The Brooklyn Follies

ISBN: 0312426232
ISBN 13: 9780312426231
By: Paul Auster

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American American Literature Contemporary Favorites Fiction Literature New York Novel Novels To Read

About this book

Nathan Glass has come to Brooklyn to die. Divorced, retired, estranged from his only daughter, the former life insurance salesman seeks only solitude and anonymity. Then Glass encounters his long-lost nephew, Tom Wood, who is working in a local bookstore -- a far cry from the brilliant academic career Tom had begun when Nathan saw him last. Tom's boss is the colorful and charismatic Harry Brightman -- aka Harry Dunkel -- once the owner of a Chicago art gallery, whom fate has also brought to the "ancient kingdom of Brooklyn, New York." Through Tom and Harry, Nathan's world gradually broadens to include a new circle of acquaintances -- not to mention a stray relative or two -- and leads him to a reckoning with his past.With The Brooklyn Follies, the always astonishing Paul Auster has written what is undoubtedly his warmest, most exuberant novel, a moving, unforgettable hymn to the glories and mysteries of ordinary human life.

Reader's Thoughts

Kitty-Wu

Nathan Glass ha sobrevivido a un cáncer de pulmón y a un divorcio después de treinta y tres años de matrimonio, y ha vuelto a Brooklyn, el lugar donde nació y pasó su infancia. Quiere vivir allí lo que le queda de su «ridícula vida». Hasta que enfermó era un próspero vendedor de seguros; ahora que ya no tiene que ganarse la vida, piensa escribir El libro de las locuras de los hombres. Contará todo lo que pasa a su alrededor, todo lo que le ocurre y lo que se le ocurre, y hasta algunas de las historias –caprichosas, disparatadas, verdaderas locuras– de personas que recuerda. Comienza a frecuentar el bar del barrio, el muy austeriano Cosmic Diner, y está casi enamorado de la camarera, la casada e inalcanzable Marina. Y va también a la librería de segunda mano de Harry Brightman, un homosexual culto y contradictorio, que no es ni remotamente quien dice ser. Y allí, en la librería, se encuentra inesperadamente con Tom, su sobrino, el hijo de su amada hermana muerta, a quien hace años que no ve. El joven había sido un universitario brillante, la gran promesa de su promoción. Y ahora, solitario y con unos kilos de más, conduce un taxi, urde teorías sobre «el valor ontológico de la vida de un taxista», ayuda al misterioso Harry Brightman a clasificar sus libros, y está enamorado de la B. P. M., la Bella y Perfecta Madre... Y poco a poco, inmerso en una fascinante red de personajes y descubrimientos; incorporado, en suma, de nuevo a la «espesa jungla de la vida», Nathan irá descubriendo que no ha venido a Brooklyn a morir, sino a vivir..-------Otra gran novela de Auster, impecablemente escrita, que engancha hablando sobre la vida, la muerte, las relaciones ("the ties that bind"), lo sorprendente, la familia.... aunque tu familia no necesariamente haya de ser consanguínea, habla de esos momentos en los que sientes que estas "ligado" de verdad a alguien, cuando son las historias las que unen, las palabras y no el libro de familia. Sobre los perdedores. Sobre los ganadores al fin. Sobre lo efímero.

Terri

I know that there have been mixed reviews of this book. I picked it up in the bargain bin and then looked it up on Amazon. Some loved it. Some hated it, saying that their beloved writer had been abducted by aliens and forced to write this book by money grubbing editors. They claimed that there was no plot, nothing happened and I looked at the cheesy cover with trepidation thinking that I had spent some hard earned cash on what would amount to a dust collector and could've spent it on umm, a latte?Anyway, I must be part of the provincial masses because I simply didn't understand the backlash. I thought the book was well-written and enjoyable, moving along at a clip. Yes it did get muddy in parts, and yes, there was a bit of melodrama that could've been saved for a Merchant-Ivory film, but overall I thought the book was good. I don't know if I've lost my literary skill or if those who were writing scathing reviews had expected far too much or something different. But the characters were well-drawn. In fact, I wouldn't have minded if the book was longer. There was no lesson, characters were flawed but not charicatures (unless that was the point) and I didn't find myself slogging through endless metaphor. So all in all--I liked it. Revoke my English degree if you must, or stone me for not liking one of Auster's premiere works. But truthfully, if you're looking for a quick, fun read then pick it up and just take the dust jacket off to avoid any stares from the far more literate critcs at the coffee shop.

Judy Mann

This was one lousy book. Now I've never read this guy before but this book had all the ingredients of good story.Here:The narrator starts off miserable- which is great.He's neurotic - which is also great.His family is dysfunctional- which is marvelous.His ex wife hates him.Wonderful.He hates her.Wonderful again.And here he is in Brooklyn- Perfect. We're cooking.So what went wrong?Everything.The book just sunk from there.In fact if it hadn't been for those ingredients I would've stopped reading after the first 3 pages.As it was I was fascinated as to why this was such a lousy book. And boy- was it lousy..I think the problem was the narrator was a deadly bore, the characters were useless and the plot was about as believable as a 3 dollar bill.One of the reviews here said that the author was writing for his editors- in other words- FOR THE MONEY.There ain't nothing wrong with that. Some of my best friends...It's just that maybe he should've added some life to the mix- something believable.As it was this book was just so bland, and glib and waste of time.Kind of like trying to swim in a vat of pea soup. Thick,thick and no taste at all.Dull, self important, and one more time- just plain dull.Don't read it.JM

Nancy

I want to say upfront: I enjoyed this. I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. The story is clever, engaging, entertaining. I didn't mean to read the end first, but I did, because I had to KNOW. The Brooklyn Follies is narrated by Nathan, a recently divorced cancer survivor who has come to Brooklyn to die (or at least, to write a book about Great Follies He Has Known.) Lucky for him, before he can sink into utter despair, he runs into his nephew Tom, an unhappy ex-academic who is now working in the used bookstore of Harry Brightman, a flamboyant rascal. Their lives are all changed when Tom's niece Lucy - ragged, smart, and stubbornly mute - appears at his door. Auster keeps a slapping pace going, and stories of folly are cleverly interwoven with the first-person narrative.But, oh dear, literary fiction. WHY is it always larded with guys who have been defeated sexually, brooding over hot women, and two-dimensional female characters defined mostly by their sexual proclivities? Why do critics always give literary fiction a complete pass for the very things that they decry in so-called "chick lit"? Somebody tell me THAT.

Hugo Emanuel

Uma das personagens de "Slaughterhouse-5 - The Children's Crusade" de Kurt Vonnegut proclama a certa altura que existe um livro que te pode ensinar tudo o que precisas saber sobre a vida, mas que este já não é suficiente. O livro a que se referia era "Os Irmão Karamazov" de Dostoievski. Esta citação levou-me a ler esta importante obra de Dostoievski. De facto, "Os irmãos Karamazov" explora e analisa - aliás, disseca - impiedosamente todas os grandes temas que assombram a humanidade. É abordado, através de duas gerações de Karamazovs, nascimento e morte; fé e ateísmo; amor e hedonismo; perdição e salvação; a diferença de classes; a resiliência, perversidade e grandiosidade do espírito humano - em resumo, quase todos os aspectos e questões que caracterizam a existência humana. "Anna Karenina" de Tolstoi fá-lo também, mas sob uma perspectiva mais "burguesa" e menos impiedosa, desviando o olhar dos seus aspectos mais desagradáveis e perturbantes. Mas de facto "Os Irmão Karamazov" já não contém em si "toda a vida". Afinal, foi publicado no Século XIX e desde então o homem deparou-se com novas questões e dilemas morais, usufruindo de um acréscimo de liberdade religiosa, politica e social para o fazer (pelo menos numa boa parte do globo). No relativamente curto numero de páginas de "The Brooklyn Follies" são abordados quase todos os mesmos temas, e alguns outros, mas sob uma perspectiva mais moderna e menos ambiciosa. Não estou de todo a sugerir que "The Brooklyn Follies" esteja ao nivel de "Os Irmãos Karamazov" ou de "Anna Karenina". A comparação refere-se apenas ao facto de ser uma obra que abrange muitos temas e questões sobre o género humano sobre uma perspectiva moderna. Ouvira sempre esta obra ser catalogada, no contexto da obra do seu autor, como um "Auster-inferior" por isso abordei-a com algum cepticismo. Fiquei agradavelmente surpreendido. A sua prosa simples é viciante, as suas personagens fáceis de amar e os temas que aborda são inúmeros e abordados de uma forma tão directa e simples (mas não simplista) que se torna fácil nos identificarmos e relacionar-nos com estes. A sua narrativa não vai além de retratar momentos e conversas na vida de um leque de personagens bastante variado, sui-generis e credível, mas estes momentos e diálogos são tão interessantes e a forma como comunicam tão enternecedora que se torna um verdadeiro prazer espreitá-los. Da obra transpira ainda um despretensioso e genuíno amor pela leitura e inclui ainda uma belíssima historia sobre Kafka e uma boneca que me humedeceu os olhos. Apesar de ser um livro essencialmente terno e sobre o poder do amor e da tolerância, a crueldade, fanatismo e indiferença do ser humano também se encontra devidamente representada em certos momentos que poderão ser chocantes para alguns leitores. Mas apesar destes o amor e tolerância prevalece sobre a dor e crueldade existente na vida destas personagens, tal como o leitor deseja que assim seja durante a leitura do livro.

Amanda

My first introduction to Auster's work is a good one. He has a wonderful way of writing and created a "story of survival" that might even make a cynic think that things can get better.Follies is set around the time of Bush stealing his election and 9/11. But thankfully, not a lot of time is spent on national events. The majority of time is spent getting to know Nathan Glass, a 60ish year old man who comes to Brooklyn to find a quiet place to die. Recently divorced and a survivor of lung cancer, he's all but given up on himself. Enter Tom Wood, his nephew who he had lost touch with for years. Tom lives in Brooklyn as well and is in the same boat as his uncle, unhappy, feeling without redemption and unable to move forward.Family is key to this novel, not just blood relatives but the strangers-turned-friends kind of family. Everyone is trying to survive and banding together, the motley crue in Follies does just that.

David

Plot spoiler included. The book was recommended by friends as a good, if not earth-shattering, read and the book lived up to its endorsements. The back of the book suggests that it is a redemption story: I'm not so sure. It is a contemplation of folly, but not say, of human bondage, a reflection on loss, death and old age (but not of the genre recently utilized by Roth and others), and a contemplation of religion, America, being, writing, and, in short, everything that makes up the great American novel, but is not itself the great American novel. I appreciated the first 60 or so pages the best because of the character development. Once that was taken care of, the book basically sustained itself by a series of plot twists which always included an additional woman. I was left with three questions, not necessarily related: Do the names "mean" anything or are they only highlighted for us, like a laugh track on a sitcom, to show us that they could mean something? How should I consider the frame tale of the 2000 election & the conclusion on 9/11/01? And most importantly, should I be concerned that things really only got good for the two male protagonists when the bisexual male dies, the transsexual leaves (who was only briefly mentioned before she suddenly developed significance), the uber-masculine Foley-walker departs, and, as we are told, the house is filled from top to bottom with three generations of women?

fleegan

Has this guy ever written anything bad? This novel was fanTAStic. It's about an older guy who's dying of cancer and he basically moves back to Brooklyn to die. But then he runs into his nephew and they become great friends and...so many great characters. There's little Lucy and everything she says (when she's speaking) is hilariously weird. There's the B.P.M. who turns into an actual character in the book. There's Harry (gay) who is interesting. The Chowders, Aurora, just lots of neat characters. He even throws in some lesbians at the end.And oh, this book is FILLED with great sentences. Anyway, the book isn't sad at all. Sad things happen, but they didn't make me cry...and i'm an easy mark for that kind of thing so that's why i say it's not sad. The ending was kind of abrupt and i thought that maybe the author was in a hurry to end it. But also, i think it works because so much happened in the book that to completely resolve everything normally would have stretched it into a giant tome. And no one likes that kind of thing, Ayn Rand.

Iván

Paul Auster ha pasado a ser uno de mis autores favoritos. He tenido el placer de conocerlo durante las largas horas de viaje de Concepción a Santiago, cuando el tiempo parece extenderse en una línea sin fin hacia adelante. Paul Auster es mágico, así de simple, o su escritura lo es. Logra visualizar en cada línea las miles de cosas que todos vivimos diariamente pero que pocos sabían que se pueden escribir. Es un escritor de lo cotidiano, de lo usual, pero no de lo que usualmente llamamos usual, sino más bien de una mágica cotidianidad en que el azar (este es su tema principal) va danzando y saltando de un personaje a otro.Recuerdo cuando hace algunos años leí El palacio de la luna y quedé tan boquiabierto como quedé ahora con The Brooklyn Follies. En este último narra las vivencias de un hombre que vuelve a su natal Nueva York para esperar la muerte sin saber, claro, que encontrará la vida. Y esa vida que va encontrando el personaje a través de las peripecias de la narración, nos hace preguntarnos a los lectores si es posible, en nuestros propios días, hacer algo similar. Salir del tedio de lo usual, o mejor aún, encontrar en esa "usualidad" el encanto de la vida. Y a eso me refiero cuando digo que Auster orquesta su sinfonía bajo lo cotidiano, pues es en las simples actividades diarias que los personajes van encontrando el sentido y por tanto la satisfacción de seguir respirando unos minutitos más. Si no fuera porque los libros de autoayuda están tan mal mirados por la crítica literaria, yo aseguraría que los libros de Auster corresponden a esta categoría. Son libros vivos que tienen pulmones y respiran. Tienen boca y hablan. Tienen ojos y nos miran. Si quieren saber de qué estoy hablando, pues adelante y abran la página uno.

Tamuna Margievi

this book was one of the happiest and saddest book ever. great beginning, great ending. when you read something by Paul you want to read everything he has written. you always come up with new ideas in his books. just worth reading

Giacomo

This is one of those books where you cannot be sure whether the author is just poking fun at you. In a celebration of brooklynite craziness, Auster creates a bunch of heterogeneous characters looking for their place in the world. A queer bookshop owner with a dark past, an intellectual cab driver with a disgraceful sister, and a down-to-earth baby-boomer writing stories he'll never publish, they will together try to make sense of a world ruled only by fate and coincidence, and will eventually be saved by a scheming little girl who doesn't want to speak.At times, it feels like Auster is really writing another "Smoke" film, mixing and matching stories with very little in common, and dragging on for a few pages too many. After desperately searching for the Hollywood-style happy ending, though, the author takes the last page to completely destroy the mood, leaving a bitter taste in your mouth in a completely unnecessary way. I guess the point is that you can work as hard as you want towards redemption (and even be successful), but fate has no rules and no obligation towards any of us.This is an easy read for a summer holiday, but certainly not a McEwan-grade novel.

Elizabeth Bradley

Disappointing. Fell apart when I started to have the suspicion that Auster's narrator was one of those avuncular ciphers, the soulful philosopher king, able to stand outside everyone else's problems, a lover of all women, shopper of impeccable taste, good with children and dogs, devoid of all complications (such as hair in the sink or a penchant for scooping up peanut butter with two fingers) beyond a failed marriage and cancer in remission. Neither of which messy, presumably lively affair warrants much air-time. Glib, glib, glib. And for this the French adore him? Folly, but not Brooklyn's folly.

Edward

Auster’s ORACLE NIGHT has a character who’s trapped in a dark undrground chamber and realizes too late that he’s never going to have the chance to live a life, now matter how miserable and unpredictable it might have been. A lot of Auster’s novels deal with being trapped, how to escape, and BROOKLYN FOLLIES follows the same route, but here, the “trap” while realistic enough, is not a literal one. Nathan Glass, the narrator has moved to an apartment in Brooklyn to be by himself and die, returning to his childhood home as he puts it, “like some wounded dog to the place of my birth.” He no longer has a job, he has barely survived cancer, his marriage has failed, and he’s estranged from his daughter. However, he does have a “project”, to write down and record the follies of humanity from the beginning. He has no system, just a random jotting down of anecdotes and stories as they come to him. And his life, of course, is one of these “follies.” Oddly, he wants to keep the tone “light and farcial.” He meets a nephew, Tom, a failed Ph.D. candidate in literature who is working in a book store, fat and depressed. Before this job, he drove a cab, and associated the job only with “darkness, disintegration, and death” so it appears that the book is providing even more fodder for Nathan’s book of “follies.” But will the tone continue to be a light and farcial one? The novel here seems suspended between darkness and light, seriousness and levity, depression and laughter, between escape and imprisonment.The narrator and Tom discuss Thoreau and Poe, both men who were convinced that America was going to hell by being crushed by an ever growing mountain of machines and money. These types of literary allusions occur often in the novel and the talk here is particularly relevant as both Thoreau and Poe have strategies of how to escape this entrapment. Abruptly, though Nathan and Tom’s past family lives begin to catch up with them. A nine year old niece of Tom’s, Lucy, appears, mute, even though she is capable of speech. They try to locate her mother, Tom’s sister, and find out what trauma she has undergone. This quest takes them into the New England countryside where they spend a few days at a deserted hotel, what they call the “Hotel Existence” which they consider buying and escaping to their own “dreams of perfection”.This fantasy comes crashing to an end (more “folly”) but in a way it parallels a story about Franz Kafka who writes letters to a little girl who is grief-stricken about losing her doll. They are so engaging that as long as they keep coming, the little girl forgets about her lost doll. In the same way, as long as Tom and Nathan are caught up in their quest, one absurd episode after another, the story goes on, quite entertainingly, and the reader forgets about their initial plight. Their new purposeful life of unraveling the life of Lucy begins to create its own reality.But there is another kind of reality. “It was eight o’clock when I stepped out onto the street, eight o’clock on the morning of September 11, 2001, just 46 minutes before the first place crashed into the North Tower of the World. Kafka’s story is over, our story with its seemingly upbeat ending is over, and we are back in the world of folly, tragic folly. Is Auster suggesting the limits of fiction?

Maria

Sebbene il romanzo nasca da un groviglio di avvenimenti complesso e succulento, è la scrittura di Paul Auster che padroneggia la scena: presente ma discreta, forte ed efficace quando la situazione lo richiede, scanzonata quel poco che basta per alleggerire il momento più drammatico.http://startfromscratchblog.blogspot....

Nino Frewat

Is Paul Auster worth your time?This is my second Auster, the first was “Travels in the Scriptorium”Both works I have “read” as audiobooks while taking interminable journeys around the country. The journeys themselves were less taxing than the books.The reason I checked both is because of -and I’m not ashamed to admit it- the publicity this guy gets!“The Brooklyn Follies”, written in the first person narrative form, is about an ex-insurance salesman, Nathan Wood, well into his 60s, who survives cancer and returns back to his native Brooklyn (Auster’s perpetual home). Does this return symbolize or mean anything? No. Do we get to feel Brooklyn? No.Serendipity brings him in contact with his nephew; a would-have-been brilliant author / critic, had it not been for... Well we don’t really know. Tom Glass, Nathan Wood’s nephew (and yes, Nathan/Auster does mention this brilliant pun), foregoes his writing ambition for the “safe” job of a cab-driver. Gradually, characters inhabit the story, effacing any potential interest it might spur, besides it being a family-reunion fiction.It feels tedious, and possibly boring, to give an account of what happens along, but I can safely say that, in comparison with third-degree storytellers, no other writer I know of uses this “magical wand” so frequently, and liberally, to make things happen and work like Auster does: Love develops, people are reunited, oppressed freed, money distributed to those in-need, people cured... So much, that at the end of the story, I am impatiently waiting for: “And they lived happily ever after”In all fairness, real life is real life; monotonous, uneventful, duplicate acquaintances tending towards normality... and it is about this ever-flow with its stubborn perturbations, here and there, that Auster writes. But he could have done it with style, with some depth, with something original, something different, than the everyday banter we engage in.Throughout the book, a couple of stories are told about Poe, Melville, and Kafka, though they feel to me as”Did you know?”blurbs. To the post’s question, my answer is No! This will definitely be my last Auster; there are other contemporary writers out there, some certainly in Brooklyn, who better deserve our time and support.

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