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The Brooklyn Follies: A Novelby Paul Auster
Synopses & Reviews
From the bestselling author of Oracle Night and The Book of Illusions, an exhilarating, whirlwind tale of one man's accidental redemption.
Nathan Glass has come to Brooklyn to die. Divorced, estranged from his only daughter, the retired life insurance salesman seeks only solitude and anonymity. Then Nathan finds his long-lost nephew, Tom Wood, working in a local bookstore — a far cry from the brilliant academic career he'd begun when Nathan saw him last. Tom's boss is the charismatic Harry Brightman, whom fate has also brought to the ancient kingdom of Brooklyn, New York. Through Tom and Harry, Nathan's world gradually broadens to include a new set of acquaintances — not to mention a stray relative or two — and leads him to a reckoning with his past.
Among the many twists in the delicious plot are a scam involving a forgery of the first page of The Scarlet Letter, a disturbing revelation that takes place in a sperm bank, and an impossible, utopian dream of a rural refuge. Meanwhile, the wry and acerbic Nathan has undertaken something he calls The Book of Human Folly, in which he proposes "to set down in the simplest, clearest language possible an account of every blunder, every pratfall, every embarrassment, every idiocy, every foible, and every inane act I had committed during my long and checkered career as a man." But life takes over instead, and Nathan's despair is swept away as he finds himself more and more implicated in the joys and sorrows of others.
The Brooklyn Follies is Paul Auster's warmest, most exuberant novel, a moving and unforgettable hymn to the glories and mysteries of ordinary human life.
"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 (Oracle Night), 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 manqu, 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) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Not that his mesmerizing new novel isn't instantly recognizable as an Auster tale....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." Booklist (Starred Review)
"The themes Auster explores in The Brooklyn Follies — redemption late in life, comfort in family, the joy in the unexpected — are not new....However, Auster manages to invigorate these themes with a vitality that keeps them interesting." San Antonio Express-News
"[P]erhaps his most engaging and compelling story....Brooklyn Follies is a hopeful book....But Auster, like his literary godfathers Hawthorne and Poe, is no dewy romantic. He knows that darkness and death are our permanent companions, always at our elbow." Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Auster has written a sublime soap opera about the ways in which people abandon and save one another....Perhaps the French revere Auster because his sturdy work can be translated without losing its meaning. We have the good fortune to enjoy Paul Auster in the original." Boston Globe
"The novel is energized throughout by fancy symbolic footwork....But it's hard to be ironic and warm and fuzzy simultaneously....An egregious misstep in an otherwise estimable career." Kirkus Reviews
"The Brooklyn Follies is 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
"The Brooklyn Follies is another Paul Auster masterpiece." BookPage
"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
"Follies, like any of his previous books, is impossible to put down." The Philadelphia Inquirer
"[A] welcome sign that Auster, whose fictional universe can too often seem mechanistic and overdetermined, is finally relaxing a little....The manner in which everyone's miseries converge and nullify one another is what defines The Brooklyn Follies, ultimately, as a comedy." The Washington Post Book World
"This effort is not always successful....Events pile up awfully fast....It's way, way too much, but the Brooklyn particulars very nearly justify Auster's risky strategy." Los Angeles Times
Nathan Glass is the hero of Brooklyn Follies, he is 59, and he's returning to Brooklyn to die. But soon, he meets characters from the Park Slope neighborhood who begin to bring him back to life.
A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice
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--a far cry from the brilliant academic career Tom had begun when Nathan saw him last. Tom's boss is the colorful and charismatic Harry Brightman--a.k.a. Harry Dunkel--once the owner of a Chicago art gallery, whom fate has also brought to the "ancient kingdom of Brooklyn, New York." Through Tom and Harry, Nathan's world gradually broadens to include a new circle of acquaintances. He soon finds himself drawn into a scam involving a forged page of The Scarlet Letter, and begins to undertake his own literary venture, The Book of Human Folly, an account of "every blunder, every pratfall, every embarrassment, every idiocy, every foible, and every inane act I have committed during my long and checkered career as a man."
The Brooklyn Follies is Paul Auster's warmest, most exuberant novel, a moving, unforgettable hymn to the glories and mysteries of ordinary human life.
About the Author
Paul Auster is the bestselling author of Oracle Night, The Book of Illusions, and Timbuktu. 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 thirty languages. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
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