I bought this Penguin edition in the mid-1980s at Louie's Bookstore Cafe on Charles Street in Baltimore. The paperback combined Paul Auster's three surreal detective stories about New York. I have not read all of his subsequent novels, but these spoke to me. For some reason, ever since I was a child, I have enjoyed stories about mysterious disappearances. I also enjoy literary twists on genre fiction (mysteries, science fiction, fantasies). I remember the jacket copy for "Ghosts" was particularly intriguing: "Blue, a student of Brown, has been hired by White to spy on Black. From a window of a rented room on Orange Street, Blue keeps watch on his subject, who is across the street, staring out of his window." But a passage in the third book, "The Locked Room," probably sums up how I feel about Auster's work. The narrator finds a notebook belonging to a writer who has vanished:

If I say nothing about what I found there, it is because I understood very little. All the words were familiar to me, and yet they seemed to have been put together strangely, as their their final purpose was to cancel each other out. I can think of no other way to express it. Each sentence erased the sentence before it, each paragraph made the next paragraph impossible. It is odd, then, that the feeling that survives from this notebook is one of great lucidity. It is as if Fanshawe knew his final work had to subvert every expectation I had for it.

    This Old Book is a series of posts about books that have survived many purges from my shelves over decades.

AuthorPatrick LaForge
CategoriesThis Old Book