0172 | The New York Trilogy – Paul Auster


Context: We spilled pesto on the bed just as I was finishing this off after dinner – mad rushing of covers to the bathroom but all is fine now.

Long ago, I read Auster’s Music of Chance which I liked enough to rate as good. This book wasn’t as good, IMO and so I’m rating it okay. It’s a trilogy by title only really. At a total of just over 300 pages, you can hardly call any part of the three a book in its own right. I think Auster’s plan was to weave three views of the same story. For the life of me though, I couldn’t figure out what that story was really meant to be.

I liked the first part best. The second part was a bit too weird for me to get much from it and by the time the last one got going, I was desperate for any resolution at all really. Disappointingly, I didn’t see one there.

The writing was engaging and Auster definitely explores a couple of issues very well. The first is identity. All the way through there’s a strong theme questioning who we are, what names are really worth and how we see ourselves versus how others see us. I liked that theme – it made me think more than once.

Then there’s the recurring theme of chance and causality which he develops much further in Music of Chance. He questions just how much impact we really can have on the direction our lives take. This leads to some good literary devices where you really do catch the character’s dilemma.

But taken as a whole, it didn’t add up for me. Intriguingly written in places for sure, but not really satisfying.

It was a wrong number that started it, the telephone ringing three times in the dead of night, and the voice on the other end asking for someone he was not.

I came to the last page just as the train was pulling out.

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  1. Hi! I’ve only read the first book of this trilogy, and that, I loved. I’d agree–it did make me think a lot. But mostly, I loved it for its discussion of the impact of language on identity. I especially loved Peter Stillman’s long monologue where he kept refraining the line “My name is Peter Stillman. That is not my real name.” Wonderful.

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