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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Moon Palace (1989) by Paul Auster


Book Review
Moon Palace (1989)
 by Paul Auster

  There is no denying that Paul Auster is still read, and that a generation of serious readers (in America, at least) have grown up with Auster's books readily available on the shelves of libraries and book stores everywhere.   Beginning with his existential detective trilogy, Auster seems dedicated to intertwining the tradition of the 20th century European philosophical novel (Novels where nothing much happens) with the active plot mechanic of a writer who is very aware of the "state of the art" of fiction writing.

  In short, he writes savvy, intellectual fiction with some commercial appeal.  His characters very much reflect the dramatic self obsession which has grown to define our American culture, and his presence in the fictional precincts of New York City ensure that even his most failed characters have an aspirational side for readers of contemporary literature.

  Moon Palace has an intricate plot for a 300 page long novel- the narrator, M. F. Fogg, is an orphan, raised by an uncle, an itinerant jazz musician.  He attends Columbia University and descends into a "I would prefer not to" style of genteel poverty.  He is rescued from his plight by Kitty Woo, a "manic pixie dream girl" from before that term was coined.   Perhaps the brilliance of Moon Palace is contained in the fact that this description of the first act of the book provides no clue to the second and final act.

  I'm not sure that Auster's book stand up to much discussion or description- the gossamer strands of his jewel box plotting means that even the barest description of events risks compromising the pleasures of the read.  Not all fiction is like this- you can describe a work of experimental fiction- like Ulysses by James Joyce, without changing the wondrous impact of the prose itself.

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