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Learn More in these related Britannica articles:. Or, at least, that I have the talent to play it. I ended up like one of Auster's characters, with "the glazed-over look of a man unable to see anything but the thoughts inside his own head. View all 26 comments. Aug 07, Jaline rated it it was CD 3 Track 1 - Paul Auster - Unsichtbar (CD) Shelves: xxcompletedx-favourites. First of all, thank you to GoodReads friend, Andrew, for the terrific review that he wrote of this book and for his encouragement to give it a try.
All the support helped so much to bolster my journey with this page book. And, of course, thank you to Paul Auster for writing with the bravery and the talent to create something completely dif First of all, thank you to GoodReads friend, Andrew, for the terrific review that he wrote of this book and for his encouragement to give it a try. And, of course, thank you to Paul Auster for writing with the bravery and the talent to create something completely different in a way that is accessible and eminently readable for everyone.
Four alternate lives, the longest sentences in the world 2 or 3 pages long in a few instances and consequently, some of the longest paragraphs as well. Some or all of these factors may be intimidating or overwhelming for some people.
They were for me at first, but the writing is so rich and flowing that these aspects are not detrimental at all and actually became part of the story's charm.
Archie Ferguson is endearing in all his parallel lives, from his babyhood to young boyhood and through each lifespan. When he is older, all of his parallel selves write - some of them from young adolescence on through college years and beyond. He is a writer of books — memoir style in one book, and in another, juxtaposing the influence of movies on children, the impact of movies on child actors, and the dreams of young people even Anne Frank to be in movies themselves.
In another parallel existence, he writes very strange books, but ones that made me think about the possibilities and how someone would go about writing such a book. There are many stories within this story and each one is fascinating, related, and relevant.
The story lines run parallel, yet with subtle differences. I did not find the different stories difficult to follow at all. The author kindly leaves tiny bread crumbs at the start of each chapter so it was easy to re-connect with which lifeline I was reading.
There are tragedies within these stories, and there are triumphs, too. There are family challenges to deal with, education choices to make, and plenty of teenage and young adult romantic and sexual frustrations and confusions. There are books and authors and movies and music and more CD 3 Track 1 - Paul Auster - Unsichtbar (CD) and travel and politics and sports and more books and rebellions and striving to do the right thing. There is much to think about in this book; so many partially-recalled events that were courageously brought to life in these stories.
Some of the events made me feel the situations so deeply I had tears in my eyes. All that was ghastly and horrific and monstrous from those decades was explored and brought to the fore.
But why do it in this particular way? Why not write four separate books instead of four parallel books in one? Why not simply invent another story and tell it as any other writer would? Because Ferguson wanted to do something different. Because Ferguson was no longer interested in telling mere stories. Because Ferguson wanted to test himself against the unknown and see if he could survive the struggle.
I think it is obvious that Mr. Auster did test himself against the unknown with this book, and he survived this particular struggle with wit, grace, humour, and exceptionally splendid writing. Now we, as readers, are invited to enjoy the fruits of those labours. And, to be honest, there was too much overlap, too many incidents, and too much information in this book for individual stories.
This book simply had to be written the way it was, and I am impressed with the results and marvel at the talent and skill that brought this creation into being. It deserves to win. I recommend this book to anyone who is open to the challenge of reading a book that is different, a book that is long, that challenges and expands our thoughts and feelings throughout, and to anyone who is willing to suspend judgement in favor of discernment. If you can do this, you will be rewarded with a fabulously good read.
View all 84 comments. Apr 03, Katie rated it liked it. This wore me down. Instead of becoming more engaged I was exasperated by it at about pg I kept thinking I could have read three novels in the time it took me to wade through this. Essentially it struck me as four different drafts of the same half-finished novel.
I kept waiting for the Eureka moment when the four narratives would suddenly shed light on each other and blaze into a brilliant whole but it never happened. It remained for me four different drafts of a half-finished and not very enthralling novel. We get his home life, his college life, his political convictions, his love life but with a sense of having heard it all before. Its saving grace was the high quality of the prose. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a copy in exchange for an honest review.
View all 40 comments. What a wonderful and thought provoking book. It is proving nearly impossible for me to write a coherent review of a book this large both in page count and in scopeso I am going to concentrate on a few things that I kept thinking about since finishing it.
This is Archie Fergusen's story, told in four alternating timelines. Auster uses this premise for a thoughtful meditation on what makes us us and how little changes lead to different paths.
I adored the way Auster lets this play out and shows What a wonderful and thought provoking book. I adored the way Auster lets this play out and shows how different versions of people are possible, if key events turn out differently.
While I think Fergusen is the weak point when it comes to characters he can be a bit insufferable at timesI absolutely loved his wonderful mother. No matter what time line, no matter what happens, she is unwavering in her love and devotion to her son. Some of the other supporting characters are brilliant as well; his father while difficult is a great and fully fleshed out character, Amy Schneidermann is an enigma and female character that is allowed to be flawed and human, and Fergusen's grandfather was also wonderfully imagined.
They are all allowed to make mistakes, to grow from those mistakes and to be complete people - even if they are not the focus of this grand work. While the book is very long, it never felt indulgent in its wordiness - the story Auster wants to tell can only be told in this grand a scope, even the in-depth analyses of baseball games were necessary. This is a rare achievement in a genre where I often prefer tighter works to Dickensian ones.
It is really interesting to see what developments Auster sees as inevitable and which parts of Fergusen's life change depending on the time line. In all four versions, Fergusen is at the core a writer. The genre he writes or the way he ends up as a writer vary, but nevertheless he is always a man of words.
While this is fixed, the people he meets and the relationships he forges with them are varied and change immensely depending on how his life turns out. Given how close the biographical cornerstones are to Auster's own biography this can be seen a profound insight into what he considers most important. Which is why, at the core, this beautiful work of art is above everything else a wonderfully believable and moving love letter to the Arts be it literature, music, theatre, poetry, photography or fine arts and their power.
This is for me the great achievement of this book and the reason why it kept me engaged while reading and thinking about it when I had to put the book away. Thanks for that! View all 10 comments. Recommended to Jaidee by: most CD 3 Track 1 - Paul Auster - Unsichtbar (CD) the dudes in my life.
Shelves: two-stars-books. Most est Disappointing Read of Award Over the years, my dudes, have been encouraging me to read Auster. He has been much admired and read over the years by male friends of all sexual orientations. One boi told me Jaidee you are much more likely to listen to your gal pals this is true but not by much. So when this book appeared on the scene, it mucho intrigued me!! Like Sliding Doors without Gwyneth Paltrow Well for the last four months, I read and read and read, I decided to treat it like exercise, stoic but not enjoyed, keep going Jaidee, this is good for you, don't pick up another YA or piece of erotica or mindless mystery!!
I plodded on but then would avoid and read other books that I much rather, only to return to this tome and keep wondering why is it so godamm long I started to resent my guy friends and their praise of Auster I liked all four versions of him and despite my resentment and disappointment was rooting for him and actually felt bad for him for being written up in this way!!
What I liked: -Archie 1. Archie 2. Archie 3 and Archie 4 - the consistency of keeping the stories straight What I disliked: -all the bloody telling rather than showing of Archie's world both exterior and interior -all that bloody length I may pick up another Auster CD 3 Track 1 - Paul Auster - Unsichtbar (CD) several bois have told me that I started with the wrong one and I will give Auster another chance but again View all 47 comments.
I had been reluctant to read this extraordinary book because of its sheer length and my lukewarm reaction to previous Auster novels, particularly The Music of Chance. Once it was Booker shortlisted, I decided I had to read it, and I can see why the decision was made, and in many less competitive years I would have supported it wholeheartedly, but I would still prefer the prize to go to Ali Smith.
I have just read it over an intensive six days, CD 3 Track 1 - Paul Auster - Unsichtbar (CD), and read over a third almost pages yesterday t I had been reluctant to read this extraordinary book because of its sheer length and my lukewarm reaction to previous Auster novels, particularly The Music of Chance.
I have just read it over an intensive six days, and read over a third almost pages yesterday to finish it. I will not spend too long on the basic premise, four life-stories that are alternative versions of the life story of a young writer who shares many biographical details with Auster himself I didn't realise just how many until I read his Wikipedia biographybut it is impossible to write a fair review without spoilers. For me this conceit was superfluous, but it saved Auster the inconvenience of writing a happy ending for the crucial Ferguson One point that intrigues me about this is that it seems at least plausible that Auster may actually have started the book in this period - it would be fascinating to know!
The book starts with an old Jewish joke about Ellis Island, his grandfather is encouraged to give a false name such as Rockefeller that will convey the right resonances but by the time he has reached the clerk, "the weary immigrant blurted out in Yiddish, Ikh hob fargessen I've forgotten! The book is mostly set in the 50s and 60s, though the narratives of different Fergusons move at different paces view spoiler [, we lose one as a teenager and another in the penultimate round and the remaining chapters for these incarnations are blank pages hide spoiler ].
The chapters tend to get longer and more detailed the longer the book goes on. This ought to be a problem, but some of the most powerful writing is in the second half with a visceral account of the Columbia University protests of and their wider place in the rise and fall of radical left-wing student politics that grew out of the opposition to the Vietnam war and the civil rights movement.
In some ways it seems a little sad that a writer of Auster's age would choose to devote such a major project to reexamining his youth, and devotes so much of it to the various Fergusons' searches for sex and their sporting obsessions, but the passage of time probably allows it to be more reflective and distanced, and the 60s was undoubtedly a time when much more seemed to be achievable. There is no way the political content can be seen as a reaction to the Trump presidency as most of the book must have been written before that seemed plausible, CD 3 Track 1 - Paul Auster - Unsichtbar (CD) many of the political issues retain a vitality in a more modern context.
As to just how good the book is, I probably need more time to reflect, but I am reluctant to award the full five stars to a book that is so tediously self-indulgent in places, even if the best parts are very strong and many of the ideas are fascinating.
The book is full of references to the other writers and artists that influenced the young Auster - I envy the intellectual depth of his education. I will say that it is the strongest of the three Auster novels I have read. View all 21 comments. Jan 31, Sam rated it really liked it Shelves: aty-challengereads. When the novel is good, it is great: witty, funny, charming, hitting character and plot points macro and micro with ease and precision, and always invoking an accurate but also engaging sense of time and place as we watch Ferguson grow up in the 40s, 50s and 60s in New Jersey and New York depending on the version and struggle with his identity, the Vietnam War, Antisemitism, the Civil Rights Movement, racism, the Kennedy election and assassination, white flight, and the hope and disillusionment and fracturing of society during the 60s especially.
All of Fergusons' family and friends are well drawn, though I most loved his mother Rose Adler in every version of Ferguson and his wisecracking, brilliant cousin Noah Marx in version 4.
There was much to admire, and much to love for the majority of the novel. On the other hand, the book threw me for fits with its pacing. It took me a bit to work through the first or so pages of set up, the backdrops of the Ferguson and Adler lineages detailed but not flowing or clicking for me.
But then, sunk into little Ferguson's various childhoods, I was off and devouring each saga up through Ferguson's graduation and moving on in many versions to college.
Then, around pageFerguson 1 gets derailed in a major student protest at Columbia University in the late s, and the momentum I'd had was lost. The book recovered, as we moved on to see what the other versions of Ferguson got into, but that chapter for Ferguson 1 was long, unwieldy, and worse yet uninteresting. And overall, I don't know that I love the writing of Paul Auster. The brilliance can't be denied, but he's also prone to writing extremely long, run-on sentences, that meander and turn to the point that I would occasionally lose the major focus of the thought.
It sometimes read like stream of consciousness inserted into these epics of the Fergusons, which view spoiler [makes sense considering the predictable yet still satisfying conclusion that the whole novel was a work by Ferguson 4 hide spoiler ]. I felt that there was definitely some extra, less meaningful content that could have been removed entirely to keep the pacing tighter, and in general appreciate an author who is a bit more choosy with word choice and sentence structure in literary fiction: some of the writing felt unintentional, versus say how I felt about the writing of Michael Chabon's Moonglow or Kate Atkinson's Life After Lifethe hybrid of which could be 4 3 2 1.
I don't think this is a read for everyone, and indeed while it delighted me and I enjoyed reading it on the whole and was engaged with Auster's talent, it also irritated me, occasionally bored me and really forced me to work to finish major parts.
But again, when it is good, it is great, and for that, I'd award it 4 stars. View all 16 comments. For the first approximately pages of this very long book, I was in reading heaven.
It tells these stories by cycling round them in instalments and a large part of the pleasure of reading, apart from the brilliance of the writing, is the fun of comparing the developing stories to see where they diverge and where they ov For the first approximately pages of this very long book, I was in reading heaven.
It tells these stories by cycling round them in instalments and a large part of the pleasure of reading, apart from the brilliance of the writing, is the fun of comparing the developing stories to see where they diverge and where they overlap. I really loved the writing. For example: "…the city remained a fundamental part of her life, dear, dirty, devouring New York, the capital of human faces, the horizontal Babel of human tongues. But then things started to change. At about pages in, I remember having a conversation with my wife about the book and telling her about an ending I was dreading might be coming.
No spoilers here, but that is exactly the ending we get. I was thinking I would hate it ending like that, but it was actually OK, mainly because of way it was written. The real problem for me was the or so pages between heaven and the end where the book seems to become far too obsessed with student politics and the painful process of writing a book.
For me, these pages dragged a bit: if they had been pages, it would have been fine, but it was three times that and took some getting through. I think of this book as sharing my geography and sharing my chronology, but it's really not at all my story. These Fergusons are so much more precocious than I was. They seem able to do things at astonishingly young ages that I was not capable of doing, for example. In my view, those criticisms are missing the point. I think Auster wants to review the times he has grown up in and some the conclusions he draws and especially the very, very end of the book are actually very relevant to today.
And so many of the things that were dividing us 50 years ago are dividing us again today. What we didn't learn in the '60s was that while we thought the left was in the ascendance, it was actually the right. And now, again, the right is again taking over the country in ways that eight years ago, when Obama came into office, we wouldn't have imagined could happen. The book is far more interesting because the life stories are similar but different and I think making them radically different would hugely spoil the book.
For American readers, the effort required may be less because they may not have the repeated need I had to check on the facts that are reported in the book. I kept stopping to check which people and events were fictional and which were actual people and events. But, overall, despite the problem I had with the middle section, I would say the time and effort are well rewarded.
View all 13 comments. The bombardment of all these words, that ceaseless yammering which failed to make any distinction between important things and unimportant things, talk that could impress you with its intelligence and perspicacity or else half bore you to death with its utter meaninglessness.
Update 1: Inexplicably shortlisted for the Booker. I'm lost for words. If only Auster had been Update 2: Awarded my worst completed book of albeit The Nix may have been a contender had I got past page 70 The bombardment of all these words, that ceaseless yammering which failed to make any distinction between important things and unimportant things, talk that could impress you with its intelligence and perspicacity or else half bore you to death with its utter meaninglessness.
Update 2: Awarded my worst completed book of albeit The Nix may have been a contender had I got past page 70 The above quote sums it up well - except for the intelligence and perspicacity part, as there was little of that on show. There are two distinct elements to 4 3 2 1 - a painfully detailed account of someone growing up to be a writer; and a Sliding Doors style approach where different moments cause a life to go down different paths, set against a backdrop of a turbulent period of history here s America.
Except of course they have - and they have not only done it first, they have done it much much better. If Auster's historical insights were uninspiring, I'm sure Auster does have many intelligent insights into the literature that he mentions throughout the story, but he seldom shares them with us here, often simply resorting to lists of books and authors. To be fair assuming Auster isn't ignorant of these works putting the two elements together is new - but the result is a tedious page novel largely repeated four times.
And Auster clearly sides on the nature side of the nature vs. For books as elsewhere in life, length itself isn't an issue, its girth that matters.
At one point we're told: The three students who shared the apartment with them, for example fellow students named Melanie, Fred and Stu in the first year, Alice, Alex and Fred the second year, had no role to play in the story.
And I would certainly recommend anyone still determined to read the book to pick one life Ferguson. Some other favourite quotes I noted while reading which really spoke to me: Either you give in to your despair and wait for it to pass, or you burn your scarlet notebook and forget you ever had it. Unfortunately the library might have objected if I followed the latter course, so I had to grin and bear it.
Every sentence was a struggle. Amy let out a prolonged groan and then tore in to him for wasting his time on trivial, asinine, college-boy humour. I know how she felt. View all 32 comments. A Portrait of the American Artist as a Young Man So, he takes up enough space for four people the way that I see people do in fast food joints. Four diverging versions of the same precocious young writer, or five if you count Auster. Things such as certain events that take place in your life and which seem to lend it their flavor, or the place where you read It and seems to irrevocably absorb its flavor, or, even more so, the manner in which it ended up in your hands.
Situations and even persons forever marked by a story and the other way around. Auster shows his magnificent talent in storytelling by crafting such a complex story without ever letting the reader lose grip or feel confused. Four lives of a single person passed before my eyes along with all that usually comes with a life and what an impact it had on me as I witnessed the course each one of them took as a result of choices and coincidence.
So well-made, so devoid of cheap pretensions and so painfully true and beautiful. No choice but to be affected, no choice but to experience it with all my senses and, ultimately, no choice but to love it. View all 4 comments. Jan 28, Arah-Lynda marked it as abandoned. I have a feeling that this novel is going to be a fabulous success. It is about a Jewish family living in New Jersey or more specifically about their son Ferguson.
The reader is given insight into four different versions of Ferguson's life. Each decision made by his parents or himself results in a different outcome, hence a different life path or portrayal of Ferguson's life. That is the bare bones of the nature of this novel. It is a huge tome of a book, weighing in at almost pages. I confe I have a feeling that this novel is going to be a fabulous success. I confess the story, as well written as it is, never really grabbed me.
Apr 27, Vit Babenco rated it it was amazing. On beginning to read 4 3 2 1 I was surprised that the story went at first as if it had been written by Theodore Dreiser so it made me wonder where was all the expected postmodernistic quirkiness.
But to my great delight I was capable to find the trick soon enough. View all 6 comments. Feb 17, Stephen P rated it it was amazing Shelves: re-readinteriorityauster. The immersion of how the smallest of events can lead our lives in different trajectories. Oh no. Something else. Yes, this book is about writing, the process. Each word inked leads to the next, line to paragraph, to pages, ideas emerging unexpected. A lengthy book that I enjoyed to the end and was disappointed it stopped.
Auster opened the sap-glued hinges of the gate of literature for me. On vacation I found no book in my suitcase. I picked out The New York Trilogy at a nearby bookstore on a whim based on its cover. Back at our hotel room I opened it up and threw it against the wall.
A waste of time. My wife asleep, there I was in our small hotel room with nothing to read. I sat on a chair and fretted watching the various ways my fingers could twine. Then pacing up and down, back and forth, until the tread of my bare feet were worn into the brown carpet. Finally, I went to where the book laid splayed and un-threw it, tossing it toward the chair. I sat and looked at it on the carpet by an engraved heel mark, watching it out of the corner of one eye.
It was going to be a long night anyway so I lifted it off the carpet and opened it. As bad as I thought. Maybe worse. What happened to the linear world? I searched the room for a plot. It proved laborious until I was diverted by this loud click sound.
Returning to the book it was different, completely different. Turning it upside down, dangling it at different positions, the words remained the same. I checked the cover, identical. The door remained locked and latched. Sitting and looking at the page again I…apprehended it differently.
The fundamental quest both before and after his new life began had always been a spiritual one, the dream of an enduring connection, a reciprocal love between compatible souls, souls endowed with bodies, of course, mercifully endowed with bodies, but the soul came first, would always come first, and in spite of his flirtations with Carol, Jane, Nancy, Susan, Mimi, Linda, and Connie, he soon learned that none of these girls possessed the soul he was looking for, and one by one he had lost interest in them and allowed them to disappear from his heart.
Everything becomes essence. One Archie Ferguson becomes a journalist, one a memoirist, one a novelist. One boy plasters his room with John F. Without this disability, he would not have been exempt from the draft, a spectre hovering over all the Archies as they come of age in the nineteen-sixties. But all three adult Archies soon abandon the unreliable consolations of faith for more secular explanations. The Montclair Archie goes to Columbia with several characters from earlier Auster novels listed as his classmates and becomes a journalist.
This story line features some amusing excerpts that read like undercooked Calvino pastiches. Instead of God, what directs the evolution of each Archie seems to be an irreducible kernel of identity. Whatever his circumstances, he was always meant to be a writer, and also to stand at the sidelines and observe while other people fight.
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