Amazon Summary: New York was a labyrinth of endless steps, and no matter how far he walked, it always left him with the feeling of being lost. Each time he took a walk, he felt he was leaving himself behind. All places became equal, and on his best walks, he was able to feel that he was nowhere. This was all he ever asked of things: to be nowhere.
My Thoughts: City of Glass by Paul Auster is another book I read because of the monthly book club meetings I am attending. I never read anything by Paul Auster before but I can honestly say that I really enjoyed it. I actually read it in just one afternoon. It is a short story and belongs to the New York Trilogy but even though I read only the first one, it was compelling and I couldn‘t stop reading until the last page. The story of of the book is about a writer who becomes a detective by accident and tries to protect his client from his father. He analyses the situation and the life of the client’s father. Since the novels he is writing, he knows a lot about the work of a detective and he uses this knowledge for his investigations.
What I enjoyed most about the novel is the language. Paul Auster has a way of describing everything in detail choosing exactly the right words which makes it a pleasure to read. It feels as if he has chosen every word carefully while writing the story. Everything seems to be well researched and analysed.
The story itself is not that compelling. It is more the way how Paul Auster plays with language and names and the way he makes the characters of the story think. Reading this book makes you think about things you‘ve never thought before. One great example is when he talks about the natural language of the human being. I have never thought about what would be the language of a child that has absolutely no contact to other human beings at all. Is there a sort of inherited language we all have in ourselves when we are born or is it just our surroundings that influence this? It shocked me to read that there have actually been testings with children in earlier days to find out about this issue.
Another interesting topic in the book is language and words itself: “What happens when a thing no longer performs its function? Is it still the thing or has it become something else?” Questions like that make the reader think about facts that were apparently obvious to the reader before but cannot be taken for granted anymore.
The playing with words within the novel made me think about how much of the real Paul Auster is in the story and in the characters. People in the story pretend to be someone else and one character is even called Paul Auster and is a writer himself. I asked myself if some parts of the story are talking about Paul Auster‘s real life and if he sees himself the way he describes the Paul Auster of the story. The main character itself uses several different names for himself: He obviously has a real name, then there are two different author names he is using for his publishings and on top of that, he starts to adopt the identity of the Paul Auster of the story. As you can see, the names play a quite important role in the story and I wouldn‘t be surprised if a certain amount of information came from the author’s life itself.
There are also certain things that I think are quite farfetched. Some conclusions the main character, Quinn, draws are unrealistic and I do not think that anybody else would come up with these conclusions. This might has to do with the fact that Quinn is developing kind of crazy characteristics. He does not seem to be thinking clearly in the end. My interpretation of this is that Quinn is still suffering from the death of his wife and son which are mentioned right in the beginning of the story. He lives by himself and is not involved with anybody else. He only minds his own business and that is exactly the way he starts to investigate and analyse the case he is working on.
In the end, the books leaves lots of questions open. Many things have not been explained and open for the reader‘s interpretation. Considering that City of Glass is the first part of a trilogy, these questions might still be answered by the two following stories. This first story definitely made me curious for the other two which I am planning to read as well.
Overall, it is a well written story with fantastic use of language. Even though the main story is not too important, in my opinion, the novel offers you to learn a lot about the main character and to start thinking in different, perhaps more abstract, ways. I can highly recommend the book and think that it was a fantastic choice for the book club since it offers so many interesting points to talk about.
My Rating: ★★★★
More books by Paul Auster can be found on his website.