Tag: metafictional

The New York Trilogy by Paul Austen

Posted April 13, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Crime, Literary Fiction / 2 Comments

The New York Trilogy by Paul AustenTitle: The New York Trilogy (Goodreads)
Author: Paul Auster
Published: Penguin, 1987
Pages: 308
Genres: Crime, Literary Fiction
My Copy: Audiobook

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

If you want to try a metafictional detective novel, then look no further than The New York Trilogy by Paul Austen. Originally published sequentially as City of Glass, Ghosts and The Locked Room, these three interconnecting stories have been since collected into a single volume. Heavily influenced by the post-modernist movement, this novel blends elements of neo-realism, soft-boiled fiction and of course, metafiction. Even the pulp style cover (illustrated by Art Spiegelman) has a metafictional style to it.

I really wish I had a better grasp on post-modernism; there is a lot of literary theory that must go into fully understanding a novel like The New York Trilogy. My level of understanding of post-modernism might hinder this review but I will do my best to add something valuable here. Starting with a look at any example of one of the narrators; such as the one known as Peter Stillman, or is he? Maybe his name is something entirely different; maybe it is Paul Auster. This gives you an idea of just how you have to read this book; continuously questioning everything and assuming things are not as they have been told. This does make the novel difficult to read, I had to take my time with it and reread almost everything.

The first story City of Glass follows a detective fiction writer that becomes a private investigator. This unnamed narrator explores layers of identity and reality; often to Paul Auster (the author), Paul Auster (the writer), Peter Stillman (the mark), the other Peter Stillman (the son) and finally Daniel Quinn (the protagonist). The story follows this narrator as he descends into madness as the reader follows close behind. This is story that explores the relationship between the author, characters and the reader in a twisted kind of way. Essentially asking us to consider who has the real power in this relationship?

Ghosts follows the story of a private eye called Blue who is hired to follow Black; he has been hired by White to write down everything Black does. Only problem is that Black doesn’t do too much apart from sit and write all day, which means Blue spends all day sitting and writing. This is a story that explores the issue of who has the real power, the author or their characters. Paul Auster is showing us his views towards writing (sitting and watching what the character does).

Finally in The Locked Room, the title suggests that the story is referencing the locked room mystery archetype. It tells the story of a writer that doesn’t have the creativity to produce any fiction. When a childhood friend disappears, he has been hired to write his works and determine if they should be published. While one this job he finds himself taking the place of his friend and becoming husband and father to his family. This final story looks at the relationship between character and reader and asks us to consider if we are under the control of the author or do we interpret what is happening for ourselves.

It is interesting that a novel like The New York Trilogy can leave you perplexed and confused but when you try to articulate what happened and slowly dissect the novel into its three parts it all makes sense. I’m often surprised with how much I get out of a post-modern novel, especially since I often freak out and feel like I have not understood it. Then it all makes sense and I often wonder how I did not pick up on this while reading or after reading the novel. I hope I’ve made enough sense out of The New York Trilogy, a bizarre novel that requires very close attention but I’ve conquered it and I feel proud.