Aster wrote three novellas: City of Glass, Ghosts, and The Locked Room. Together, they form The New York Trilogy.

I certainly didn't love the first two novellas, and I don't think I even liked it too much until its final few moments. I was hoping for something akin to The City & The City — half genre fiction, half prestige — and instead it was around 5% genre fiction, 95% postmodernism. Auster is clearly interested in exploring the concepts of knowledge, storytelling, and language and the choice of embroiling such ideas in the auspices of a detective story is clever but... I don't think he ever quite got there. (I was reminded, quite fondly, of Infinite Jest — not just due to the recursive storytelling nature of the work, but due to the interesting dichotomy presented between humanity and command of language, and how embracing the former can sometimes mean rejecting the latter.)

By the time I finished The Locked Room, though, I found myself with a newfound appreciation for the experience. There's a lot to unpack; I think treating these works as prose poems more than as deconstructions lends them a level of depth and charity that I was missing in my initial foray. Aster is so interested in questions about identity, about meaning, about obsession and loss — he doesn't answer these questions, nor do I think he makes meaningful forays into expressing himself in a satisfying way, but the recursion with which he deploys certain symbols (Henry Dark; the red notebook) keeps my brain alight in a way few heavily allegorical works do. I'm excited to check out more of his work (after a break.)


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