The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster

The New York Trilogy by Paul AusterThis has always been one of those cool books ever since it was published back in the 1980s. It is made up of three stories City of Glass, Ghosts and The Locked Room which had been published separately and then were combined to make this famous volume.

“Ostensibly presented as detective fiction, the stories of The New York Trilogy have been described as “meta-detective-fiction”, “anti-detective fiction”, “mysteries about mysteries”, a “strangely humorous working of the detective novel”, “very soft-boiled”, a “metamystery” and a “mixture between the detective story and the nouveau roman”. This may classify Auster as a postmodern writer whose works are influenced by the “classical literary movement” of American postmodernism through the 1960s and 70s. There is, however, “a certain coherence in the narrative discourse, a neo-realistic approach and a show of responsibility for social and moral aspects going beyond mere metafictional and subversive elements“, which distinguish him from a “traditional” postmodern writer. The New York Trilogy is a particular form of postmodern detective fiction which still uses well-known elements of the detective novel (the classical and hardboiled varieties, for example) but also creates a new form that links “the traditional features of the genre with the experimental, metafictional and ironic features of postmodernism.”

I don’t remember enjoying it when I first read it many years ago, but, whatever about its cool credentials and its importance as a development from post-modern fiction – what has been termed “neo-realism”, i.e. eschewing the more unrealistic and maddening aspects of post-modern literature – it’s still a good read. A good introduction to what literary fiction has been doing in the last 50 years. Not just navel-gazing.

Mr A


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