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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In the vernacular of the age, Dublinesque by Enrique Vila-Matas is a bit of a hot-mess. At times it is great and at times it flounders. I suppose one might take the analogy of a day meandering around Dublin to excuse some of the meandering in Dublinesque, but I think the author could have tightened things up a bit.
Dublinesque revolves around the changeover from the “Gutenberg Galaxy” to the digital age in publishing and uses James Joyce’s Ulysses as the last truly great novel of the ink and paper variety and symbolically focuses on the celebration of Bloomsday in Dublin for its “center.” The plot follows the downward spiral of a literary publisher, whose battles with alcohol and hikikomori glued to his computer screen experiencing life filtered through Google. The destruction of this publisher is, if you will, the objective correlative of the passing of the age of Gutenberg.
Continue reading “Is This the End of Gutenberg?”