Monday, January 12, 2009

The Brooklyn Follies

I have had the excellent fortune to have read several great books in a row - lucky me! I chose The Brooklyn Follies by Paul Auster having only read his phenomenal New York Trilogy years ago. I had subsequently seen him do a reading at my old bookstore, remembered being very impressed, and picked up this enjoyable novel over the holidays.

The tone of this book is drastically different from that of New York Trilogy. It is lighthearted and funny, rather than Auster's more typical intellectual and dark style. The protagonist is 59-year-old Nathan Glass, a divorced, retired lung cancer survivor who moves to Brooklyn in search of a quiet place to live out the rest of his days. To fill his time, Nathan decides to compile "The Book of Human Folly", a record of every funny anecdote that he can recall. Due to a series of crazy, random happenstances, however, Nathan's days in Brooklyn are far from lazy.

At the used book store he frequents, Nathan is first reunited with his nephew Tom, who's also struggling to find purpose in his life. Nathan and Tom quickly reestablish their bond, becoming great friends who share a love of literature. Enter 9-year-old Lucy, the intentionally mute daughter of Tom's sister Aurora, arriving on a bus from "Carolina Carolina" with neither money nor information of her missing mother. The three of them set off on a road trip to Vermont, which is derailed when their car breaks down, setting in motion yet another round of coincidences.

While The Brooklyn Follies is not going down in the annals of contemporary literature masterpieces, it is an exceedingly fun book to read. Auster's word selection, his use of dialogue, and his deeply crafted cast of characters make every page a pleasure to read. The plot is fast-paced and entertaining. Auster is insightful and poignant in his observations, which evoke a range of emotions from tenderness to hilarity. I'd highly recommend it to just about anyone.

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