Paul Auster Biography
(1947– ), The New York Trilogy, City of Glass, Ghosts, The Locked Room
American novelist, born in Newark, New Jersey, educated at Columbia University. His The New York Trilogy (1987) was widely praised for its post-modernist deconstruction of fictional modes—in particular, that of the detective story—and for its lyrical and allusive style. The first novel in the series, City of Glass (1985), uses the detective story form to explore themes of identity and the relationship between words and meaning. The protagonist is a writer, Daniel Quinn, who, through a case of mistaken identity, becomes involved in a search for a missing person, who may or may not be about to commit a murder. Ghosts (1986) is a Borgesian fable involving two private eyes, each hired, unknown to himself, to watch the other. The final part of the trilogy, The Locked Room (1987), involves another writer-as-private-eye engaged by the wife of his best friend to track down her missing husband. New York, or a version of it, is also the background for the apocalyptic fantasy In the Country of Last Things (1987), in which the narrator, Anna Blume, searches for her lost brother in an urban landscape which disintegrates around her. Moon Palace (1989) is another fusion of modernist experimentalism with American myth, in which the narrator, Marco Stanley Fogg, searches for the truth about his own past. The Music of Chance (1990) broke free of the urban setting with a peripatetic novel in which the protagonist, a professional card-player, spends his life travelling across America. Leviathan (1992), another experimental work, was followed by Mr Vertigo (1994), which is set in the 1920s and concerns the significantly named Walter Rawley, a boy from a small Midwestern town, who joins a travelling fair and learns to fly. In this, as in his previous fictions, Auster blends magic realism with actuality, never allowing the reader to forget that his main subject is the process of writing itself. Among his other works, which include translations from the French and several volumes of poems, are The Invention of Solitude (1982), a meditation on death focusing around the writer's memories of his late father and his relationship with his young son, and Ground Work (1990), a collection of poems and essays, which deals with many of the themes considered in his fiction.