Paul Auster probably ranks as a favorite author. Although I haven’t read everything by him ( and I plan to fix that) I do enjoy his novels. When I heard that 4 3 2 1 is going to be a thick 1078 page novel I whooped. I mean 1078 pages of pure Paul. Oh wow.
4 3 2 1 is clearly Auster’s attempt to write the great American novel and with his status, who can blame him! The book consists of 4 separate lives of one person: Archibald Ferguson. Thus the reader experiences Archie’s growing pains, his triumphs and failures. Some of the four lives have parallel details, sometimes they diverge and Archibald’s destiny changes. Not to mention that Auster stuffs major US event from 1947 – 1970 in the book as well. There is a lot going on.
One may think that 4 3 2 1 is a confusing bloated tome but in reality it isn’t. For the first 800 pages or so the book is a masterpiece. The are echoes of Philip Roth and Jonathan Franzen, In some places I even felt that the spirit of Donna Tartt was there. Still though it is unmistakably Auster, even sharing some of the characteristics one finds in his older novels, namely, Moon Palace. Did I say the writing is gorgeous? Auster’s previous novels were always well written but here he outdoes himself. Literally every sentence is intricately constructed.
4 3 2 1 is not perfect though. The last 200 pages are a bit of a slog due to the fact that it mutates into a soap opera, only picking up towards the end. If only the book was edited a bit more this would have been a perfect novel as it ends excellently.
This novel is not Auster’s best and I would not recommend it to someone who has never read Auster before but all you fans go ahead and read it. 4 3 2 1 will satisfy your need for the long absence Auster took in order to write 4 3 2 1 and it will be the best writing you have read this year.
I read The New York Trilogy back in 2000 when I was still a student. Other than the bits on language and it’s usage in society (hey I’m a Philosophy student after all) I had trouble remembering the other points in the book. Thus a re-read was necessary.
The book is composed of three loosely connected novellas. City of Glass is about a detective writer who assumes a fake identity and prevents a person from being killed, The second, Ghosts is about two spies watching each other and the this The Locked Room is about a writer who tries to locate his missing friend.
As such the mystery is secondary. Within these three novels Auster expands on many post modern ideas such as the use of language, writing and identity. These are all themes which have occurred in later novels. One thing is that I noticed that after eleven years I discovered more hidden surprises within the novel and it stood up very well – Actually I preferred reading this time round.
Although I cannot find any faults, I still say that next to Moon Palace of Music of Chance , TNYT is slightly weaker than the previous novels I mentioned. But by saying that the rest of these books get a 10/10 while this one receives a 9.5. It’s also the best Auster to start off with.
I have been staring at this screen for the past ten minutes with a million thoughts whooshing through my head. I honestly having a lot of trouble trying to express the complexity of this novel.
I could give a very superficial explanation but honestly I would feel like I’m cheating Paul Auster, myself and the people who read this blog (even though I think that amounts to a grand total of ten people). Funnily enough when I tried describing the plot I felt like I was saying something banal, even way too simplistic. In cases like this I would rather mention the themes that are present in Moon Palace.
Chance & coincidence
Reality and fantasy
Also if I were to expand on these themes I would give away the twists and turns this novel contains. Moon Palace is a sort of journey, especially one of discovery and consequences. Is this a mirror of life? I’m not sure. Although our lives contain events described here, there is some exaggeration.
I’ll just say this
Learn some lessons.
I just adore everything that Paul Auster writes (well his fiction anyways) and Invisible is a sign that Auster is still at the top of his game.
Adam Walker is an intellectual who stumbles upon they fabulously wealthy and immoral Rudolph Born. After they strike a friendship Born offers Walker the deal of a lifetime. Unfortunately this all falls apart due to Adam having an affair with Born’s girlfriend and an action which Born commits which has severe repercussions.
We jump to the future and everything is told through the eyes of Adam’s friend Jim. Adam is dying and he sends a manuscript of his experiences to Jim. As us readers find out. Born’s action brings Adam to Paris, where he plots out the ultimate revenge, which doesn’t work out either and leads to even more deadly consequences.
Invisible contains the usual trademarks one finds in an Auster novel. ‘The book within a book within a book’ , the use of coincidence and chance and complicated relationships. Although Auster has used these techniques before they are quite fresh in Invisible and there’s a new sort of accessibility which appeared in Timbuktu and is in full use here. I would say this is Auster’s first genuine page turner (not that his previous novels weren’t but here it’s more pronounced) I felt that there were shades of Philip Roth and Ian McEwan (there is one controversial scene which echoes the latter greatly).
On the whole this is an excellent book and well worth reading.
With the exception of The New York Trilogy, I have only read Paul Auster’s later works ( From Timbuktu onwards – I’ll be reading Invisible very soon) and he has never disappointed me. I knew that his early works are even better so I was glad to finally have a chance to read ‘The Music of Chance’
It is fantastic.
Jim Nashe is a man who is disillusioned with life. After a long spell on the road and a hefty inheritance he decides to pack it all in and spend the rest of his days travelling.
His troubles begin when he befriends a gambler called Jack Pozzi and they plan to play a game of cards with two rich people. Things do not turn out as they seem and jack and Jim have to repay the eccentric duo by building a wall ( the stones were from a destroyed Irish castle).
At first things go well but Jack rebels and this leads him to commit certain actions which affect his destiny and Jim’s as well.
Like I said this book kept me stuck to my chair. It focuses on chance and circumstances but also is about the absurdity of life. There are many existentialist tones, especially with Jack’s way of reasoning. Plus it’s written beautifully.
I would also say – up to this point it’s also the best Auster novel I have read and a very good place to start if you haven’t delved into his novels yet.