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


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.

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.


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.

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 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...

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.


** spoiler alert ** Wow. Simply put, this book was mind-blowing. There are so many parallels and symbols in this graphic novel that it becomes hard to keep track of them all. Even when you attempt to write down all of the novel's themes, it's difficult to see where one starts and another ends. They're all interrelated in some way; together, they form some philosophical remark about life (I haven't exactly deciphered the novel yet--I just finished it today) and kind of warp the way we perceive reality. The only thing is, this novel is pretty disturbing as well. The plot line was strange, drawings of the people, eyes, and objects were creepy and the connections between the characters were also weird. (How's that for specificity?)Allow me to elucidate. Daniel Quinn is a thirty-five year old man whose wife and son had passed away. He wrote poems, plays, and essays when he was young, but suddenly stopped and became a mystery novelist because "a part of him had died and he did not want it haunting him". He called himself William Wilson and named his private-eye narrator Max Work. One day, he picks up the phone, assuming it was someone else... (to be continued)Themes:Eye-Max Work's business card (pg 8) has an eye on it--it's similar to the creepy eye character that appears throughout the bookVentriloquist/dummy-Wilson was the ventriloquist and Quinn was the dummy (8)-Narrator is the dummy and Auster (author) is the ventriloquist-Peter (young) looks like a dummy...the voice is coming from something within himCircles-The number 0 on the phone is a circle.-Quinn picks up the phone, assuming it was someone else, on his dead parents' anniversary --> Auster (character) rings in Quinn, assuming it was his wife-Zooming(in)-the telephone (1)-the drawing (18)-gate, drain, speaker (19)(out)-Notable Phrases:-"There is no sentence, no word that is not significant. And even if it is not, it has the potential to be so. Everything becomes essence: the center of the book shifts, is everywhere and no circumference can be drawn until the end" (7)-"If this is really happening, then I must keep my eyes open" (13)-"This is called speaking. The words come out for a moment and die"(15)-"I am new every day. I am born when I wake up in the morning, I grow old during the day, and I die at night"(18)-Revelations: -The name "Stillman" sounds like "still man" as in a dead man?-Peter was in a dark room with not even a window and ate with his hands --> Quinn ends up this way at the endConclusion:The pictures add a whole new dimension to Paul Auster's City of Glass. Some similarities and connections throughout the book are a bit easier to see, while some aspects, such as the weird one-eyed visionary(?) character, still confuse me.


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.


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.

Artur Coelho

Um solitário escritor de inconsequentes romances policiais recebe uma chamada a meio da noite, a pedir-lhe para investigar um caso policial. Envolvido numa trama de meias palavras e labirintos conceptuais, o escritor acaba por desvanecer-se nas ruas da cidade, deixando um caderninho cheio de notas que nos permite reconstituir a sua queda no esquecimento.Se olharmos para as profundezas de um texto, descobrimos sempre cadas vez mais níveis de complexidade sempre que mergulhamos mais a fundo nas palavras do texto. As histórias raramente são simples, embora o pareçam. Talvez seja por isto que textos como o corão ou a bíblia têm tanto significado: quanto mais são lidos, a mais interpretações se prestam. Cada leitor lê aquilo que entende ler.City of Glass é um texto profundamente complexo. Nele, as identidades dos personagens fundem-se e esfumaçam-se, como se de um sonho se tratasse. O protagonista, Daniel Quinn, é um escritor que após a morte da mulher e do filho deixou de escrever textos com siginificado e passou a debitar as aventuras de Max Work, prototípico detective privado dos estereótipos romances policiais. Nunca chegamos a saber como faleceu a mulher e o filho de Quinn; antes ficamos com a certeza de que a morte destes tornou-se o momento em que Quinn esquece a sua humanidade, passando a viver num mundo de sonhos. A solitária rotina de Quinn é interrompida por um misterioso telefonema. Do lado de lá da linha, uma voz feminina pede a ajuda do detective Paul Auster para um caso de vida ou morte. Quinn vê-se confundido com Auster, e acaba por ceder aos pedidos insistentes de ajuda. Encarnando-se na sua personagem de Max Work, e assumindo a identidade de Auster, Quinn encontra-se com Virgínia Stillman, que lhe pede ajuda para manter sob vigilância o pai de Peter Stillman, seu marido. Stillman havia sido confinado a um quarto pelo seu pai, também Peter Stillman, convencido que ele desaprenderia a linguagem humana e começaria a falar a língua de deus, de acordo com a teologia do século XVI e os textos de Henry Dark, secretário de John Milton e pregador na américa de mil e seiscentos. As acções de Stillman-pai resvalaram num total falhanço, que culminou na desaprendizagem da linguagem por Stillman-filho. Descobertos os maus tratos, Stillman pai é confinado à prisão, e Stillman filho é internado num hospício, onde Virgínia, saída de um casamento falhado, se casa com ele para o retirar do hospício e mostrar-lhe a realidade que durante anos lhe foi escondida.Quinn começa assim a vigiar Peter Stillman, que após a saída da prisão mantém-se numa rotina de passeios diários por nova yorque, a cidade sempre presente, recolhendo objectos deitados fora. Quinn, num esforço para compreender o porquê de Stillman, o que ele realmente é, começa a registar minuciosamente os percursos de Stillman, e ao traçá-los sobre um mapa apercebe-se que o vaguear de Stillman obedece a uma lógica própria. Os passeios aparentemente sem destino de Stillman formam letras ao serem traçados num mapa.Quinn acaba por travar conversas com Stillman, onde este lhe revela o seu projecto de invenção de uma nova linguagem. Para Stillman, controlar as palavras equivale a controlar o nosso destino.Stillman desaparece e Quinn contacta Paul Auster para lhe contar o sucedido e pedir ajuda. Mas Auster não é detective, é escritor, e não percebe o porquê da confusão. Mesmo assim, fica curioso. Perante a família de Auster, Quinn recorda-se da sua, e foge, regressando ao seu labirinto. Tenta contactar Virgínia, mas não consegue. Então instala-se num beco perto da casa de Stillman filho e começa a vigiar ininterruptamente o prédio, até se confundir com as sombras, as paredes e os caixotes de lixo. Entretido com a sua história policial, Quinn transforma-se num vagabundo, mais uma alma esquecida por entre as ruas da cidade.A história termina com o desaparecimento de Quinn. Paul Auster, ao investigar o apartamento abandonado de Peter Stillman, onde Quinn terá passado os últimos dias de que há conhecimento, descobre o caderninho de anotações de Quinn e tenta reconstituir o seu destino.Confusos? Esta é uma história de ilusões e confusões. Em City of Glass, os egos confundem-se, as personagens fundem-se em si mesmas. Quinn despe-se da sua personalidade e acaba por cair num mundo irreal de ilusões, que o leva à dissolução. Um pouco como um Dom Quixote dos tempos modernos (e D.Q. são as iniciais de Dom Quixote, esse arcaico caçador de sonhos esfumados). A solidão e o vazio da alma do homem contemporâneo produzem uma eterna perseguição de sonhos ilusórios que se desvanecem, esfumando-se nos precisos momentos em que pensamos agarrá-los.Parte da Trilogia de Nova Yorque, City of Glass foi "vítima" de uma adaptação para banda desenhada. Adaptar um texto com a complexidade e profundidade de City of Glass não foi tarefa fácil. O desafio partiu de Art Spiegelman, autor de Maus, o comic definitivo sobre o holocausto, e a adaptação recaiu sobre David Mazzucchelli, que em conjunto com Frank Miller revolucionou um personagem esquecido da Marvel, o Demolidor. Mazzucchelli contou com Paul Karasik para o ajudar a superar as dificuldades impostas por um texto como o de City of Glass.O livro encontra-se perfeitamente espartilhado numa grelha de seis vinhetas por prancha, entrecortadas, quando necessário, por vinhetas maiores. O rigor da disposição das vinhetas ajuda-nos a perceber a inexorabilidade do destino de Quinn, entrecortado com a planta geométrica da cidade de nova yorque, palco privilegiado desta história de dissolução num mundo anónimo de becos e ruas sem destino. As imagens mergulham-nos no mundo do livro, um mundo de ilusões que se esfumaçam.Subjacente a todo o livro está a cidade que lhe dá título, uma cidade de vidro que espelha o vazio que existe dentro do nosso ser.


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.

Jeff Jackson

The rare adaptation that exceeds its source material. A doubly impressive feat since it's based on Paul Auster's best novel. With its deft ink strokes and airtight plot, this brilliant graphic perfectly captures and distills the original existential detective story. One of the great graphic novels and a perfect introduction to the fictional world of Paul Auster, too.

Stan Kutcher

City of Glass is drawn by one of my favorite artists of all time, David Mazzucchelli. The concept of the book is original and creative. Unfortunately, the creators tried to be overly artistic, almost like some art film with the over-emphasis on cinematography (or wanting to win some award, which I'm sure it has). This book would have been more to my taste if it was printed in a larger format, and if the "trying to be arty" would have been toned down a little. The story is not great either (but could have been). Also, the art of Mazzucchelli is not even close to the same standard of "Daredevil: Born Again" or "Batman: Year One". I do however feel that the book is worth the read, but just not at the price that some sellers sell it at. There should also be more clarity on the size of the book, which is about the size of a "Archie Comics Digest".


As a graphic mystery/detective short novel, this book is very well done. What Karasik and Mazzucchelli have achieved here is no small feat. The abstract thoughts and intricate stories intertwined in the book are delicately interpreted into the visual with striking compositions within each panel as well as on each page. The story is a page turner at times, so I had to go back to re-examine the drawings and composition of the pages. And yes, Auster is not your average thriller/mystery writer, so more intellect and general knowledge of historical facts, literature, and New York will allow the reader to appreciate and enjoy the story more.


The classic adapted to the graphic novel (or, if you prefer, comic) style. Still has its edge, still has its harrowing humanity. Sometimes a bit too cartoonish for my tastes, but worthwhile to read. Art Spiegelman writes a great intro, pragmatically discussing how he approached Auster and how this book came to be. It is located at the front of the book, but I recommend reading it AFTER you have read the story.

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