Thursday, April 21, 2011

New York Trilogy

by Paul Auster

I have been hearing about Paul Auster for many years, and then I read this great review by Carl V. The New York Trilogy is really three stories which were originally published separately and now are published together : City of Glass, Ghosts, and the Locked Room all set in New York City. While sort of noir mysteries they don't really fit that genre and are more of a postmodern endeavor. City of Glass is about a writer who takes on a surveillance job and gradually begins to question realty (and includes a character called Paul Auster). Ghosts is about a detective named Blue who is investigating Black and sending reports to his client White. The Locked Room is about a mediocre writer who gets caught up and lost in a childhood friend's family and literary work after his friend's disappearance.

But you don't read this for plot. The writing is amazing, the characters are intriguing and you never know what is going to happen next. While it is difficult to describe it was thoroughly enjoyable. I definitely intend to read more Paul Auster.

My Name is Red

by Orhan Pamuk

Nobel Prize winning author, Orhan Pamuk's, My Name is Red is an unconventional murder mystery / love story set in 16th century Istanbul. The sultan has commissioned a group of miniaturists or illuminators to secretly illuminate a special commemorative manuscript, but when one of the illuminators is found dead, the other illuminators begin to worry.

I loved many things about this book. I knew very little about 16th century Istanbul or Islamic illuminated manuscripts so it was very educational and interesting for me. I loved that there were multiple narrators, including a dog, a coin, a corpse, the color red. Istanbul, its court and its inhabitants really came alive.

What I loved the most was the illuminated manuscripts themselves. Random House's web site has several fascinating images, such as this:

I knew that Islam has certain reservations/prohibitions about representational figures, but this book really elaborated on the many Islamic views and the tension with the "European style". This was especially interesting as many points of view were presented and the many differing opinions and practices, even in the 16th century, really made the issue interesting.

I must say however, despite the fact that I learned a lot from this book and liked many things about it, over all I didn't really enjoy the experience of read it. It was very dense, not particularly lengthy or difficult, but it was an effort to get through it. I am glad I read it but I am not in a hurry to pick up another one of Orhan Pamuk's books.