Sally Franson vs. Paul Auster




Writing about a trilogy of super-weird-but-fascinating novellas wrapped up into one deeply intellectual and metatextual book is not easy, let me tell you. But now that I’ve been crowned runner-up (I’M NUMBER TWO!) Ultimate Master of Words by the Loft, I’m literally and literarily unstoppable. BOOM CHAKA LACKA. Hear that? That’s my genius.

Which is why I’ve decided to tackle Paul Auster’s The New York Trilogy this month, which was first published as a set in 1990. Never heard of Paul Auster? Don’t worry. It’s because he got super famous in the ’80s with awesome books like The Invention of Solitude and The Music of Chance and then basically started farting out bad novels that seemed like they were written by a wannabe Paul Auster, which is confusing, because he often uses his real names in books, and once during a period of great personal anxiety I actually wondered to myself: “Wait, how many Paul Austers are there?” For the purposes of my sanity/this review I’m going to assume there’s one. And this one, incidentally, has a new memoir out called Winter Journal (it’s about growing old) and, surprisingly, it’s pretty good.

But none of this is actually a review of The New York Trilogy. To do that I’m going to have to dig deeper into my bag of tricks. (Oh, and it’s deep, baby. It’s deep.) First of all I should tell you that you should not believe the various book covers that make it look like TNYT is a Raymond Chandler-esque detective novel. Because it’s not. Maybe it uses some of the same tropes (a call in the night from a mysterious stranger, for one), but the mysteries that Auster is interested in exploring are internal, not external. In other words: Philosophy! Language! Selfhood! Feeeeeelings! I’m not speaking from personal experience or anything, but this is not the kind of book that you want to semi-drunkenly read while sunning yourself on Lake Calhoun.

However, that being said, it’s a damn good book. Or wait, correction: it’s two thirds of a damn good book. Books one and three, City of Glass and The Locked Room are brilliant. Book two, Ghosts, in which the characters are named after colors because Auster couldn’t possibly be bothered with such quotidian details, made me actually stop reading TNYT for a couple of weeks because I suddenly wanted to punch all similarly pretentious people in the face, and that much punching takes a long time. Why are the other two so brilliant? It’s hard to put my finger on it. So instead I’ve put ten fingers on it and made you three fancy hand-drawn charts:


In conclusion, although you can see that none of the three novellas beat Say Yes to the Dress in sheer plot awesomeness (“which dress is Kristy going to choose OMIGOD!”), both City of Glass and The Locked Room are strong in every scenario. And when I say beautiful language, I’m not kidding. This shit is incredible. I’m stealing a sentence or fifty for my own manuscript (j/k not fifty haha plagiarism is funny!). So you should read it, all of it, even though Ghosts is the worst by like a bajillion percent. And then you should read The Invention of Solitude, especially if you have daddy issues. And then maybe The Music of Chance. And then maybe my Pinterest page if you want some of your own detective gear. And then maybe my Twitter feed (@sallyjf) or website ( so we can be horrible and self-promotional together! THE END.



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