The Brooklyn Follies – Paul Auster

Dare I say that this book has become my favourite Paul Auster book ever? Which is a pretty difficult fact to profess since I’m absolutely in love with all the Auster works I’ve read so far, with each one staying with me forever, especially The Book of Illusions. That book still has me thinking about Hector Mann …

Back to The Brooklyn Follies. I would give my left eyebrow hairs to have the characters of The Brooklyn Follies over for dinner. Every last character. Nathan Glass. Tom Wood. Honey Chowder. Aurora Wood. Lucy Wood. Nancy Mazzucchelli. Harry Brightman. Every last character. They’re so full of life, full of what it means to be human. The good, the bad and the ugly. They don’t always make the right choices. They don’t always say the right thing. But they’re wonderfully and weirdly human.

The first sentence of the book starts off as follows:

“I was looking for a quiet place to die. Someone recommended Brooklyn, and so the next morning I travelled down there from Westchester to scope out the terrain…”

Knowing little that he’d end up with a book of human folly. Of human wonder. Of human connections. Of the fragility of life as he bumps into his long-lost nephew which has a knock-on effect for the duration of the book’s events.

Set against the backdrop of the contested US election of 2000, it tells the story of Nathan and Tom, and uncle and nephew double-act. One in remission from lung cancer, divorced and estranged from his only daughter, othe other hiding away from his once promising academic career, and life in general.

Having accidentally ended up in the same Brooklyn neighbourhood, they discover a community teeming with life and passion. When Lucy, the little girl who refuses to speak, comes into their lives there is suddenly a bridge from their pasts that offers them the possibility of redemption. Infused with character, mystery and humour, these lives intertwine and become bound together as Auster brilliantly explores the wider terrain of contemporary America – a crucible of broken dreams and of human folly.

As much as I’d like to take credit for the last two paragraphs, I have to admit that I took that from the back cover blurb. I’m not so adept at summing up a book so I’d rather deliver the blurb so I can have the rest of the post to talk a little more deeply about the book.

As any Auster fan would know, the author has this incredible knack for slowly getting under your skin with his way with words, his intertextual references, his incredible storylines and awe-inspiring intellect which makes him the great writer that he is. This is turning out to be a mini ode to Auster but I really haven’t looked back since the first time I read The New York Trilogy in first year English. Phew.

For another great review on this book, check out this link to The Guardian’s 2015 review (written by Toby Lichtig): The article is aptly called ‘A City of Dreamers’.

If you’re not familiar with Auster, please DO by using this Wikipedia link:

I hope this review and my borderline Auster obsession makes you immediately want to pick up The Brooklyn Follies. You might never be the same.

-Babongile Z

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