Sunset Park by Paul Auster


As expected, this Paul Auster tale is mesmerizing; I always find myself pleased to fall into his stories. 

The main character, Miles, is a mysterious fellow, full of promise even after spending years in an aimless life after he dropped out of college. The tragedy of the death of his stepbrother at a young age marked Miles too, as he might bear some responsibility for his death.  One has such high hopes for someone who loves books as Miles does.  Other characters are his brilliant, but underage girlfriend, his famous movie star mother, publisher father, academic stepmother, and an odd but true friend who runs the Hospital for Broken Things in Brooklyn. 

But my favorite character has to be the film The Best Years of Our Lives, which clearly Auster loves as much as my family does.  The film reappears in the lives of several characters and it is described in some detail, even those deep focus shots of Greg Toland.

I had the impression this book was a Christmas tree on which Auster could hang some of his favorite topics, such as beloved movies.  The care and feeding of authors by the publisher father is another one.  He celebrates the truly brave among us with references to Liu Xiaobo who won the Nobel Peace Prize shortly after the book was written.  One character works part-time for PEN American Center which describes itself as "a global literary community protecting free expression and celebrating literature."  And there are the baseball characters that Miles and others talk about lovingly; my favorite is Lucky Lohrke.  Look him up on Google for a great story.

One stylistic tick I have noticed in at least one other Auster book leaves me confused and uneasy.  He will begin a series of sentences with the same subject.  All the sentences in one paragraph begin, "The human body is…"  The sentences vary from short ("The human body has knees.") to long ("The human body is an object and a subject, the outside of an inside that cannot be seen.") This jangles the nerves in the midst of the telling of a tale.

The pace of the story changes near the end.  At the outset we ramble in a leisurely way among the characters and events unfold at a reasonable clip.  Then suddenly the father covers a huge amount of territory in a chapter and things take quite a turn at the rather abrupt end.  I finished the book just before falling asleep one night and woke the next morning thinking of it.

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