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

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?

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.

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.

Núria

Justo en el momento en que en esta novela apareció una niña de nueve años que no hablaba supe con certeza que todo estaba perdido. Así que desde aquel momento la única razón que me quedaba para terminar el libro era para poder destrozarlo después sin ningún tipo de piedad. Ya aviso. Juro que yo lo empecé con mis mejores intenciones, dispuesta a olvidarme de los incontables ratos de aburrimiento que me había proporcionado Auster en el pasado, dispuesta a olvidarme de todos los prejuicios adquiridos a lo largo de los años y a empezar de nuevo con él, pero hacia medio libro ya me entraron ganas de arrancarme los ojos con un tenedor para así no tener que seguir leyendo más. En mi primera adolescencia leí la 'Trilogía de Nueva York' y me impactó como pocos libros me habían impactado, sobre todo el primero de los tres relatos, 'La ciudad de cristal'. Era un libro complejo, inteligente, ambiguo, y desconcertante, que te hacía pensar y abierto a diferentes posibles interpretaciones. Todo lo contrario de 'Brooklyn Follies', que es el libro más superficial, simplón y obvio que he leído en mucho tiempo. Y ni en el mejor de los sueños se puede calificar con el eufemismo de "entretenido", porque es tan previsible que produce dolor de cabeza. Promete ser una colección de anécdotas divertidas de personajes variopintos del barrio de Brooklyn, pero no tiene ni anécdotas, ni personajes curiosos (los personajes son los de siempre de Auster). Y menos aún tiene diversión, sobra decirlo. ¿Y por qué me parece tan malo? No sólo porque Auster ya haya contado lo mismo otras veces, sino porque los personajes son tópicos, la trama es de lo más previsible y está mal escrito. No es que parezca que Paul Auster esté escribiendo con el piloto automático, sino que más de una vez me he preguntado de veras si aquel libro no lo ha escrito Auster sino un negro, aunque lo de asumir que un negro sea incapaz de escribir un poquitín mejor también es un prejuicio. El caso es que me cuesta creer que la misma persona que escribió 'La Trilogía de Nueva York' haya creado también semejante engendro. Se nota que es un libro escrito de cualquier manera, a piñón fijo, para las masas, aunque ni yo (esnob reconocida como soy) me puedo creer que las masas sean tan tontas como para que les tengan que escribir un libro de una forma tan simple como está escrito éste para que se lo puedan leer. Y es que es uno de los libros con menos misterio que he leído nunca, te lo da todo digerido, no es sólo que te cuente todas las motivaciones de los personajes de una forma directa y sin tapujos (y por tanto, aburrida), sino que encima te cuenta incluso qué lectura tienes que sacar de la obra. Y encima es ñoña ñoña, ñoña de verdad. Con reencuentros, reconciliaciones, niñas adorables y traumatizadas que no hablan, historias de amor cogidas por los pelos, fracasados que por fin encuentran la felicidad, muertes efectistas, malos malísimos sin escrúpulos, el once de septiembre, e incluso un rescate heroico... Cursi cursi. Todo especialmente diseñado para manipularnos emocionalmente. Pero conmigo no funcionó, porque juro que a veces se me escapaba la risa con tanto patetismo. Éste es un libro que hace todo lo contrario de lo que se supone que tienen que hacer los libros: te convierte en un lector totalmente pasivo, no te hace pensar, te lleva de la mano y no te suelta ni un momento como si fueras un niño estúpido que necesita vigilancia constante y una guía férrea porque sino te vas a perder. Es paternalista y condescendiente. En resumen es una novela que te atrofia el cerebro Y ¿he dicho que es ñoña? Ah, y contar una serie de anécdotas sobre escritores no te hacen parecer más listo (aunque sean anécdotas de Kafka, que ya conocía, por cierto).

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....

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?

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.

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.

Nelson

This was my first time reading Auster, and from reading reviews of some of his other works, I wonder if I should have started with something else. Having said that, I enjoyed it, overall. It was a good story, all told, and I thought most of the characters were well-developed, if a bit archetypal. I guess a couple of qualms I had were the descriptions of Bush/religion. With the benefit of the author's hindsight, it almost seems that Tom was a bit too dead-on about what a Bush presidency would be like. Thinking back, I don't think that those of us with similar inclinations to Tom saw exactly how bad things would get.I thought Auster's depiction of Reverend Bob and his church were a bit heavyhanded. This isn't to say that there aren't folks like that out there, but having Reverend Bob essentially rape Aurora seemed like a bit much.Ideally, I'd give this 3.5/5, but I guess since I plowed through the book in a day, I'll have to round up in this case.

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.

Nigel Bird

Brooklyn Follies is told by an older man, Nathan, whose cancer is in remission and who has decided to return to his Brooklyn home to see out his final years. While there, he sets out on the writing down of the follies of his life in order to pass the time. The follies have led him to where he is, a lonely man who has managed to lose his family in one way or another; carelessness, boredom and chance have all played their part in this. Life changes when he bumps into his nephew, Tom, in a bookstore. Tom is an ex-academic who has worked his way through taxi driving to find his new home. Philosophically, Tom wants to withdraw from the human world so that he can live life in a pure form as inspired by some of his literary heroes. It’s an idea that Nathan can understand and they spend time together discussing their love of ideas and literature and to work out where they should be heading. They’re joined in this by Tom’s boss who turns out to be an art-fraudster and an ex-convict who has been living with a new identity to protect his interests.The plot thickens when various other family members join the story, especially when Tom’s niece arrives to live with them having escaped her mother and step-father and sworn herself to silence.The plot thickens and becomes more complex as the lives of the group are woven together. The resolutions are pleasing and satisfying and the book closes with a positive tone that offers a pleasing glow and a sense that there needs to be a little reflection done just at the point when all seemed done.This is unlike most of the work I’ve read by Mr Auster. There’s a slightly different feel to the work than I’m used to and it took me a while to find my way. Often that difference relates to the tone and this is largely due to the voice of the character who tells the story. Some of the themes seemed familiar and there are definite trademarks in here. What I missed in the work, though, was the sense of rhythm and tone that I’ve tended to enjoy in his books as if the poetry and flare had been cut away. Follies has a lighter tone and seems to swim in shallower waters. It’s like an artist who works in fine detail has put down the small brushes for a while and decided that broad strokes can be just as powerful as tools.I liked the story. Enjoyed the ups and downs of the lives as they bounce off each other and through their journeys. If I understood the book, I’d say there’s something wonderful in its conclusions. There’s an acknowledgement of the hopelessness and futility of existence at its heart because that’s where we all are – doomed to die and to be forgotten. There’s also a delight in the breaking away from this truth in order to live. It’s not in the withdrawing from the world that one can find enrichment and happiness (or even failure and unhappiness), but it’s in the taking of decisions, the mistakes that are made, the people we grow close to and the warmth of those interactions that help us build our own epitaphs. It suggests a level playing field of sorts where acts of greatness are to be found everywhere. That we are all heroes at some point in life and at some time or other and this needs to be celebrated and understood to help make the most of our time here, for ourselves and those around us. Auster tells a story of Kafka in the last year of his life as he tries to help a girl to overcome her distress at losing her favourite doll. To help her, he creates a story that allows her to come to terms with the loss, ‘for as long as the story goes on, reality no longer exists’. My take on this relates to that need to work on our own lives to hide away from that painful truth. That in the building of relationships and patterns we are creating stories of our own and that these stories are our salvation.Even though I felt this novel lacked a little seasoning in some way – a little salt or pepper, perhaps - I did really enjoy it. Well worth a read and the time it will take to draw your own conclusions.

Michael

I remember not really enjoying City of Glass when I read it in the late 80s. I think I was too young--or too inexperienced--to appreciate Paul Auster back then. I'm giving it another go now, since I have recently been blown away by two back-to-back books of his, The Book of Illusions and now The Brooklyn Follies.Both books are told in the first person, but their narrators are as different as night and day. The Book of Illusions narrator is a grieving academic while The Brooklyn Follies narrator is a street-smart insurance salesman. One is small-town, the other is big city; one hates his former wife, the other is mourning the loss of her. But despite these contrasts, they are both equally powerful and equally honest characters (honest in that they are true to themselves, not that they are infallible or saintly souls).The Brooklyn Follies was amazing. Like one of the reviews said, it's a soap opera, and it can be deceiving in its simplicity. If you think that what is happening on the page is trivial or obvious, think again. It's all leading up to a very clean and dramatic final paragraph. What happens in the end is not any great, fictitious mystery, but it is a perfectly timed moment within an exquisitely choreographed circus.I've been mulling over this moment for a bit now, and I'm on the fence about what the story as a whole means in light of that final moment. Could it mean that our lives used to be nothing but trivial follies, and that we used to waste our days hemming and hawing over the banal? Or is it a reminder of what life could be despite the tragedies of our modern world?I think I'm leaning more toward the latter, that we should not allow our tendency toward cynicism to take control of our lives, but that we should remember that sometimes, it's the little things that really matter. And that even a hard-nosed cynic like Nathan Glass can be transformed by hope and love.Absolutely fantastic book. I'm hoping City of Glass will take on new meaning for me now that I'm old enough to understand and appreciate Auster. He is a master storyteller.

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.

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.

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

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