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Literature / The New York Trilogy

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A compilation of three detective fiction novellas by Paul Auster. Well, that might be oversimplifying things a little bit. The New York Trilogy's three stories are postmodern Mind Screws based on the format of the standard detective novel and Film Noir, piling mysteries on mysteries and mystery of mystery itself.

City of Glass (1985)

The first novella, City of Glass, centres around author Daniel Quinn, who recieves a call in the middle of the night in his apartment, asking for the detective Paul Auster. He passes himself off as Auster and accepts the case of Peter Stillman, a damaged young man whose father locked him in a darkened room with no human contact for most of his life. As Quinn investigates the case, he loses his sense of identity as Daniel Quinn, and descends into madness. This story also includes another Paul Auster, who is a complete author avatar. This character is the one who relayed the information of the story to the unnamed 'author' referenced in the novella.


Tropes featured include:

  • As Herself: Paul Auster's second wife Siri Hustvedt, and his son Daniel, appear as themselves. The physical description of Virginia Stillman is quite close to that of Auster's first wife Lydia Davis when she was a young woman.
  • As the Good Book Says...: The book contains much discussion — and some quotation — of the Tower of Babel story.
  • Author Avatar: Paul Auster.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Quinn has no better explanation for how he ended up on the case than this.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: Quinn is an author.
  • Stranger in a Familiar Land: Quinn at the end of the book.
  • Tomato Surprise: Towards the end of the novella, the previously invisible narrator starts talking about themself in the first person, criticises the behaviour of the Paul Auster character, and wishes Quinn well, whatever became of him.
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  • Word-Salad Horror: Peter Stillman's monologue has elements of this

Ghosts (1986)

The private eye Blue, a pupil of Brown, investigates Black of Orange Street for White.

Tropes featured include:

  • Colorful Theme Naming: Everyone in the story is named after a color, except historical figures and (meta)fictional characters.
  • No Name Given: Blue's sweetheart is referred to only as "the future Mrs. Blue". Until she breaks up with him, when she becomes "the former future Mrs. Blue" or similar circumlocutions.
  • The Stakeout: Blue spends most of his time staking out Black's apartment.

The Locked Room (1986)

The narrator is contacted by the wife of his recently disappeared childhood friend Fanshawe, who wants him to deal with the writings that Fanshawe has left behind.

Tropes featured include:

  • The Ace: Fanshawe. He's a handsome and popular man who apparently can't tell a lie, he stands up for what's right when he punches out a racist while working as a merchant seaman, and he's a writer of genius.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Fanshawe's entire story including faking his own death and staying out of the way long enough for his wife to mourn his death, recover, fall in love with the narrator and marry him, and for the narrator to publish Fanshawe's unpublished work and for it to be acclaimed as masterpieces turns out to be about this. Unfortunately, he then writes the narrator a letter...
  • Most Writers Are Writers: The narrator is a critic; Fanshawe is an unpublished novelist and poet.
  • Shout-Out: Fanshawe is named after the debut novel of Nathaniel Hawthorne.