who slip through cracks and float on breezes created by the primary male figures of the novel. In short, a not unpleasant read that had some interesting talking points, some infuriating misogynistic undertones, and ultimately would not have been read--by me, at any rate--unless assigned for a course. Doubt I'll be picking up more Auster, but don't necessarily regret giving him a shot.

Allison C. McCulloch

Boom, boom! Bang, bang! Reminded me a lot of Invisible. But it was a lot different. Halfway through the book I was wishing that he'd stop having the main character's friends do all the research and track their friend's story down. But frankly, by the end, I didn't mind.Solid book. By no means my favorite. But I get choked up in the strangest places. The parts that aren't sad. I'm just moved that's all. I tried to finish it on my birthday, so I could finish it on the same day as Barry, but the book was good and that just didn't happen (I finished it 3 days early).

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