Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Creepy is slowly being erased thanks to a funny talking kid.

I just finished The City of Glass, the first novella from The New York Trilogy. This being my first Auster, I wasn't sure what to expect. My first impression is however: UH CREEPY.

That being said, I really liked it. The absurdity of the whole thing is really fun, but somehow seriously VERY CREEPY. It's not so much sinister as it is simply uncomfortable, like something is a little off in this world, a little tilted, a little off-center. The ending gave me chills.

I feel like you can write essays upon essays on this, so I'll keep my own observations as brief as possible.

I was interested by the whole metafiction thing - you pretty much don't realize until chapter 11, I believe, that this isn't a story being told in a third person close to Quinn. I must say, that until that point, I kept thinking the story was being told in first person, and was surprised everytime a sentence began again with "Quinn thought..." or "Quinn went..." Of course, after chapter 11, you realize there's a sort of anonymous first person narrator at bay (bringing into question the POV and validity of the first 10 chapters), and it's only at the very very end, that you get an actual "I" and thus a close first person. Beyond that though, the whole Auster dialogue about Don Quixote. Clearly setting up for the "well, it's people within the story writing it, thus this isn't really fiction, we're telling facts here and going to lengths to show how true it is" and then turning it on its head by doing the same to City of Glass. I'm babbling here (it is 2 am), so I hope you know what I'm talking about. And Quinn himself hits it on the head in the end, when he wonders why Don Quixote couldn't have been content to just write about the characters, but he had to go out and do those things. Which, of course, is exactly what Quinn himself does.

The question of identity is interesting too. The way Quinn becomes erased over time, with nothing to ground him, and his hold on reality slips away. The guy starts out with a transient identity, but if you look at the structure of the aforementioned POV itself, the story begins strongly with what seems like Quinn's POV (even if it is third), and overtime, he loses that authority and gives it up to some nameless dude. He gives up his name, his identities, assuming various identities, and slowly erasing his own, and yet he completely succumbs to it, because he basically has nothing - not a family, not a job (even his work is under someone else's name), nothing. Everything is pretty much interchangable - he can imagine himself with Auster's family, he can pretend a different life, he can be replaced by a new detective, and he's this street bum no one even notices. He never seems to figure out who he is, what his purpose is, and instead focuses on chance, fate, coincidence, letting events unfold around him, and becoming consumed by what he believes must occur to him. Even his actions of "being on the case" are completely passive. Instead of coming to an active conclusion about his existence and seizing the reins on his life, he lets everything happen around him.

I feel like I should have something to say about language, with the Tower of Babel and creepy locked up kid language and all the writing that occurs and the whole egg thing and all that. But none of that really fascinated me nearly as much as the identity and metafiction stuff. I did have thoughts about it, but now it's kind of been erased. And to tell you the truth, the two Peter Stillman's (esp the younger one) give me total shivers. They're so eerie and creepy in their blank absurdity.

But okay. I really really liked that. But I am really quite creeped out right now. Ummmm.. . time to sleep? With the lights on?

3 drops:

Chainz said...

You are right, that novella was a little creepy and weird. I think I need to read them again to appreciate the metafiction aspect though.

moonrat said...

auster's going to be a celebrated guest at brooklyn book fair, you know...

angelle said...

i know! hooray! do you think he'd like it if i told him his novella was super creepy????

and i'm going to drop by his reading next week too.

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