BLURB/SUMMARY: Originally published sequentially as City of Glass (1985), Ghosts (1986) and The Locked Room (1986), it has since been collected into a single volume. Ostensibly presented as detective fiction, the stories of The New York Trilogy have been described as “meta-detective-fiction”, “anti-detective fiction”, “mysteries about mysteries”, a “strangely humorous working of the detective novel”, “very soft-boiled”, a “meta-mystery” and a “mixture between the detective story and the nouveau roman. This may classify Auster as a postmodern writer whose works are influenced by the “classical literary movement” of American postmodernism through the 1960s and 70s.
READ IF YOU LIKE: Detective novellas
FAVOURITE QUOTE: “In the end, each life is no more than the sum of contingent facts, a chronicle of chance intersections, of flukes, of random events that divulge nothing but their own lack of purpose.”
PAGE COUNT: Approx 314
STAR RATING: ★★★★☆ – extraordinary and intriguing
I’m not quite sure what I thought of this book, having finished it five minutes ago it is proving quite hard to gather my thoughts and decide. It both frustrated me and intrigued me, remaining a complete mystery even after it had ended. It is comprised of three parts, City of Glass, Ghosts and The Locked Room. All take a twist on the classic detective novel, and although never explicitly linked, all are loosely connected with the use of names and figures. Overall, the smooth and rich writing of Auster coupled with the sneaky and ironic use of recurring names and personas makes this a completely unique read which takes the motif of the detective novel somewhere different.
City of Glass – focuses on a man who is accidentally hired to protect a man from his father after his release from prison. After following, and losing, both the father and the family he was hired to protect, he goes mad and starts living homeless on the street, never finding either party again.
Ghosts – Again, a man (Blue) is hired to follow another man (Black), and moves into a room across the street from him in order to spy on his every move. The mystery is that there is absolutely no mystery, Blue being driven insane by the lack of
The Locked Room – The protagonist is unnamed in the final piece, and centres around another character named Fanshawe, who’s entire life and story of his disappearance being documented by Auster and unlike the first 2 books, leaving little to be imagined. It came to the strongest conclusion and resolution and is often seen to be the best of the three novellas. I connected far stronger with the characters of this last book than with any of the others, whose plots were so protagonist-centric that I found myself bored of them half way through.
These first two books (City of Glass and Ghosts) had a similar journey I thought, they both focused on one lonely protagonist who never really forms strong connections with another character, remaining detached and descending into madness or solitude for the large portion of the story. As much as I did focus on the writing which I enjoyed and the way Auster exploits the form and structure of the detective story, the long rambling monologues of the main characters who had little communication with the outside world made me feel a bit stir-crazy.
The last book, The Locked Room, as I said was by far the best. It was more substantial, with a more accessible plot line and more of a resolution at the end of the book, however still followed Auster’s pattern of leaving the reader dissatisfied, almost able to come to closure, but not quite. Some continuity there! Coupled with the endless paradoxes and contradictions questioning the existence of man and humanity I often felt frustrated, and with Auster’s writing being so smooth and clean, it was more about the substance of the individual words than the plot development, meaning you have to read extremely carefully and attentively – not my strong point…
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the New York Trilogy, as it gave me an insight into a fundamentally different way of writing, a twisted world of connections and signs all centred around the idea of a detective novel. Auster’s writing is unique, and although the NYT can frustrate at times and is somewhat of a challenge, I recommend it!!