Paul Auster – The New York Trilogy.
Faber & Faber , published 1987.
I’ve just finished reading the ‘The New York Trilogy’ All three short stories are linked subliminally and stylistically. Auster takes the private dick genre and brings an subversive existential twist to it. The narratives tease out a private detectives obsessive streak. Sometimes so all consuming that they exclude everyone except the person being trailed. In the process they try to understand what motivates their prey, the purpose of their surveillance, and in these details and questions the detective loses the sense of himself. All the stories explore in some way identity in the urban cityscape. How it breaks down through such over-identification, falling into alienation and destitution. They’re all quite cleverly written stories and on their own level enjoyable reads .
I do, however, continue to yearn for a contemporary writer who is more than just clever. Where are the perceptive writers, that write compelling narratives, whose writing style grabs you by the proverbial balls and doesn’t let go of you’re imagination? A writer one could love, and get so addicted to you’d want to read all their books one after another. This hasn’t happened for me for quite some time. I think it last occurred when I discovered Anton De Saint Exupery, about seven years ago. He also died many many decades ago. I fondly remember my first read of him, and before that of Armistead Maupin, Ronald Firbank, Joseph Conrad, Thomas Hardy, to name a few others .
Contemporary writers can be so self conscious, particularly of leaving a literary legacy and a reputation, that they’re painful to read. The novel becomes just experiments in construction, testing the readers preconceptions and patience to breaking point. Does no one colourfully and compellingly engage the readers imagination anymore? Genuine originality in a writer seems almost extinct. Contrived novelty in writing style is so predominant. Coldly analytical ,the narratives so knowing of theme and purpose that the characters, the people inhabiting the novels become mere ciphers.
Of his generation I would acknowledge Paul Auster does seem to be a cut above the rest. I would certainly not object to reading some of his other novels. I’m aware though that I do so in a manner of mild interest, when really I’d love to explore with energy and great enthusiasm.