Neon Lit: Paul Auster’s City of Glass

ISBN: 038077108X
ISBN 13: 9780380771080
By: Paul Karasik David Mazzucchelli Paul Auster Bob Callahan

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Comic Books Comics Comics And Graphic Novels Comics Graphic Novels Fiction Graphic Novels Graphic Novels Comics Graphicnovels Mystery To Read

About this book

A graphic novel classic with a new introduction by Art SpiegelmanQuinn writes mysteries. The Washington Post has described him as a “post-existentialist private eye.” An unknown voice on the telephone is now begging for his help, drawing him into a world and a mystery far stranger than any he ever created in print.Adapted by Paul Karasik and David Mazzucchelli, with graphics by David Mazzucchelli, Paul Auster’s groundbreaking, Edgar Award-nominated masterwork has been astonishingly transformed into a new visual language.

Reader's Thoughts


City of Glass is a tough novella to read, because it is about defying expectations and disrupting narrative and form. I loved it though, and so when I saw the graphic form drawn by David Mazzucchelli (whose recent book Asterios Polyp was fantastic) I was immediately intrigued.It turns out to be a perfect adaptation. Which is to say that it feels free to change, quite liberally, what was on the page, so as to better preserve the idea. And that same disruption of storytelling is still in this book, transmogrified into the art. What Mazzucchelli has done is create a series of Escher-like zooms that call for the impossible interrelation of everything that still manages to leave threads feeling empty and alone, which mirrors perfectly what the novel does. It speaks volumes.The ending here, unfortunately, feels even more rushed and confusing than Auster's, needing perhaps a half dozen or so more pages to fully explore the final fate of Quinn, maybe needing more. I don't know. It feels a little rushed (and it is an already rushed and strange feeling ending in the book) and needed some space to let things sink.City of Glass is a marvelous book worth reading in both forms.


I've been intending to exploit my roommate's stash of graphic novels for a class she's taking all semester, but this is (with the exception of reading McCloud's Understanding Comics) the first time I'd taken advantage of it.I feel like I definitely would have appreciated this more had I read it for a class, or moreso, had I read the book on which it's based. Though I admired the visual style and layout, it was hard for me to truly understand what an accomplishment this is without having read the source material. And I don't know if the questions I have, the confusion I felt, were a source of the story itself or simply its telling in a graphic form.I feel like my goodreads catchphrase has become, "I liked this, but it didn't blow my mind," because that truly describes my attitude about most books (and movies and music.) I could tell it was innovative, interesting even, but it's just not my thing: the lack of humor really kept it from being 5 stars, but again - that's almost certainly due to the nature of the novel rather than this adaptation. I somehow felt that I was missing some of the major philosophical ideas: since they were presented as pictures, I spent less time thinking about them than I might have had they been in words. The nice part about that, though, was that I had a lot less verbal psychobabble to wade through.

Emma B

I realized I hadn't been on Goodreads in a while again, so I decided to chime back in with a review of a book I just read today!This book (graphic novel, actually) was given to me for my birthday, and I finally got around to it. I will say this - it definitely got me interested in the source material!City of Glass is, at its heart, a thesis about the nature of stories and characters, and at what point something or someone normal becomes one of the above. In pursuit of this, it also confronts identity, specifically how fluid our sense of self can be. Finally, it also spends some time on the shortcomings of words when it comes to describing the world around us, a topic in which I have a particular interest. In all, a very thought-provoking, philosophical read. I will definitely be considering some of its ideas for a while to come.On the downside, it all seemed a little too rushed. In trying to convert a novel's worth of material to a graphic novel format, the story became philosophical bombshell after existential bombshell and so on, without any breathing time between. The main character went somewhat underdeveloped, and although this felt like a conscious choice (see above identity discussion), I wished I knew anything more about him. I definitely want to read this story in its full-length form, to know what exactly I missed out on.The art style, on the other hand, is perfectly sparse. Clean black lines, barely any shading, it reminded me every step of the way of film noir as it would be in sketch form. It was definitely exactly the right art for this book.So, while it may have been a little too abbreviated for my tastes, I would definitely recommend City of Glass! It is a quick and easy read if you're looking to let the thoughts wash over you, and I can also see it being a pleasant lingering read if you want something to fall asleep considering each night.

Oleg Kagan

Dissolution of identity is a constant companion in the graphic novel of Paul Auster's City of Glass. My assumption, having not read the book, is that this slippery view of self is what the artists chose in this solid adaption. Mystery author William Wilson (who writes about a P.I. named Max Work) is the pseudonym for Quinn, our protagonist, who gets a call for Paul Auster (the author of the book we're reading) which sends him on an enigmatic assignment to protect an emotionally-disturbed young man and his sexy "wife" from his unbalanced convict father. In the course of the assignment, Quinn/Wilson/Work loses what sense of himself we had, and in the end, we are only left with Auster. Is it confusing? Yes, but it's a satisfying conclusion inherent in a work of literary fiction. In the same vein, however, one can't help but feel that despite the admirable efforts of the adaptors, Paul Karasik and David Mazzucchelli, that there is so much more to the novel than this thin graphic novel could convey. So as a standalone, it is an interesting story portrayed well, but as an adaptation it butts into the threshold of representational limits. A tension which limits its potency.


I read this one bored Saturday afternoon without moving from my spot in the center of the bed. I imagine I looked like a really lazy Saint Bernard. I thought it was pretty graphic novels go it's definitely in the "superior" category. I never read the novel so maybe Auster fans were pissed by the abridged nature of this or something. One of those books that outdoes Kafka on doesn't get more "meta" than this one...the twists take this story back and forth between dimensions until you begin wondering if YOU are a fictional creation of this book...the art was okay...over the top but I figured that's camp on the part of the artist...


I thought this was a pretty amazing graphic novel, and I definitely plan on reading the original City of Glass next. Concepts of identity, the role of the author in creating meaning, and the blurred line between fiction and reality are all present here, and explored in quite an intriguing way. I don't know how I felt about the ending, though. Maybe I just haven't thought about it enough, but it seemed too open-ended to me. In a way it makes sense, since this story is not a traditional narrative. It attempts to extend itself beyond the confines of the page by involving the author himself as a "fictional" character (but he's still the author...further complicated by the fact that Quinn himself is a writer also--but goes by a different pen name). Still, I would have liked an ending that was if that finality was contrived (as all literary endings are, I guess).I think what left me wanting a "final" ending was the fact that the story starts off in a somewhat "normal" narrative vein. The issues of identity and the inclusion of the author are introduced pretty early on, but about 3/4 of the way in, the narrative quickly descends into abstraction. A part of me loves it, a part of me doesn't. I'm undecided I guess.


Fucking stupid.It's nothing short of a cute and novel expiriment that doesn't really go anywhere. My disapointment with this graphic novel was sorely exacerbated once I found out Spiegelman was the creative overseer and he did nothing to focus the narrative which is presented way too piecemeal and cut up for a normal reader to understand littleone enjoy.


This is quite possibly a perfect example of how a graphic novel can tell a different (and in my opinion better in this case) story than the original work by introducing pictures to the words. In this first illustrated book of Paul Auster's New York trilogy (mid 1980s noir mystery series), Auster himself becomes a character in his own book via illustrator adaptation. Running the gamut of common noir novel character types, the reader is introduced to a madman (or is he sane?), a stable and sane detective (or is he a writer? or is he insane?), someone's buxom wife (or is she a prostitute?), a brilliant professor (or is he a murderer?), and finally the City of Glass (New York, of course...but is it possibly the City of Brick as it becomes several times in the drawing). Great example of place as character, and great writing and drawing all around. 5 stars, easy.


I haven't read the original book, but the story seems so unbelievable that I doubt I would enjoy it as a novel. The visuals of this graphic novel told the most interesting story, despite the loosely held together strings that are the existential plot. I didn't see the deconstruction of language in the story at all. I would describe the adaption of City of Glass (and possibly the novel itself) as Film Noir for 13 year-olds.


I was a little surprised to see this on the "Graphic Novel" bookcase at the library--because I'm still not convinced it needed to be re-writeen in comic form--but as thin as it is, I decided to check it out. I liked Auster's original City of Glass, but looking back that may have been because I was reading it for a class on Post-Modernism and was going to have to discuss it for 3 weeks anyway so I figured I might as well try and enjoy it. This book was a fine read; my only reservation is that it didn't need to exist in the first place. Having read both works, I just don't see how the story benfits from being told via comic book--ahem--"graphic novel". City of Glass doesn't rely on much visual imagery, so the art falls a little flat. Many of the drawings are lackluster and unimpressive. Far too many of the panels are just a string of zoom-ins on incidental objects like a telephone, sewer grate, or a discarded yo-yo. The adapters do a good job condensing Auster's novel into 130 pages of comic book panels, but their only real accomplishment is abridging the story into a quick 30 minute read. They retain most of the low-key metaphysical mystery elements while skimming over some of Auster's self-important post-modern musings. Ultimately, though, this book fails just the way the original novel did. Auster runs out of steam and doesn't know how to close the book, so he has the protagonist go crazy and vanish. The interesting issues about identity, language, and religion that he brought up during the novel were thrown to the wayside without any further discussion. I'm sure Auster and his supporters would say that the ending was "post-modern" and that I just don't "get it", but the emptiness in that argument is matched only by the laziness of the conclusion.


Having never read Paul Auster's City of Glass in bare text, it is hard to imagine it related more compellingly than it is here in his collaboration with artist Paul Karasik. The noir-ish narrative is built on acts of happenstance; intersections of personal losses, accidents and a search for answers that spin off into new configurations, like watching balls in a game of billiards.In his introduction, Art Spiegelman, creator of Maus and ten-year contributor to the New Yorker, explains how it all came together in a similar act of randomness, or perhaps destiny. After sparking a friendship with Auster in the 80's, Spiegelman saw tremendous graphic potential in Auster's abstract narrative style. He began searching for an artist who could not only tell the 'City of Glass' story, but capture and expand its essence.Spiegelman found that in a former student of his at the School of Visual Arts, Paul Karasik. Since SVA, Paul had moved on to teach art at Packer Collegiate in Brooklyn Heights. As it turned out, one of Karasik's own students who showed particular talent was Paul Auster's own 11-yr old son, Daniel. Curious, Karasik had read some of Auster's work and had already begun working out sketches of City of Glass in a sketchbook. What results is a true meeting of the minds, as dynamic as it is inexplicable. Where Auster's language appropriately shatters, Karasik's visuals create a world where those broken codes can find their home.


I first read this years ago, and my memory of it was as a 4 or 5 star book, but this time I'm going to drop it to 2. My thoughts on this reading was that it read a lot like reading Alan Moore's Watchmen, which most people would think is a compliment, but I don't. Like Watchmen, this book spends an inordinate amount of time being clever, and that cleverness is an impediment to the story. There are only so many clever things to do with the art before a reader starts to look to the cleverness, and look away from the story. The "cleverness quotient" on this work was exceeded by about page twenty...past that point it was art for art's sake, rather than art for the story's sake. It was like a child doing yet another trick, screaming "Look at me, look at me, look at me!" Shame, really, because Mazzucchelli is one of my "giants" of the comic art form, but here, like Alan Moore did in Watchmen, he's just exercising his art form, rather than exercising the story.


I found it interesting, original, and memorable...but just a bit unsatisfying. I liked the graphics/ artwork, and I liked the story's investigation of identity, existence and reality. But to me, I was hoping for a neater ending. I really wanted an ending to match the 'mystery short story' genre and retrospectively make sense of the madness. But...that didn't happen, and it turns out there was no alternative layer of events - it was all just a face-value thing. I can't help but feel a touch disappointed about that - but I still give it points for being interesting and well crafted.

Jason Owen

In hindsight, it would have been more wise to read the actual novel first. While the story is thoroughly engaging, the adaptation relies heavily on a more antiquated comic form, using much of the panel space for captions to advance the story. But I honestly don't see Karasik and Mazzucchelli able to get around this with Auster's narration, theological theorizing, and what I think are long detours into metaphysics. And actually, there may be an argument made that their artistic approach was purposeful. The page structure rarely veers from a 9-panel block setting and the color is all black and white. The artists seem to have wanted a purely minimalist format to the images themselves so as not to dilute or distract from the words on the page. It will be an interesting comparison once I finally get around to reading the novel itself.


I've not read the prose edition of this novel, so I can't fairly compare them to each other.The story itself is a puzzle.. Who is Paul Auster? Why does Peter Stillman (Jr) phone him repeatedly? Where did Peter get Daniel's number? When Peter Sr turns up in the City, Peter sees a younger version peel off of him... why does Peter follow the older version and where did the younger one go? Why does Peter Jr's wife truly act as she does? These are all mysteries, to be sure.Daniel sees his losses in just about every one he meets, when he finally leaves his flat. He's very attracted to the Homeless of the City."Don Quixote" by Cervantes is referred to throughout. I think this story is patterned on that book. Since it's one of the novels I have never read, I believe that my understanding of this story is incomplete. That, of course, makes my review rather flawed.

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