by Julie HaleNovember 2006
The Brooklyn Follies
The narrator of Auster's new novel is divorced 59-year-old Nathan Glass, a former life insurance agent who moves to Brooklyn after being treated for lung cancer. With his move comes the decision to take up writing, and Nathan soon embarks on a work called The Book of Human Folly, which he envisions as a narrative about his own life, with a special focus on bad decisions, foul-ups and regrets. In his new neighborhood, Nathan encounters a wide range of characters, including a gay book dealer, a drag queen and his own nephew, Tom. A grad school dropout who is searching for himself, Tom lives alone in a cramped apartment. When Lucy, his nine-year-old niece, shows up suddenly, Tom is completely taken by surprise. Lucy is the daughter of Aurora, his missing sister, and Tom hopes she can shed some light on Aurora's whereabouts. But Lucy doesn't divulge any details concerning her mother, and the mystery only widens with her presence. Tom, meanwhile, finds himself increasingly drawn to his gorgeous neighbor, who is married and has children of her own. At the center of these events is Nathan, whose good-natured, hopeful narration is undermined by the irony that the novel ends on 9/11. Complex, engaging and beautifully written, the book serves as a testament to the power of neighborhoods and to the solace that books one of Nathan's passions can provide. A reading group guide is available at www.picadorusa.com.