Tag Archives: Paul Auster

Review: Sunset Park

Sunset Park
Sunset Park
By Paul Auster
(Picador, Paperback, 9780312610678, 320pp.)

The Short of It:

Mesmerizing prose with angst at its core. Auster’s skill as a writer somehow conveys all of the insecurities we feel as adults and reminds us that we are vulnerable, fragile individuals.

The Rest of It:

Miles Heller is twenty-eight-years-old and educated,  but can’t seem to find the motivation to do anything. Just a few credits shy of getting his degree, he’d rather take odd jobs and ponder life and love than become a productive member of society.

After floundering around for what seems like quite a long time, Miles falls in love with Pilar. Pilar is not yet eighteen which makes her a dangerous obsession. Especially in the eyes of her family, who see the relationship as doomed from day one. After a run-in with Pilar’s sister, Miles escapes to Brooklyn, thinking it would be good to wait until Pilar hits legal age. Then, and only then, will he ask her to marry him.

In Brooklyn, he joins a group of young squatters who are holed up in an abandoned building in an area known as Sunset Park. Living rent-free, they go about their lives, knowing that at any moment, they could be forcibly removed. The precarious nature of their living arrangement is a constant reminder that the future is always moving forward and change is just around the corner.

Set during the 2008 economic collapse, this is a story of love, loss and regret and what it means to be a part of something; be it big or small. The story is mainly character-driven, no huge plot points to speak of, but after just a few pages, I found that I liked Miles quite a bit. He is technically, a good guy. A bit confused and struggling to find himself, but essentially good. Although my life experiences differ from his, I found that I could easily relate to what he was feeling at any given point. I attribute that to Auster’s writing style.

That said, I was completely taken aback by the ending. The ending was appropriate, but it was sudden. There I was, hanging on Auster’s every word, and then poof, the novel ended. What occurred to me later is that although the novel ended, the story continued. Those characters are left to continue on with their lives and as a reader, all I could do was wish them well.

I’ve read one other Auster book, Invisible and I recall a similar feeling with that one, but I liked it very much and I can say the same for this one. Sunset Park wasn’t at all what I expected it to be, but it was well worth the read and to be honest, it’s nice to be surprised once in a while.

Source: Sent to me by the publisher
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: Invisible

Invisible Book Cover

Invisible
By Paul Auster
Picador
June 2010
320pp

The Short of It:

Thoughtfully structured, Invisible is just the kind of brain candy that a true reader craves.

The Rest of It:

The story itself is simple. Adam Walker is dying. Before doing so, he decides to share his life story with an acquaintance from his years at Columbia. Jim, who has agreed to read the story and provide feedback where needed, is given the story in parts.

The first part is innocent enough. It’s where Adam meets Rudolf Barn and Rudolf’s mysterious girlfriend, Margot. The couple takes an immediate liking to Adam. The relationship is complicated in that Rudolf has offered Adam a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity…to start-up a magazine. This is an offer that Adam cannot refuse, but wait… there is an attraction to Margot. That’s where it gets complicated.

As Adam’s story is delivered in parts, Jim is not sure what to think. The story centers around a violent act, incest and these rather eccentric characters. What at first appears to be Adam’s life story, sort of morphs into what Jim thinks might be fiction or fantasy, but he can’t be sure, so he does a bit of his own research to find out.

Invisible is complicated in structure…there are multiple narrators, passages told in flashbacks, etc. However, it’s not a difficult read. In fact, it’s quite short for a novel and goes quite quickly, but there’s something about it that piques the senses. Auster’s use of language is admirable, but his ability to keep you slightly on the edge of your seat is what I enjoyed the most. This is not a mystery or thriller by any means but when he touches on incest I was like, “What? Did he just go there?” Yes, he goes there and gives you just enough to be utterly creeped out and disturbed and then pulls back to allow you a moment of reprieve.

It’s that delicate use of tension that pulls you in. I found myself hanging on every word. At times, it reminded me of The Talented Mr. Ripley. There’s the larger than life Born, the sexual tension, the lure of adventure. It’s packed with ambiguity, yet when you finish the novel, you somehow know how things turn out. When I finished it, I immediately wanted to read it again. Not because things were not clear, but because it’s just that kind of novel. It’s multi-layered and complex but in the best possible way.

You should know that there are some sex scenes that could be considered graphic. However, it’s the incest that will most likely disturb you the most, if you happen to be sensitive to that sort of thing. I am usually not, but there was one point where I remember squirming a bit in my seat. That said, I quickly got over it and felt that Auster’s handling of that particular scene was quite well done. If you enjoy sophisticated fiction and complex structure, you will definitely enjoy Invisible. It is one of my favorites for 2010.

My book club meets in September to discuss this book, but I won’t be able to attend due to back-to-school night. I think it is going to be a lively discussion as there is a lot to discuss.

If you’d like to know more about the book or the author, check out this BookBrowse review of Invisible. It includes an interview with Paul Auster from Granta magazine, which I found fascinating. I received Auster’s new book Sunset Park (Nov 2010)  a couple of weeks ago and can’t wait to read it.

Source: Purchased for Duckie (my Kindle).