Several months back I realized that there are quite a few relatively contemporary authors that are not on everyone’s reading list. One clue to this phenomenon was that the best-seller and must read lists being published around the internet and even on ink & paper publications seemed to contain the same dozen or so authors month after month with only a few new authors touted, often because their first novels either came out of some prestigious creative writing school or because they followed the rules of popular fiction espoused by the more established and possibly less imaginative best-selling authors.
When you discover and suggest a new book every day it never really affects you until at the end of the month when you gather all those suggested books together and realize that you want to read so many of them and that you probably never will. As I sit here with hundreds of books surrounding me on my new white bookshelves and thousands of books silently buzzing in my miracle digital readers, I am realizing more and more the horrific truth in that Arthur Schopenhauer quotation:
To buy books would be a good thing if we also could buy the time to read them.
This novel, Sunset Park by Paul Auster, has it all: Cuban immigrants in Florida, Broadway actresses in Manhattan, students struggling to write their graduate theses, guilt over a brother’s death, a lonely female artist who exchanges oral favors to get men to pose naked for her, a hint of homosexuality, squatters living in an abandoned house, movies, plays, typewriter repair, “Lolita” love, and a less than idyllic neighborhood known as Sunset Park, Brooklyn.
Although not as complex as an Irving Wallace novel, Auster does do a credible job of developing his themes and characters, tosses in enough background knowledge to cause literary wonks a tingle or two, and generally provides a realistic narrative without too much sordidness or unnecessary cuteness. However, the novel only provides a low-intensity assault on the reader’s comfort level and would probably scores fairly low on the Kafka scale.