Again, another Auster, and the only question you’re left with is why he bothered writing it. Composing this review by copying and pasting chunks of my review of The New York Trilogy from 2009 seems not only appropriate, it is in fact downright necessary.
At the time, I said “For the life of me though, I couldn’t figure out what that story was really meant to be.” I said the writing was “engaging” and that a couple of themes stood out. “The first is identity. ” and “then there’s the recurring theme of chance and causality.”
I nevertheless concluded that “taken as a whole, it didn’t add up for me. Intriguingly written in places for sure, but not really satisfying.”
Auster does with themes and style what Tartt does with plot and character: reheat leftovers and serve them as if they’re freshly baked. If you’ve not fully explored a theme in an entire (albeit short) eponymous trilogy, then you’re probably not going to contribute an awful lot more with another short novel.
Perhaps I’m being harsh on an author’s choice to spend years of his life exploring a theme, but his novels seem so devoid of anything tangible that, for me, they’re like fast food: easy to digest but failing to nourish. Pretty soon, you find yourself hungry for something truly satisfying and wishing you’d chosen more wisely.