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review 2017-08-28 16:01
Review: 4 3 2 1
4 3 2 1 - Paul Auster

Paul Auster's 4 3 2 1 is the Goliath nominee of this year's Man Booker Prize. At nearly 900 pages, it is not only long, it is unnecessarily long. Though Auster has quite a lustrous career behind him, he takes this opportunity to write a novel that sounds like an undergraduate's wet dream project: a “what if” in the life of a young man; four tellings of the same protagonist in the same setting, but with four different outcomes. It's an ambitious project and though its premise sounds a bit juvenile, I think it could've been done well if done differently. Surely, Auster's skill with weaving words has lifted 4 3 2 1 far above being a mere adolescent traipse through history. Sadly, though written with love and precision, it doesn't rise far above this status.

Contrary to what one might expect, there are no catalysts for the detours in young Archie Ferguson's lives. In the opening passages, I was looking for one and was sort of disappointed to miss it. The fact is, the world is simply different for Archie. In one world he lives with his mother and father, in another he's with his mother and step-father. These differences are not presented as being the outcome of choices a young Ferguson made, they just are. And so, one might assume, there are differences in each of the worlds surrounding the four Fergusons, but no the only difference is Ferguson and those he touches. It's as though the world revolves around Ferguson. That's a lot of pressure on a young man. And so, the 1950s and, to a larger extent, the 1960s roll by one time, two times, three times, and four, all without hitch or pause. Though Archie's life has changed drastically, nothing else has: Korea, Kennedy, Vietnam, Nixon, King. Ironically, despite the four different paths that vary, Ferguson ends up okay in each one. I mean, you'd expect one of the Archie's to be a raging racist or something, but no, Ferguson always has the foresight to be a proponent of civil rights and that makes him swell. If you can't tell, I guess I'm not that big of a fan of Ferguson. I mean, I spent 900 pages with Archie-Alpha, -Beta, -Gamma, and -Delta—you'd think I'd like the guy a bit more. But Ferguson didn't challenge me or evoke any feeling from me. He was sort of a whiny, privileged kid (even when he wasn't so privileged).

The writing was fine. Before I started to feel bitter about the novel, I felt pulled in to the presentation. I could see myself enjoying a shorter, more focused Auster novel. But at some point, I began to realize this was more of a meandering mess than I cared to wrap myself in. There's so much detail about the lives of the four Fergusons. One begins to wonder if it isn't a bit much, especially when Auster goes on a twelve-page summary of fourteen-year-old Ferguson's short story about talking shoes called "Sole Mates." Was the story important to 4 3 2 1? Yes. Did we need a full summary of the story? Absolutely not. A standard sized paragraph would've been more than was needed. But twelve long pages? Later, Ferguson ponders British actors that starred in Hollywood films. He makes a list in his notebook. And we're blessed with the complete list, all seventy names. These are the sort of things that make this book 900 pages and there was absolutely no need for it.

It may sound like I hated this book and wish to destroy its happiness. I didn't hate it. 4 3 2 1 is a competent epic and it surely has an audience. Personally, I tend to love large books because of the complete stories they often tell. But 4 3 2 1doesn't tell a complete story. Most of the novel covers the lives of the Fergusons in the sixties. And when you divide this by four storylines, you're really only getting four average sized novels rehashing the same decade. And really, what was the point of it all? You expect there to be a catalyst or some revelation in the end that ties the four lines together. But no. JFK is still shot. Students are still murdered on college campuses. But Archie Ferguson gets to decide if he wants to climb a tree or not.

Sadly, the longer this novel went on, the less I liked it. I just didn't buy Ferguson's lack of freewill. It's obvious that his social and political stances are being shaped by the author. Despite leading four very different lives, young Ferguson can choose who he wants to fall in love with, but doesn't get to choose which side of politics to be on.

Recently, Auster admitted that he struggles with ideas these days: “I used to have a backlog of stories, but a few years ago I found the drawers were empty. I guess I’m getting to the point where I tell myself if I can’t write another book it’s not a tragedy.” I think he was grasping for an idea with this one. And though it obviously caught the attention of the Man Booker judges, I was not impressed. That said, my interest in Auster has been piqued and I definitely would love to read some of his earlier, shorter works. Just think, perhaps in another life I thought this was the greatest book ever written.

Man Booker Prize 2017:
I'll be a little surprised if this one makes it to the shortlist. It's not particularly relevant right now. It's not enjoyable to a mainstream audience. It's not all that original or brilliant. It's competent and capable, which is why I think it was fine to be included on the longlist, but it doesn't strike me as an eventual winner. Frankly, it feels a bit too much like the old, east coast white male perspective that has dominated literature for decades. I hope these authors continue to write their stories and that we continue to read and enjoy them, but their time of being celebrated as “the best” has come to a close. It's time to honor fresh ideas, styles, and perspectives.

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review 2016-04-22 00:00
The New York Trilogy: City of Glass/ Ghosts/ the Locked Room
The New York Trilogy: City of Glass/ Ghosts/ the Locked Room - Paul Auster I have to hold firm with myself to leave The New York Trilogy at 3 stars, because overall I liked it, I finished it quick enough, but the more I think about it, the more I believe it was a waste of time.

I read the trilogy together, launching into the Ghosts as soon as City of Glass ended, etc. so that the connection could be as fresh in my mind as they could be.

Of the three City of Glass was the most enjoyable, involving morose detective-fiction writer Daniel Quinn. He answers his phone, responds to a name that is not his own - Paul Auster - and becomes immersed in a case like one out of his books. The narrative deliberately sows confusion with multiple cases of mistaken identity, "the" Paul Auster, and a stake-out that just won't end. I was hoping that the pace and style of this book would continue - but the novellas are only tangentially related.

Ghosts begins with a stake-out, a private investigator paid to ceaselessly watch another man for years. Everything is chromatic with all characters being named after colors (White, Brown, Violet, Black, etc.) all very Tarantino. Blue, like Quinn, begins to lose himself in the case he's investigating. The narrative belabors the repetition of it all, the endless watching, the wondering, the edge-of-your-seat drama of nothing happening at all.

The Locked Room goes back to a more stable narrative, but this time it is a would-be writer who lacks the inspiration to write fiction. He is contacted by the widow of a childhood friend and asked to edit and shepherd Fanshawe's manuscripts into print. On discovering that the manuscripts are brilliant, he accepts. He also avails himself of that widow and the life that Fanshawe might have had, bearing the burden of his late friend's life has more consequences than he anticipated.

All three works have passing references to each other and Auster is making some meta-fictional point about art and life and blah blah blah, but it didn't grab a hold of me. When I wasn't reading the book I wasn't thinking about it, my initial pleasure that I was reading a modern noir gamechanger faded the further I got into it. I need a bit more to go on. Eh. Two.
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review 2015-12-05 10:31
Almost Murakamiesque: Moon Palace
Mond über Manhattan - Paul Auster

Moon Palace was a really good book, so much that it reminded me a lot of Haruki Murakami’s novels. Not that there was any Magical Realism in it, although some of the occurrences seemed to happen so much by sheer coincidence, that they almost had a touch of magic to them.

But Moon Palace had something that has always fascinated me in Murakami’s books, which is that the language was so wonderful that, no matter what sad or weird things happened in the story, they were coated. Coated by the marvelous wording, so that at first they didn’t seem as dreadful or strange as they actually were. As if the language distracted the reader for a moment when something bad occurred, just to make them realize with a bit of a shock few moments later that indeed something had happened, so that their belated reaction to the events was even more intense than it normally would have been.


Still I have to deduct one star, because I could not really get into my reading flow with this book. I usually read a Murakami novel in one or two days; Moon Palace took me twenty days to finish. I am not sure if it was the book’s or my fault, so I guess I will have to read more of Auster’s work to find out. I have already bought Sunset Park, and if he continues to amaze me with his language, I think I might have found a new favorite author.

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text 2015-11-27 17:23
Bookhaul #20

I personally think that this is a great bookhaul: not too many books and most of them were on sale and I even got one for free. These are the books I purchased since my last bookhaul:

No, not the entire Lunar Chronicles Series, only Winter. I purchased and read the first three books last year, but this picture was just too beautiful so instead of showing just Winter you can see the cover of all the books in this series! And no I still have not read Winter.. :(

These are all the books I got when there was sale. I paid around 14 euros in total for all of these six books, which is a bargain! In the town I go to school to there was a booksale and that's only twice a year. I got Jane Eyre for free because of a coupon (I already have a copy and read it twice, but I wrote in it for school so I just wanted a new one). I got Wonder on Amazon because that one was really cheap as well and I wanted to buy something that wasn't a classic or hard to read and so many people love Wonder! And I also want to collect and read more Stephen King book's so that was a perfect opportunity! I've never heard of Paul Auster though, but the story seems really interesting.


What is your latest book purchase?

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text 2015-11-02 09:17
Reading progress update: I've read 265 out of 315 pages.
Unsichtbar - Paul Auster,Werner Schmitz

Nach zwei Dritteln kann die Story nicht noch bizarrer werden... oder? Ich habe so meine Erwartungen an den dritten Teil. Austers einfacher Trick, von der ersten in die zweite und zuletzt in die dritte Person zu wechseln, gefällt mir gut. Ein leicht verständliches Stilmittel ohne großes Brimborium. Der Protagonist und Urheber der Texte wird sich selbst immer fremder - und mit ihm wird der Leser immer befremdeter. Ich kann nicht sagen, dass das Buch bequem zu lesen wäre, aber gut ist es trotzdem auf seine verzwickte Art.

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