Monday, April 21, 2008

"Nothing less than truly scintillating...satisfying, even electrifying"

So reads an exceedingly vapid blurb on the cover of The New York Trilogy, by Paul Auster, a collection of three previous novels, City of Glass (1985), Ghosts (1986), and The Locked Room (1986). Although these novels were originally published separately, they constitute a thematic unity and belong together -- whether or not they constitute a diegetic unity in addition seems to me a question for the reader.

(Diegetic is a word which refers to things within the universe of a story, as opposed to narrative commentary from without. Do the three books occur in the same physical universe with shared characters, etc.? It's questionable)

I reread this work recently on the recommendation of Marina. Simply put, I was blown away. Literally. Just kidding: only figuratively. I had read it years before, but I guess it hadn't made too great an impression. Not since Lolita has any book changed so greatly in my estimation upon rereading.

It's an incredibly stimulating book, the kind that launches a thousand conversations. There's so much theoretical ground one could cover in talking about it that I feel hopelessly burdened in trying to compass it within the space of a blog-entry. Instead, I think I'm just going to copy out a long quote from the end of the first book, City of Glass, about a private investigator originally hired to investigate an eccentric who imprisoned his child in darkness as an experiment in natural language:
This period of growing darkness coincided with the dwindling of pages in the red notebook. Little by little, Quinn was coming to the end. At a certain point, he realized that the more he wrote, the sooner the time would come when he could no longer write anything. He began to weigh his words with great care, struggling to express himself as economically and clearly as possible. He regretted having wasted so many pages at the beginning of the red notebook, and in fact felt sorry that he had bothered to write about the Stillman case at all. For the case was far behind him now, and he no longer bothered to think about it. It had been a bridge to another place in his life, and now that he had crossed it, its meaning had been lost. Quinn no longer had any interest in himself. He wrote about the stars, the earth, his hopes for mankind. He felt that his words had been severed from him, that now they were a part of the world at large, as real and specific as a stone, or a lake, or a flower. They no longer had anything to do with him. He remembered the moment of his birth and how he had been pulled gently from his mother's womb. He remembered the infinite kindnesses of the world and all the people he had ever loved. Nothing mattered now but the beauty of all this. He wanted to go on writing about it, and it pained him to know that this would not be possible. Nevertheless, he tried to face the end of the red notebook with courage. He wondered if he had it in him to write without a pen, if he could learn to speak instead, filling the darkness with his voice, speaking the words into the air, into the walls, into the city, even if the light never came back again.

The last sentence of the red notebook reads: 'What will happen when there are no more pages in the red notebook?"

No comments:

Post a Comment