The New York Trilogy comprises Auster’s first three novels, City of Glass (1985), Ghosts (1986), and The Locked Room (1986). It introduces the themes that Auster would continue to explore in novels for years to come. Drawing on the style of hard-boiled detective fiction and the imagery of film noir, Auster sets these three intricate mysteries in New York in different time periods. Essentially, each of these three books tells the same story, as the nameless narrator confesses at the end of The Locked Room, related at different stages of the narrator’s awareness. They are tales about the nature of identity and language and the role that coincidence and chance plays in forming the human character. Auster uses concise language to reveal the pieces of a complicated textual puzzle. Never perplexing just for the sake of it, Auster remains focused and accessible throughout.
The first of these books, City of Glass, was published in 1985 by Sun and Moon Press, a small Los Angeles company, after being rejected by other publishers seventeen times over the course of two years. It is the story of Daniel Quinn, a mystery novelist who writes a series of detective novels about a private eye named Max Work, under the pseudonym William Wilson. One day Quinn, devastated by the death of his wife and son, receives a call from someone looking for Paul Auster of the Auster Detective Agency. Ultimately, Quinn, anxious and bored, assumes Auster’s identity and pretends to be a private detective. He accepts the case and begins trailing a man named Stillman, a linguist who had been confined to a mental institution for locking up his son alone in a room for nine years.
It is immediately apparent how much fun Auster is having with names: “William Wilson” is taken from an Edgar Allan Poe short story of the same name, and it is also the real name of New York Mets center fielder “Mookie” Wilson. Daniel Quinn’s initials are not insignificant, nor...
(The entire section is 820 words.)