Here, have a really ugly tiny picture:
Very strange books. Don't get me wrong, I liked them quite a bit, but still. Very strange.
In theory, all three are detective novels, but in actuality they're completely unlike detective novels. Their much more on the psychological/introspective side-- although they're also not what I would think of as a psychological mystery.
I was actually surprised in the end by how much I liked these books, given that they do something that I usually can't stand: the endings of each book are very ambiguous. Unlike the detective genre as a whole, large amounts of loose ends never get tied up. Normally, that annoys me, especially since I always end up feeling like I'm stupidly missing something important that would explain everything. -.-
And there's an awful lot in this trilogy that never gets explained in the slightest. The ending of Ghosts is purposefully obscure. And as for the other two books, there are simply things that seem to happen without any explanation-- for instance, at the end of the first book, the protagonist collapses in a vacant apartment. When he wakes up, someone has brought him food. This goes on, apparently for some period of time, without there ever being any explanation of who is doing this or why. It's all very postmodern.
Like I said, normally this would drive me insane. The reason why it didn't in this case is partially because it was fairly early on in City of Glass that I realized that these weren't actually mysteries in any conventional sense, and therefore didn't expect a Typical Mystery Resolution (tm), but mostly because I really enjoyed Auster's prose. Auster writes about the strange psychological states of his characters with clarity and lucidity; he is skillful at drawing the reader (or, at least, me) into the mindset of his characters. (Which is fortunate, given that the books just wouldn't work at all if this weren't the case.) It's less frustrating when events don't make sense if you're seeing them through the eyes of the characters involved.
Of course, it also doesn't hurt that it's obvious that much of what happens isn't supposed to make sense. What frustrates me more than anything is when I get the impression that the author doesn't care whether or not something makes sense; that definitely wasn't the case here. I felt by the end like the central theme of the trilogy was about the breakdown of logic and causation.
For instance, the resolution of The Locked Room finds the narrator's childhood friend, Fanshawe, in, well, a locked room, determined to commit suicide and refusing the let the narrator in to see him. Why Fanshawe is suicidal is unclear; there are earlier mentions of the fact that he's always been unusual, of troubles with his sister, but it's hard to say for sure if those are meant to be taken as contributing factors or not. On the one hand, I wish that a more conclusive explanation had been given for his behavior. But at the same time, how often do you get such explanations in real life? Almost never. So I did think that Auster was talking about the unpredictable and impenetrable aspects of life.
Part of what makes the prose flow so smoothly-- and it is very smooth, in all three books-- is that each book is full of ideas but short in length; there aren't any dragging, unnecessary passages
All in all, I would recommend them, assuming you don't mind that they are quite... postmodern really is the only word I can think of.
Actually, the only thing that I really disliked (and I'll admit it's not fair, especially since it isn't Auster's fault anyway) is that the descriptions given on the flaps of all three books really bore little resemblance to the books themselves-- and, while I did like the actual books, tbh the ones described on the flaps still sound better to me. I'm going to just copy down the descriptions to show how awesome they are:
City of Glass:
Receiving a phone call from a stranger in the middle of the night, a writer of detective stories becomes embroiled in a case more puzzling and complex than any book he might have written. Who is Peter Stillman? And why is his father trying to kill him? Or is the father really someone else? And if so, who is the person about to be murdered? For Quinn, who goes out in search of the answers to these questions, the city becomes "an inexhaustible space, a labyrinth of endless steps," as ordinary clues lead to extraordinary coincidences in the universe and the simple act of trailing a man ends in a startling investigation of what it means to be human.
The fable that stands at the center of Paul Auster's New York Trilogy, Ghosts is a story of deception and hidden violence that loops back on itself like a Moebius strip. A private detective named Blue is hired to watch a man named Black, and little by little he is led into an intricate game of hide and seek that culminates in an inevitable but totally unexpected shattering of the case.
The Locked Room:
As with the previous novels, The Locked Room begins with a mystery, but this time it is told in the first person--- in a brilliant, searching prose that carries all of the urgency of someone trying to reconstruct a dream. What has happened to Fanshawe, and why has his wife suddenly called upon the narrator to decide the fate of his missing childhood friend? Bit by bit, the nameless hero is lured into Fanshawe's past, all the while struggling to keep himself free of its entanglements. But it is a losing battle, and as he undertakes the demands of an inescapable journey into the unknown, the narrator discovers the strange and terrible secret that is hidden behind the door of every locked room.
Like I said, I did like the actual trilogy. But it's not that good. Those nonexistent books described there really sound that good.
Goddammit, I want them to exist so that I can read them. D: D: D: