City of Glass (The New York Trilogy, #1) by Paul Auster
Paul Auster’s City of Glass, written in 1981/2 and first published in the United States in 1985, appeared in the UK as the initial volume in The New York Trilogy (1987). One of the great masterpieces of contemporary American fiction, it has been translated into more than 40 languages and has never been out of print in the past three decades. The novel sets out in the guise of a mystery thriller in the noir detective genre, before ultimately revealing itself to be concerned primarily with the life-or-death psychological struggle of its main protagonist, Quinn. It sets up many of the long-running themes of Auster’s literary career: language, identity, coincidence and choice. The idea for the story has its origins in real-life: Auster once received two unexplained phone calls from someone asking for the Pinkerton Detective Agency, and to this day, says that he regrets not having tried to help the stranger on the phone. Through Quinn and City of Glass he allows himself to imagine an alternative world in which the phone rang for a third time, and the course of his life was altered.
City of Glass is considered to be Auster’s first novel
Fanshawe is the person defining the narrator's identity, as "He is... where everything begins for me, ...without him I would hardly know who I am", and he is "the one who shared my thoughts". The immediate similarities between the men are stressed with them being very close in appearance and age, and both being writers. Indeed, Fanshawe was "a ghost I carried around inside me", when the two are separated. The importance of Fanshawe's cache is great, as it is something hidden from Sophie until his disappearance, and is 'the locked room', the secret and protected side of his identity. The two suitcases containing the notebooks "Together,...were as heavy as a man." That his work is the only trace left of him means that the narrator equates destroying "Fanshawe's work and killing him with my own hands." Indeed, Fanshawe's work is very close to Auster's, the bulk of it being three novels, including 'Neverland' and 'Blackouts'. The former refers to the paradoxical home of Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up, while a fantastical city of glass is the home of the child-like Peter Stillman. The latter is the name of the play from which 'Ghosts' metamorphosed.
City of Glass is a perfect example postmodern fiction work. Fredrick Jameson posits that the aspect of representation in works of literature, film and poetry is the distinguishing element of the postmodernism. The postmodernism ideology is well portrayed in Paul Auster’s mystery novel, City of Glass. This novel portrayed some significant idealistic aspects of postmodernism such as reality and identity, which I will discuss in more details on my paper.
In addition, in the City of Glass, Auster explores various themes such as ambiguity, confusion and paranoia. He uses techniques of detective form to discuss the question of identity. The novel has a story about Quinn, the protagonist, Peter Still man senior and junior, Auster all of who have varied and doubtful identities. Auster succeeds in weaving the postmodernism themes together to explain his ideas in City of Glass.
The book also depicts the modern world as full of confusion, discontinuity and disorder in line with the modern philosophy and science (Malmgren, 24). The novel particularly explores the concept of truth and depicts New York in a very elaborate way. The characters in the novel are confused about their identities, which drive some of them to madness. Quinn for instance, becomes so confused and is unable to retain his initial identity after he gets absorbed in investigating Stillman. The junior Stillman is also confused that about his identity and believes he can change his name at will depending on his emotions. The themes in the novel go in tandem the issues of differences, truth textuality, plurality, skepticism as well as playfulness with the language that most postmodernism theorists proposed as the signs of the era. Furthermore, Auster uses metafiction or “self-conscious narrator”, which is one of postmodernism features in his novel. For instance, when the narrator tells the readers that he meets the writer. Other metafication aspects will be discussed on my paper.
City of glass paul auster essay topics
Pace, Chris, "Escaping from the Locked Room: Overthrowing the Tyranny of Artifice in Paul Auster's New York Trilogy", 'Chris Pace's thesis' web site, , (March 15, 1999)
City of Glass Quotes by Paul Auster - Goodreads
Vivienne Acheampong, Mark Edel-Hunt, Chris New and Jack Tarlton will star in the first stage adaptation of Paul Auster’s City of Glass, a brand new production by Tony Award-winning 59 Productions in a co-production with us here at HOME and the Lyric Hammersmith.
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A provocative experimental novelist whose work represents an amalgam of several genres, Paul Auster is best known for his New York Trilogy, which consists of City of Glass (1985), Ghosts (1986), and The Locked Room (1986). In these novels and others he combines elements of hard-boiled detective fiction, film noir, dystopian fantasy, and postmodern narratives to address the nature of knowledge, human redemption, and the function of language. His ambitious work is distinguished for challenging the limits of the novel form and tackling difficult philosophical concepts.