City of Glass by Paul Auster Volume one of the New York trilogyPenguin 203 pages
This book came to my attention when Jonas the vocalist of one of my favorite bands Katatonia referred to this book as one of his biggest lyrical influences. As a huge Katatonia fans my partner Cari and I were both interested in this novel. I found out after I started reading it that many of my friends whose opinions I trust were huge fans of this bizarro detective tale.
The most common explanations of this involve the Hollywood habit of saying it combines Kafka style surreal story telling with a classic Detective novel vibe. I almost said structure but this novel doesn’t really follow a standard three act structure.
It is the tale of an author of detective stories named Quinn who receives a late night phone call asking him to investigate a case. The caller calls him by the author’s name and the mystery becomes not only the case but how the story unfolds and the power of language to do so. There are moments of humor and the world depicted is always many shades of weird.
Much of the mystery is told through a lens of un-reality. This is one of the strongest elements f the novel and the exploration of words and there use could have easily derailed a novel in the hands of a less skilled author that could roadblock a narrative. Here it fits in perfectly to the mystery and the feeling of the novel as whole.
I hate to judge a novel against a zealous publisher’s description but I didn’t agree with the description of the novel having “Hitchcock like-suspense.” If Auster’s debut novel had one weakness to me I didn’t feel a hint of Suspense when I read about Quinn navigating the case. It is hard to build emotional connection and suspense in a un-real world, but it is possible and been done before.
Over all I think this is a powerful and well written nothing that transcends genre. Check it out.Katatonia song influenced by City of Glass...