The New York Trilogy: City of Glass/ Ghosts/ the Locked Room

ISBN: 0140169636
ISBN 13: 9780140169638
By: Paul Auster

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About this book

Paul Auster’s signature work, The New York Trilogy, consists of three interlocking novels: City of Glass, Ghosts, and The Locked Room -- haunting and mysterious tales that move at the breathless pace of a thriller.

Reader's Thoughts


Comparable to (although considerably predating) Martin Amis's Night Train - a fascination with procedural detective stories and mystery novels leads the modernist writer to try his hand at them. Confronted with the most determinist of all genres (and the fear of being labeled a genre writer, maybe), our high-brow writers veer off somewhere near the last minute into indeterminacy. Four pages into the first volume of this trilogy, City of Glass, the narrator outlines the aesthetic scope against which he ultimately rebels, extolling his enthusiasm for mystery novels - "...their sense of...economy...nothing wasted, no sentence, no word that is not significant. And even if it is not significant, it has the potential to be so...". Eventually, though, existentialist despair (perhaps more Sartre than Camus) is all the protagonists get for their trouble.Having read more of Siri Hustvedt's books than Auster's may put me in a delightful minority but he has a lot for me to catch up on, and it is tempting to get started right away. Part of the appeal, of course, for those who've spent the last couple of decades in Manhattan and Brooklyn, is the specificity of his places - I can envision that westward turn from Broadway onto West 107th St or the churchyard on Orange Street in Brooklyn Heights with a clarity that many but surely not the majority of his readers have. Yet that is almost why I've avoided him - let Anthony Trollope make me envision London in 1860 and I can admit to being impressed.

Alper Kumcu

The NY Trilogy is the early masterpiece of Auster. It clearly reflects Auster's style in every sense.What I like about the book is that it is multi-layered and can be read at each layer, namely, a psychological thriller, a detective novel and a meta-fiction about writing itself. I define the genre as "intelligent fiction" since the book is "magic-realism re-defined". The NY Trilogy can be regarded as the gateway to Auster's world.


I can see why people may not like this. Paul Auster puts himself in the first story for one. How egotistical can you get? The New York Trilogy is the strangest, most seductive thriller you could read.I really liked it. It took me a little while (to get into it) to get on board. I feel like it’s a book that kind of creeps up on you and it slowly enchants you and you do kind of fall under its spell. It’s got a certain rhythm to it. It took me a little while. It doesn’t kind of hit you over the head immediately like some books do. I didn’t feel flung into this world. I felt like I was sort of seduced into the world of this book.


It was only $2.95. So, I'll give it a shot. *Okay, pulled from the hall closet where it still lingers among dusty DVDs of Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Martin Mull comedy albums. The previous reader left a bookmark; simple white square upon which two words were written: "exegetical" and "prelapsarian" - right before the chapter entitled, "The Locked Room"*Fawk. Auster has managed to accomplish everything I could ever hope; what's left? I finished City of Glass whilst drinking from a bottle of wine on the steps in the home library, absorbing each and every sentence. I talked to a portrait of my mom, afterwards, while smoking a Marlboro Light and eating the butt end of a loaf of bread - I ate very little today (a sandwich at 3 p.m. and then nothing until that bookreading bottle of wine). Auster. Austere. I remember watching Rosemary's Baby with a friend and her commenting that the decor was very austere. This was back in the late 90s. And I've already made the Polanski connections in this smalltown documented in Livejournal. What's left? To reread this book. *It's worth the $2.95 plus tax. I'll definitely pick up the Penguin Edition and force it into friends' hands and say, "Understand me! This justifies every moment I've opted for the soup over the souffle!"*I thought of jokey reviews, saying that this book makes Nabokov look like an illiterate moron and Borges as nothing more than a script doctor for Garfield narrative arcs. But these are my little jokes that amuse me on my runs, and nothing more. *The 85th book I've read since moving here in August 2006.


Further update, June 19th 2012.In response to several thoughtful comments that take issue with the nastiness of my initial review, I have come to the conclusion that the comments in question are essentially correct. Please see my own response in comment #32 in the discussion. And thanks to those who called me on this, apologies for my earlier vitriolic responses. In general, I try to acknowledge the validity of other opinions in my reviews and comments, something I notably failed to do in this discussion. I should have been more civil, initially and subsequently.Update: WELL, CONGRATULATIONS, PAUL AUSTER!!I wouldn't actually have thought it possible, but with the breathtakingly sophomoric intellectual pretension of the final 30 pages of "City of Glass", you have actually managed to deepen my contempt and loathing for you, and the overweening, solipsistic, drivel that apparently passes for writing in your particular omphaloskeptic corner of the pseudo-intellectual forest in which you live, churning out your mentally masturbatory little turdlets.Gaaaah. Upon finishing the piece of smirkingly self-referential garbage that was "City of Glass", I wanted to jump in a showever and scrub away the stinking detritus of your self-congratulatory, hypercerebral, pomo, what a clever-boy-am-I, pseudo-intellectual rubbish from my mind. But not all the perfumes of Araby would be sufficient - they don't make brain bleach strong enough to cleanse the mind of your particular kind of preening, navel-gazing idiocy. All I can do is issue a clarion call to others who might be sucked into your idiotic, time-wasting, superficially clever fictinal voyages to nowhere. There is emphatically no there there. The intellectual vacuum at the core of Auster's fictions is finally nothing more than that - empty of content, devoid of meaning, surrounded with enough of the pomo trappings to keep the unwary reader distracted. But, if you're looking for meaning in your fiction, for God's sake look elsewhere.And, please - spare me your pseudoprofound epiphanies of the sort that the emptiness at the core of Auster's tales is emblematic of the kind of emptiness that's at the core of modern life. Because that brand of idiocy butters no parsnips with me - I got over that kind of nonsense as a freshman in college. At this point in my life I expect a little more from anyone who aspires to be considered a writer worth taking seriously.Which Paul Auster, though I have no doubt that he takes himself very, very seriously indeed, is not. This little emperor of Brooklyn is stark naked, intellectually speaking.The only consolation is that I spent less than $5 for this latest instalment of Austercrap. Gaaaah. PASS THE BRAINBLEACH.Earlier comment begins below:My loathing for the only other of Paul Auster's books that I had read (the Music of Chance) was so deep that it's taken me over ten years before I can bring myself to give him another chance. But finally, today, after almost three weeks of reading only short pieces in Spanish, my craving for fiction in English was irresistible, so I picked up a second-hand copy of The New York Trilogy in the English-language bookstore here in Guanajuato.So far so good. I'm about three-quarters through the first story of the trilogy and I'm enjoying it, without actually liking it, if that makes sense. Auster seems to owe a clear debt of influence to Mamet - there's the same predilection for games, puzzles, and the influence of chance. Thankfully, the influence doesn't extend to dialog, which Mamet has always seemed to me to wield clumsily, like a blunt instrument. Auster is more subtle, but he still holds his characters at such a remote distance, it gives his writing a cerebral quality that is offputting at times. Thus, one can enjoy the situations he sets up and the intricacies of the story, without quite liking his fiction. Who knows, maybe I will feel differently after I've read all three stories?


Yay, postmodern literature! I absolutely loved The New York Trilogy, especially City of Glass. I think that calling Auster’s style that of anti-detective fiction is quite an apt way of putting things, precisely because we have solved absolutely nothing at the ends of his stories, and that is exactly his intention. Any meaning we might find in his work only serves to prove that meaning is endless and should not be sought too hard. Indeed, Quinn himself literally disappears into his words, his notebook, at the close of City of Glass, even as he works through some meaning-finding process. I think Auster raises numerous (shall I call them clichéd?) postmodern existentialist questions with his characters, their situations, their identities, their meta-identities, and underlying it all, the city in which the story is set, with its potential for completely swallowing up all who live there. Quinn might be confused at Peter Stillman Jr.’s articulation that Peter Stillman is his name, but not his name, but Quinn himself has taken on multiple identities within himself: William Wilson, Max Work, Paul Auster, and Daniel Quinn. Detective fiction lends itself well these kinds of postmodern questions about identity and meaning and selfhood simply in the way that it traditionally poses such a question; who did this, why did they do it, how can we catch them, etc. But Auster seems to only use the modes of detective fiction as far as they will carry his questions; he stops short of any solution or attempt at articulating what is real or true. There are caveats throughout the stories to warn the reader that they oughtn’t take anything for granted, as if his slippery language and confusion tactics didn’t already relay that perfectly well. I like that about postmodern literature…it’s not trying to be the truth. That’s more enjoyable.


All the one/five star reviews for this book are pretty hilarious. New York Trilogy is pretty interesting. Exasperating? Absolutely. Silly? Definetly. Genius? Ehh. Let's not go crazy. 100% worth checking out? Yes. Seriously? One Star? One Star ratings should be applied judiciously. Ever have an aunt give you Tuesdays With Morrie? One Star. Did that girl you like tell you to read Ishmael? One Star. The New York Trilogy does not deserve One Star. Jesus. Bear in mind that I liked House of Leaves.


At times The New York Trilogy strikes me as something like the movie Saw for intellectual types. People who enjoy Saw tell me that it "messes with your mind," when what they really like are the suspense and the gore. Readers who enjoy The New York Trilogy tell me that it "challenges your perception of reality" (the intellectual form of the above statement), when what they really like is all of the cleverness and the self-reflexive smartypants in-jokes. The plot and many of the images and devices in City of Glass are genuinely intriguing, but they feel haplessly strung together. The Locked Room feels the same, and Ghosts was even more disappointing, reading like a poor minimalist imitation of Borges. I have not given up on Auster, however. This is an early work and I have been told by fairly reliable sources that his writing improved steadily after this trilogy.

Ben Winch

For a work that starts so strongly, The New York Trilogy descends into banal gibberish remarkably quickly, and continues in this mode until its unsurprising, unenlightening denouement. Presumably the result of the young Auster having improvised his opening in a fever-dream, put it aside, and then felt constrained but uninspired to continue it at a later date, this opening section is a small marvel of verbal invention and imagination, and entirely worthy of the two other would-be masters that possibly inspired it: Peter Handke (in the play Kaspar) and Werner Herzog (in the film The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser). That this sub-genre (of the child locked in the room and forced to develop or not develop its own language) is essentially a cliche is not a problem; in fact it helps to propel us into the story, and when couched in terms of the book's other cliches (the crime novelist-become-detective, the Calvino-esque metafictional first few pages) it is made to shine in a whole new light (a light that is absent from those other Kaspar Hauser-ist character studies). Still, it's brief. Auster, a Beckett disciple, seems to pay homage to his hero and quickly decide it's not worth the effort, and from then on it's as if he's given in to an early, disillusioned middle-age. The prose is wooden, the concepts shallow, the plot non-existent. Every promising lead is forgotten. As to the idea of New York as a setting, forget it - this could be anywhere. Is Auster making comment on the post-modern city's anonymity, or is it just an accident of publishing/marketing that put these three fairly unrelated pieces together and called them a trilogy? Late in the book - in 'The Locked Room' - he offers a trite and unconvincing explication of the 3 pieces as a trilogy, a typically Austerian author's-voice intrusion which feels like an afterthought and does nothing but break the admittedly tenuous flow. By now every mistake of the young over-reaching storyteller has been committed repeatedly. 'Show don't tell'? Nope, Auster's determined to tell - and just in case you miss his meaning he'll spell it out for you. To a degree, I feel for him. The whole idea of this alter-ego (Fanshawe) who disappears bequeathing a lot of unfinished manuscripts to our narrator who has always idolised him - I mean it's the whole fever-dream inspired-opening-without-a-follow-up scenario in a nutshell, right? And in a way it's an admirable way to tackle the situation - head-on, with a maximum of self-awareness. The type of idea a thousand writers have probably had ever since they first read Borges's 'Pierre Menard' or Calvino's If On a Winter's Night a Traveler or even Tristram Shandy. But if there is a lesson to be learnt here it's 'APPROACH WITH CAUTION'. Self-referential becomes vacuous so easily! From memory I have read this thing twice now, despite my bad first impression. Why? Because I want to like Auster. He makes you feel as if maybe, one day, he'll stumble upon some revelation. But ultimately maybe he's just too conflicted - capable of inspired passages but too in thrall to the demands of the professional author. You ask me, almost everything he writes has a stilted unnaturalness that bespeaks either lack of sufficient editing or straight-up not keeping his eye on the ball. Moon Palace was passable; The Music of Chance was almost alive; in Oracle Night he just about convinced me he was on the verge of saying something, but when it wasn't forthcoming I gave up and didn't look back. Perhaps tellingly, I came to Auster via a chapter from his early pseudonymous crime novel Squeeze Play, which was included by Michael Dibdon in The Picador Book of Crime Writing, and this piece shone (I thought) more than almost anything in that anthology save Raymond Chandler, or anything Auster has written since. Is this whole subsequent heir-to-Beckett/poet-laureate-of-New-York 'literary' schtick just a case of Auster taking himself too seriously? It might be.As an aside, does anyone else find Auster's infrequent but jarringly out-of-key sexual passages disturbing? I think it's the way he narrates them so matter-of-factly, usually in a single sentence, after obsessing over trivial details for pages. It's almost as if some bolt of self-expression suddenly breaks through all the consciously-impersonal meandering. Stillman puts 'his worm' in 'whores' who 'squirm'. The narrator of 'The Locked Room' 'finds' himself opposite an exquisite Tahitian prostitute in Paris. Most disturbingly, in The Music of Chance, Nash (the hitherto eminently-sensible adult protagonist) falls obsessively in love with a prostitute brought into his life by the younger, reckless Pozzi - nothing wrong with that, but it's so glossed-over, so abrupt, working only as a plot-device, that again I'm forced to wonder if it's some unwanted intrusion from Auster's personal life that he has tried to edit out of existence only to be thwarted by its necessity to the plot. Equally as repellent is the scene in 'City of Glass' where Quinn meets Paul Auster's wife, whom Auster-as-narrator eulogises in vomit-worthy tones as if (I can't help thinking) asking forgiveness for those other scenes. Maybe I'm reading this wrongly - certainly Auster gives us little to aid in our interpretation of these stylistic hiccups - and I'm not suggesting he should excise all sexuality from his writing. At least not on principle. But, well, either explore it meaningfully or, yes, excise it. Beckett did without it, after all, whatever went on in his personal life. As it is, it just feels to me as if every 200 pages or so Auster opens his trench-coat to compulsively reveal his naked prick then hides it away again and pretends it never happened. Embarrassing all round.


Paul Austerپل استر نویسنده ی مشهور امریکایی سه کتاب شهر شیشه ای، ارواح و اتاق در بسته با استقبال بی نظیری همراه شد که باعث ادغام این سه کتاب در یک مجموعه به نام سه گانه ی نیویورک شدنمی شود آنقدر از کسی متنفر بود مگر آنکه قسمتی از روح مان آن را بسیار دوست داشته باشد


თითქოს მისტერიაა და არც არის მისტერია, კვანძების გახსნას და გასაღებების აღმოჩენას ამაოდ ელი, მაგრამ ეს სულაც არაა მათავარი, მთავარი უფრო განწყობა და ის გარემოა რასაც ავტორი ქმნის. მთავარი პერსონაჟების შინაგანი სამყაროა, მათი სევდა, მათი მცდელობა გაიგონ ვინ არიან.სამივე ნოველა კარგია, ნიუ იორკის სურნელით, თითქოს ჩვეულებრივი მაგრამ უცნაური დაუმთავრებელი ამბებით. საინტერესოა თავად ავტორის გამოჩენა პერსონაჟებში, ჰენრი დარკის ამბავი და პიტერ სტილმენის საქმიანობა. დონ კიხოტის ოსტერისეული ინტერპრეტაცია, საინტერესოა ბლექის და ფენშოუს მიზნები. საინტერესოა საერთოდ სად არის სინამდვილე და სად ფიქცია. ნიუ იორკული ტრილოგია, ცოტა განსხვავებული, ცოტა მისტერიული, ცოტა უცნაური და ბევრად სასიამოვნო წასაკითხი წიგნია.


It is not because of “City of Glass” that I am continuing into the second book of this trilogy; it is because the second installments are contained between the same covers and I neglected to bring an alternate book to the office. It takes hard work to make detective stories dull and to suck the intrigue out of mystery; but Auster seems to know how it’s done. It seems like he had just finished grad school and was filled with the conviction that contriving a book around concepts masquerading as characters who stumble around in symbolic relationship to each other would give readers a wonderful chance to engage with his totally unoriginal thinking on millennia old matters such as chance and free will. His digressions into the age of exploration and the origins of language are entirely forgettable. I hate books that hinge on cleverness; but I pity books that aspire (how ambitious) towards cleverness and fail, ever, to arrive there.


This is one of those books I honestly thought I liked a lot, only I guess I must have been fooling myself because I got to the second chapter of the third section, and abruptly stopped reading. The bookmark on page 216 has been marking that place now for several years.In my defense, these are available in separate volumes, and if I'd read the first two books that way I'd probably feel like less of a failure. I think I really did enjoy them, just.... by the third one I was a little tired of the whole thing, and not quite up for going through it all again. I don't know. They were good. Maybe I'll revisit it. This is the only Auster I've ever tried. I have this vague association between him and Murakami, who I've also left unfinished. They're both, like, really polished or clean or something, sort of emotionally remote, and in a strange way remind me of looking at a really beautiful ad for Swedish vodka in the New Yorker or something like that, feeling kind of messy myself and probably not calm or sophisticated enough to join in seamlessly in what's going on. I don't know. Flipping through this book, I suspect that I did actually enjoy it more than I remember. I mean, it was detective stories. That's fun! I also think of this book when I'm in Brooklyn Heights, which I enjoy. Worth another try, though I'd have to start over from the top.


ثلاثية نيويورك ترتب الأفكار والكلمات بشكل استثنائي ؛ ترتيب يشبه حقيقة شروق الشمس في منتصف ليل الجانب الآخر من الأرض، لامعنى مطلق للكلمات مع أوستر كل شيء يخضع للنسبية، غول المراقبة يبتلع أبطال القصص الثلاث حتى يتلاشى وجودهم في الآخر ، الكاتب يبدو ذا حس سيكوباتي يستدرج الفضول ويخنقه بالاستفزاز والتوقف المفاجئ في منتصف الطريق ، يقطع حبل أفكارك من المنتصف تماما كما تقول الصبوحة :) اندمجت مع الأحداث وفكرت لو أن الإنسان يراقب نفسه كما يراقب الآخرين -كتحرّي- كيف ستكون النتائج ؟ وجدت التساؤل في الصفحات التالية ! تشك في أن أوستر يراقب أفكارك ويتلاعب بها كما يتلاعب بشخصياته .. يأتي على ذكر شخصيات غريبة من الواقع مثل الناقد والفيلسوف الروسي ميخائيل باختين الذي استخدم أوراق النسخة الوحيدة لإحدى مخطوطاته للتدخين ، و السيدة ونشستر أرملة صانع البنادق التي تبني المزيد من الغرف لمزيد من الحياة، والإيطالي لورنزو دابونتي متعدد الهويات، يقول أوستر " يبدو من المستحيل قول أي شيء عن إنسان إلا بعد أن يموت، فليس الموت الحكم على السعادة فحسب، وإنما هو القياس الوحيد الذي يمكننا به أن نحكم على الحياة ذاتها" تباً لك ياأوستر اللعنة عليك أيها اليهودي المتحذلق ؛ قد تردد مثل هذه اللعنات وأنت تقرأ مشاهد عديدة ، مثلاً حين يسافر البطل إلى باريس ويتحدث مع شخصيات ويزور أماكن ..ثم يعيد الحدث للنقطة الأولى وكأن شيئا لم يكن !  "الكذب شيء سيء ، فهو يجعلك تأسف حتى كونك قد ولدت، وألا تكون قد ولدت فتلك لعنة. محكوم عليك بأن تحيا خارج الزمن، وعندما يحدث ذلك لايكون هناك ليل ولا نهار، بل ولاتتاح لك الفرصة حتى للموت ! " لفّة طويلة وتفسير ماء بالماء هو ماثرثر به أوستر في الإقتباس السابق ليقول لنا عن -سيئات الكذب السيء- لاشيء علاقة جميلة يخلقها مع القارئ بحبكة من السراب ، تزيد من متعة القراءة ، أصحاب الوقت الثمين والفائدة وماإلى ذلك وذاك لا أعتقد أنها ستروق لكم (بس) الصراحة ممتعة وتكسر الملل وروتينية المنطق، يتحدث عن كتاب دون كيخوته وكأنه يتحدث عن ثلاثية نيويورك : "لقد أراد أن يختبر مدى قابلية رفاقه للانخداع.إذ راح يتساءل : هل من الممكن الوقوف أمام العالم بأقصى قدر من الثقة بالنفس وإطلاق الأكاذيب واللغو، هل من الممكن القول إن طواحين الهواء هي فرسان مسلحون وأن حوض الحلاق هو غطاء واقٍ للرأس وأن الدمى بشر حقيقيون ؟ هل سيكون من الممكن إقناع الآخرين حتى بإقرار ماقاله على الرغم من أنهم لايصدقونه ؟ وبتعبير آخر إلى أي مدى سيتحمل الناس الهرطقات إذا كانت مصدر تسلية لهم ؟ الإجابة واضحة. أليست كذلك، البرهان أننا مازلنا نقرأ الكتاب، ومايزال مسلياً إلى حد كبير بالنسبة لنا، وذلك هو في نهاية المطاف مايريده أي شخص من كتاب -أن يسليه- * هنا مقال يتحدث عن الكاتب وبعض كتبه


For me, this was a problematic book, fraught with numerous problemats. For one thing I have a grievance with any book that expects the reader to slog halfway through it before any rewarding aspects begin to surface. I sympathize entirely with anyone who quits before getting to that point, since I very nearly did exactly that.Also, I kept hearing that part I, "City of Glass", was the high point, and that afterward it went downhill. When I was halfway through "Ghosts" (part II) I would have completely agreed with that sentiment, since I thought "City of Glass" was kind of a drag with some highlights, and "Ghosts" initially did everything in its power to make me want to set the book on fire and drop it into a chasm.But whoever was saying that either did quit halfway through, or is just plain wrong. The Trilogy improves so dramatically in part III that it might as well be a different book, even as [SPOILER?:] it's built on the ruins of the first two parts and arguably linked to them indelibly. However, I honestly don't think Auster needed to write it that way, and while you can argue that the third part's power is cumulative, that you've got to pound through the first two wondering whether you were being mind-fucked or just pointlessly bored in order to win the prize at the end, I absolutely do not agree. After all that I do believe Auster is a great writer, but he needs to cut out this cutesy-poo monkeyfart "meta" crap and just make a damn story.

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