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.
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It was Richard Pryor who gave us that rapid, vehement battle cry: “Money, Money, Money!!!” It was Time Magazine who recommended Money by Martin Amis as one of the one-hundred greatest novels of the last century. Put your money on Richard Pryor.
I enjoy reading Martin Amis. He’s a good writer with a lot of erudition behind his work. He often uses his craftsman-like writing skills to extend, manipulate, experiment with fiction, and that is good. Perhaps when Money was first published, this cutesy schtick was popular but now it just seems silly and unbelievably trite. Still, coming out at the beginning of the Reagan era, I suppose it’s understandable if the editors of Time were as delusional about Money as they were about Reaganomics. But John Self is no Gordon Gekko. He is, however, at best a cartoonish version of Patrick Melrose.
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