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The Brooklyn Follies

A Novel

Paul Auster


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ISBN10: 0312429002
ISBN13: 9780312429003

Trade Paperback

320 Pages



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Nathan Glass has come to Brooklyn to die. Divorced, retired, estranged from his only daughter, the former life insurance salesman seeks only solitude and anonymity. Then Glass encounters his long-lost nephew, Tom Wood, who is working in a local bookstore. Through Tom and his charismatic boss, Harry, Nathan's world gradually broadens to include a new set of acquaintances, which leads him to a reckoning with his past.


Praise for The Brooklyn Follies

"After a 'sad and ridiculous life' in the suburbs, Nathan Glass retires, gets divorced, and moves to Brooklyn to die. To pass the time, he decides to write an account of mishaps and mistakes, beginning with his own—'The Book of Human Folly.' 'The tone would be light and farcical throughout,' he says, 'and my only purpose was to keep myself entertained.' Auster seems to have had a similar intent. A chance encounter with a long-lost nephew leads Nathan into an unlikely second act, involving a longer-lost niece, her runaway daughter, and a host of lively Brooklyn caricatures—a gay used-bookstore owner, a tough widow, an H.I.V.-positive drag queen—all in the midst of unlikely second acts themselves. Nathan narrates increasingly absurd events with persistent cheer, a tone mirrored by the blinkered optimism and liberal conviction of pre-9/11 Park Slope; it's a combination that soon seems less hopeful than hollow, and profoundly disengaged."—The New Yorker

"A charming, beguiling story about the terrible beauty of families and the redemptive power of love . . . Auster's writing is packed with surprises."—USA Today

"A bighearted, life-affirming, tenderly comic yarn."—The Washington Post

"Probably the first authentic attempt to deal with the post-September 11 world . . . It is a multilayered tapestry, with whimsical chapter headings and Dickensian depth."—San Francisco Chronicle

"Auster has written a sublime soap opera about the ways in which people abandon and save one another. He captures a historical moment, our twisted America, and he offers a message of hope. Love will save us. We will save each other. Auster employs tough-guy talk and funny, believable stories of folly in his search for wisdom and goodness."—The Boston Globe

"Hucksters, people vanishing and reappearing, problems with language, glancing invocation of those stalwarts Hawthorne and Poe and Thoreau and Whitman, whose presence is sprinkled throughout this author's body of work—yes, it's Auster . . . A touching, even warm, story of families in recombination."—The Chicago Tribune

"Paul Auster's thirty-year career has been astonishing as well: novels, screenplays, poems, essays, illustrated tales, translations, scholarly editions of French verse. He seems almost a literary decathlete, able to excel in any genre . . . His latest novel, The Brooklyn Follies, is perhaps his most engaging and compelling story . . . A hopeful book, a series of finely crafted interlocking stories about love—about its difficulties, itsmakes mysteries, and enormous redemptive powers."—The Cleveland Plain Dealer

"As rich in incident as it is in personalities . . . Though The Brooklyn Follies shares with Auster's other works a universe of chance encounters, the affable, forthright voice of Nathan Glass amkes this novel a particular pleasure. Belief in happiness might be just another of the Brooklyn follies, but Nathan's winsome stories are an effective engine for joie de vivre. Instead of dying, the narrator bring to life a cast of buoyant Brooklynites."—The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"The characters shimmer, the anecdotes spark, the dialogue nimbly natters, the tale barrels along with the old-fashioned power of Nathan's lime-green Oldsmobile Cutlass."—Seattle Weekly

"Is there a contemporary American novelist who believes more in the transporting, transformative power of story? No way."—Detroit Free Press

"Paul Auster reminds us that our social and emotional infrastructure can creep up on us in beautiful and unexpected ways whether we like it or not, and that accepting this process and those people can be in itself heroic. By the end of this wonderful novel, there can be no doubt that Auster's unprepossessing Nathan is a modern urban hero of a high order . . . Follies, like any of his previous books, is impossible to put down."—The Philadelphia Inquirer

"The thing you want to do this winter . . . is to curl up with Paul Auster's newest novel, The Brooklyn Follies. You want to do this for the quality of the writing. You want to do it for the story. You want to do it because it's a Paul Auster book—partly metafictional, partly wry, more than partly full of chance encounters, and blessedly devoid of intellectual prattle."—The Baltimore Sun

"The warmth and familial tenderness is a real departure from Auster novels such as The Book of Illusions . . . An enjoyable love letter to Brooklyn."—Christian Science Monitor

"Auster's prose is sharp, simple, compelling."—The Guardian (UK)

"A teeming and exuberant novel that is sure to drive up property values in Brooklyn."—The Buffalo News

"The Brooklyn Follies is Auster at the top of his game . . . His words are slinky and supple; his characters sing off the page . . . Auster's mediation on happiness and encroaching age ripens each page into mellow fruitfulness. This superb novel about human folly turns out to be tremendously wise."—New Statesman

"Ever since The New York Trilogy nearly twenty years ago, Auster—through dozens of books—has produced increasingly dazzling, provocative writing. He may remind readers of Franz Kafka, Nathaniel West, or Philip Roth, but Auster—as brilliant postmodern parodist and satirist—is a unique talent. He may, in fact, be America's best writer."—BookPage

"A retired insurance salesman returns to his native Brooklyn to die—and is instead recalled to life—in Auster's uncharacteristically upbeat 12th novel. Nathan Glass, approaching 60 and diagnosed with lung cancer, has a lot to die for: He's long divorced, estranged from his adult daughter, exhausted from years of toiling for Mid-Atlantic Accident and Life. Then, like an Iris Murdoch character, he becomes involved in others' lives and experiences the gratifications of contingency. Nathan's nephew Tom Wood has forsaken a promising academic career, gone to seed and settled for an unrewarding job at Brightman's Attic, a used bookstore run by 'born prankster' Harry Dunkel (aka Brightman), a gay art and manuscript forger who, during impassioned bull sessions with Tom and Nathan, discloses his hopeful vision of an imaginary utopian 'Hotel Existence' (which echoes Tom's abandoned thesis on 'Imaginary Edens' in classic American literature). The plot keeps thickening with the arrival of Nathan's nine-year-old great-niece Lucy, daughter of Aurora ('Rory'), Tom's promiscuous, drug-addled, vagrant sister. A trip to Vermont brings serendipitous accidents, ends at a country inn that's the incarnation of Harry's idealized fantasy and gives Tom a second chance at fulfillment. But 'accident and life' break in, returning the principal characters to Brooklyn to rearrange their lives and relationships—a pattern, re-echoed at the conclusion, in which Nathan survives and looks to the future, on the verge of an ominously significant Date in Recent History. The novel is energized throughout by fancy symbolic footwork, and intermittently by Nathan's habit of recording 'the slapstick moments of everyday life' in a loose gathering of jottings he calls The Book of Human Folly."—Kirkus Reviews

"Just when you think you've got Auster pegged, he shape-shifts. Not that his mesmerizing new novel isn't instantly recognizable as an Auster tale, what with its beautifully ruminative narration, obsessive charting of seemingly quotidian details, cleverly meandering and impressionistically noirish plot, and literary allusions, in this case, to Hawthorne, Kafka, and Gaddis. But this addition to his increasingly tender cycle of love songs to Brooklyn is his most down-to-earth, sensuous, and socially conscious novel to date . . . As fate has its way with his irresistible characters, the sorcerer-like Auster rhapsodizes about nature, orchestrates unlikely love affairs and hilarious conversations, and considers such extreme experiences as a life in pornography and marriage to a tyrannical religious fanatic. Auster also takes subtle measure of a time that will live in infamy, the era of the 2000 election and September 11, 2001."—Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred review)

"Nathan Glass, a retired life insurance salesman estranged from his family and facing an iffy cancer prognosis, is "looking for a quiet place to die. Someone recommended Brooklyn." What he finds, though, in this ebullient novel by Brooklyn bard Auster, is a vital, big-hearted borough brimming with great characters. These include Nathan's nephew, Tom, a grad student turned spiritually questing cab driver; Tom's serenely silent nine-year-old niece, who shows up on Tom's doorstep without her unstable mom; and a flamboyant book dealer hatching a scheme to sell a fraudulent manuscript of The Scarlet Letter. As Nathan recovers his soul through immersion in their lives, Auster meditates on the theme of sanctuary in American literature, from Hawthorne to Poe to Thoreau, infusing the novel's picaresque with touches of romanticism, Southern gothic and utopian yearning. But the book's presiding spirit is Brooklyn's first bard, Walt Whitman, as Auster embraces the borough's multitudes-neighborhood characters, drag queens, intellectuals manqué, greasy-spoon waitresses, urbane bourgeoisie-while singing odes to moonrise over the Brooklyn Bridge. Auster's graceful, offhand storytelling carries readers along, with enough shadow to keep the tale this side of schmaltz. The result is an affectionate portrait of the city as the ultimate refuge of the human spirit."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Paul Auster

PAUL AUSTER is the bestselling author of Travels in the Scriptorium, Oracle Night, and Man in the Dark, among many other works. I Thought My Father Was God, the NPR National Story Project Anthology, which he edited, was also a national bestseller. His work has been translated into more than thirty-five languages. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Lotte Hansen

Paul Auster

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