Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Brooklyn Follies


I love this book. It's one of the special ones. If you read my blog then you probably know that I'm a big fan of Paul Auster. He is my favourite American author though interestingly enough, he appeals more to Europeans.

Auster's novels are all told in the first person and most of them seem to have a similar main character. They're all intellectuals who love literature, classical music and classic films.They all struggle with the meaning of life, with past memories and how chance and coincidence play a pivotal role in our lives. It's not surprising that every time I read an Auster novel, I always imagine him as the main character. Maybe it's also because all his books carry his photo either on the back cover or on the 'about the author' page.  So reading one of his books always feels like revisiting an old friend.  I wrote more about Auster in my review of Invisible which you can find here .


It isn't so easy to write a synopsis of The Brooklyn Follies because there's no actual plot in this book. It's a book filled with a myriad of stories or episodes that happen to the main character. Nathan Glass is a dejected and recently divorced sixty-year-old man who moves to Brooklyn after undergoing cancer treatment. He doesn't know if he's going to live six more months or twenty more years so he decides to go back to the place where he was born and write a book about human follies. Very soon, he finds an odd assortment of friends in Brooklyn. Among them his long-lost nephew who is himself drifting and aimless and now working in a second hand bookstore. Together with his new found friends, Nathan embarks on a series of little adventures in Brooklyn and on a short road trip. He soon learns to live again and to take pleasure in the everyday things in life.

"What a pity that life ends, I tell myself, what a pity that we aren't allowed to go on living forever." (page 181)

I thought this was such a wonderful, wonderful book from start to finish. It had some sad parts but its still a happy novel at heart. A life-affirming book filled with beautiful passages and precious moments. Though it will be difficult to choose one favourite among all the Auster novels I've read, this is certainly one of them. It's brilliant and definitely a keeper.

18 comments:

  1. this sounds like a very good book-thank you for bringing this writer to our attention

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  2. I've been wanting to read this one for AGES. I read my first Auster last year and really enjoyed it, even if it did make my head hurt at times! ;) Glad you found it so rewarding... it does have one of those wonderful first sentences that really reel you in!

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  3. Great post on Auster! I love his work and enjoy how he creates these characters that struggle with trying to find their place in the world. Reading the New York Trilogy inspired me to take a Sociolinguistics class which I enjoyed immensely. I love it when authors write books that truly do inspire their readers and Auster is one of those authors. Cheers!

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  4. I've never read any Auster. What would you suggest I start with?

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  5. Mrs B, I am glad you loved this as much as I did. It was actually the first Auster I ever read and I loved every minute of it. Since then the only other Auster I have read is Man in the Dark, which I liked a lot, but is so different than Brooklyn Follies. I am going to have to keep my eye out for more Auster titles now that I know what a big fan you are.

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  6. I've never read any Auster before (can you imagine?!) but I have heard so many good things about him that I hope to give him a try soon. Thanks for such a beautiful review to motivate me!

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  7. Sounds very good - thanks for a splendid review. It sounds to me as though the central characters is quite autobiographical

    Great post thanks for sharing

    Hannah

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  8. Oooh I have this one. I shall move it up in my pile. I haven't read any of Paul Auster's books yet, but I keep picking them up when I see them.

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  9. @Nadia - How lovely to hear that Auster inspired you to take that class.

    @Brenna - I'd start with this one (mind you its different from his other books) or The New York Trilogy or Leviathan.

    @Thomas - I've been ignoring Auster for years after I was disappointed with a few of his books. That's why I avoided this one for so long. In my post of Invisible you mentioned you loved this so I knew I had to give it a go.

    @Aarti - Yes try him soon. I'd love to hear your thoughts on him.

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  10. I just saw New York Trilogy today and almost got it but wanted to wait and hear what you recommended. Thanks!

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  11. Auster is my favourite author too, and this is one of the few of his I haven't yet read. I've heard so many good things about this one, I shall have to read it very soon. Thanks for reminding me of it.

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  12. I have never read Auster, but I putting him on my list. What a lovely review!

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  13. I am new to your blog and it looks great! I love the kind of books you read! I really enjoyed reading your review of Paul Auster's book. I have not read a book by Paul Auster yet, but after reading your review and especially your description of the main characters - "They're all intellectuals who love literature, classical music and classic films.They all struggle with the meaning of life, with past memories and how chance and coincidence plays a pivotal role in our lives" - I really want to read his books now. Would you like to recommend, which one of Paul Auster's books one could read first?

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  14. @gaskella - How wonderful, I didn't know Auster was your favourite author!

    @Vishy - I recommend this one, The Brooklyn Follies or The New York Trilogy or Leviathan. Follies is very different thought from his other books.

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  15. Thanks for the recommendations, Mrs.B :) I will search for these three books, when I go to the bookstore next time. 'Leviathan' sounds like an interesting title :)

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  16. I have a hardback copy of this sitting on my shelves. Can you believe I picked it up on sale a few years ago at a uni bookshop? I think I got it for a grand $5! I've yet to read Auster though he's not short of glowing comments.

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  17. Hi, Mrs. B! So glad to find another Auster fan! I haven't read this one, but I've read his New York Trilogy and Illusions, and I loved both. I especially like his use of language and his multi-layered narratives.:)

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  18. Hi, just followed you over from the hop today. I have never read anything by Paul Auster but will change that soon! I'll probably start with The New York Trilogy... but I'm a little bit OBSESSED with NYC, lol, so anything about it always catches my eye! I'll have to check this one out!

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