July 10, 2012 § Leave a comment
“Stories only happen to those who are able to tell them.”
Some books transcend beyond the obvious, play with your little grey cells, fascinate and leave you in a world unlike anything you know. Such books become a journey at the end of which one is left to ponder upon the ironies and foibles of life .
Metaphysical Detective stories are where instead of arriving at a solution for the case, the protagonist loses himself in the mysteries, questions his existence and the world around him and emerges as a completely transformed person. The stories tend to suck one in, the metamorphosis slowly but surely spreading to the reader as they progress.
The New York trilogy is a master piece. It leaves you enthralled not just by its simplicity but a profound beauty in both style and essence. The protagonists of the three stories are tormented due to their own stubbornness and become part of mysteries reluctantly. Daniel Quinn chases shadow and camps outside a window, waiting. Blue tails White with dedication and determination which seems to lead nowhere. Fanshawe’s friend is left with a tormenting legacy which he admires.
City Of Glass:-
“It was a wrong number that started it.”
A detective writer receives calls asking for a certain “detective Paul Auster”. While at first he tries to ignore the calls, he is over come by curiosity and decides to play along. He assumes the personality of the detective and visits his client Peter Stillman who narrates a tale of his dark childhood. Quinn dons the role of a private eye and is soon consumed by his mission- keeping track of Peter Stillman the elder to ensure he does not attempt to kill his son.
The author brings to life the streets of New York in this book. As Quinn follows his suspect, his form and person give in to a routine unlike any other. The case starts to define his life and as it wears on leads to disintegration. The already sketchy existence of Quinn, who writes novels under a pseudonym soon reaches the margins of the society. In his attempt to define his new personality, he sheds everything that was him and finds the place he occupied before filled by other things and people. It leaves you with a strange kind of silence, a place where one questions one’s sanity.
Blue accepts to watch Black for White. He is given an apartment opposite White’s, money to meet expenses and a comfortable remuneration. Blue watches Black day and night, trails him, follows him compulsively. He changes his routine to match that of Black. He sends in his reports duly,distances himself from his lover and people he knew and dedicates himself to the job at hand.
Yet as time passes, doubts creep in and not only is he driven to find out more about Black, he begins to doubt White’s motive and identity. Blue decides to get to the bottom of the case only to find the reality nothing like what he imagined. Was it worth his time and the love he gave up? He tries to reconcile his life to find a fleeing meaning in it.
The Locked Room
When Fanshawe’s friend steps into Fanshawe’s life, he does it completely- he marries his wife, adopts his son and publishes his work. That’s what his friend wanted, he is assured. The books become a success and he leads a comfortable life albeit still clueless to Fanshawe’s sudden disappearance, till one day he receives a letter from Fanshawe, thanking him for his efforts.
This leads the friend to go in search for him. He also decides to write about Fanshawe and is slowly and surely driven insane. The search turns out to be futile till one day he ends up at a locked room. In his quest to find his friend and write about him, the friend loses everything he has and finds himself in a hard place.
“It seems to me that I will always be happy in the place where I am not.”
The stories and the characters are interwoven. The narrative is about men who lose their identity to the task at hand. At first merely inquisitive, the mysteries capture their identities, twisting and turning, redefining the position and personalities.
The protagonists are manipulated by the people and their surroundings, pulled into unknown territory. Jobs that look quite comfortable and outright lead to positions unlike any other. The madness that possesses their subjects spreads out bit by bit to catches their own shadows; Albeit sensing it at some level, they give in.
Writing is something which is very much part of the books. There is always someone who is writing in the three stories. While there is little about what they write, the stories are about the impact the writing has on the world, its critics and the authors. While writing is healing is a common enough notion, the book deals with the influence it has on a person beyond the healing effect. One finds what goes into the book, the emotions attached to the act itself, the mind behind it and the creative.
Auster’s magic lies in translating the deeper need for definitions and belonging in society into real characters. One can see those magical moments of change touching them and transforming their lives. One can hear a silence as the beauty(in a sad sort of way) overtakes their earlier self. As Quinn walks through the streets of New York or waits in the streets for a face to appear at the window, as Blue trails Black in deep concentration and expectation, as Fanshawe’s friend searches for him, thinking about him always, reading his works, living with his wife, they evolve step by step. They come close to becoming real in the reader’s head even as their existence in fiction becomes wraith-like at times. One understands their madness and can feel it lingering in deep recess waiting to manifest.
The trilogy is a must read if you like detective fiction. Auster’s work has the thrill and suspense a detective fiction possesses. It is also about writers ad their pointed need to merge the identities of fiction and reality to paint a world of their own. While the concrete mysteries are sure, the abstracts leave much to solve. One can feel their madness- much like staring at the computer screen for too long, lurking somewhere inside.