Sunset Park by Paul Auster
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I never knew who Paul Auster even was until I happened by one of the permanent exhibits at the Quebec City Art Museum almost 3 years ago. In particular, it was Jean-Paul Riopelle’s “Homage to Rosa Luxembourg”, a roomful of 30 paintings measuring a total of 40 meters, arranged tripartite, like a giant vertical brochure.
In that large room, besides a security guard, only one other thing stands out, on a far wall, where no painting is displayed. It’s a quote. In raised letters. Attributed to Paul Auster. I read it and noted how profoundly thoughtful this quote is, how well it suits the moods of the assembled work.
I wondered who this Paul Auster was, not remembering anything about him, in terms of Riopelle, Borduas, and other artists of the time around here. It was an American tourist in the room who educated me about Paul Auster, enough that I wanted to read something by him.
So I did: “The Brooklyn Follies”, “The New York Trilogy”, “Man in the Dark” and this was enough to make me want to read everything. I just finished “Sunset Park”. Again, I shouldn’t be reviewing this, as it’s too old to be reviewed, and only what just came out last month should be “reviewed”.
But so what.
Sunset Park has in it what piles of novels have in them: life’s transits, coming(s) of age, prodigal son, generation gap, memories, risks, journeys, various and sundry quotidian themes found in the microcosms of each character’s turbid psyche. But it’s not in the “what”. It’s in the “how” that Paul Auster shines as he exposes all of this. The prose is so new and fresh in its simplicity that it feels like the author is discovering the world of his novel at the same time as the reader is reading it.
The characters think in reflections and refractions, such that their subjective and objective realities not only intersect, but dance. We have loving and conflicted, jealous and brash, worried and stubborn, trusting and betrayed, estranged and complacent, complicit and perturbed, innocent and experienced, as if a choreography had been rehearsed and perfected alongside the idea behind the story.
Sunset Park is solid in substance and liberating in spirit.
It’s got the guy whose girlfriend is twelve years younger, and it’s got the fat guy who’s not sure if he’s gay, and it’s got the twice-married parents, and the step-parents to go with. It’s got the little kid whose brother dies and the survivor’s guilt to go with, but done up exquisitely, rather than predictably. It’s got the fat girl who’s hornier than her boyfriend, and the other girl who hooks up with the same guy twice, ten years apart.
It’s got soul.
It’s got happiness despite.
It's on the "to read again" list.
Well, I just started Patrick Lane’s Memoir “There is a Season” but another Paul Auster novel awaits: “The Music of Chance”.
Of all known institutions, I attend only two: church, in my heart, and school, in yours. Both are subject to demolition. - Lucie Adams, 2007
It is only for poetry to know how many stanzas fit into one caress. - Lucie Adams, 2008