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Wednesday, November 17, 2010


In the mid 80's Paul Auster wrote three novels that have come to be known as The New York Trilogy: City of Glass, Ghosts, and The Locked Room. Each book is a destruction of the detective genre, one where a mystery and a detective are proposed, but the mystery only thickens and mutates rather than unravels. In a way, they are anti-mysteries.

In his great introduction (I usually hate intros), Luc Sante points to how the books are about a part of New York City that has always been there but that we rarely notice; the passed over graffiti, the symmetry, the doubleness, the "surface flimsiness."

This is a novel of neutrinos, those strange, sub-subatomic particles that move through matter as if it's nothing, that are right now moving through our bodies, that move through these books in the most haunting of ways. They carry no electric charge. They do not gather or orbit. They just stream.

What they touch, how they touch, if they touch is all unknown.

As with these books. Does Peter Stillman walk the streets of Manhattan so that his wanderings will spell out "Tower of Babel"? Or does the character of Quinn just project this belief of his? What is the role, if any, of coincidence? of the higher order notion of "randomness"?

Again and again we are faced with the flatness of facts. Are the facts all there is? Or is there a story that unites them? If so, is it a discovered story or an invented one? If an invented one, then it is just one of many ways of dealing with the facts: there is no solution, not even close, to the mystery and, as we move through each book, mysteries, plural, as they multiply.

This is a New York riddled with possibility, haunted by the random, more than able to carry within itself contradiction after contradiction after contradiction. It is, paradoxically, a wilderness.

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