Monday, July 25, 2011

I read Sunset Park (or, How to Differentiate Between Real Brooklyn vs Fictional Brooklyn)

Never Done: I read Sunset Park (by Paul Auster)

I adore Paul Auster's writing. I first came upon him in a rare instance in which I was introduced to an author through a screenplay that he penned, Smoke -- long before I dreamed that I would someday live in Brooklyn. I've since then seen the other independent film he wrote and co-directed, Blue in the Face, and listened to him read his own novel -- The Brooklyn Follies. (If you like audio books, then I recommend this recording with twenty five stars -- I find Auster to be not only a brilliant writer, but a brilliant reader.)

When his latest novel, Sunset Park, came out last November, I put it on a list, and then didn't get to it until this week. When I inhaled it. Gulped it down. Read from the moment the subway doors closed til the opened again, and again and again til I had read the whole story of Miles Heller and the concentric and disconnected circles that newly form -- and have always formed -- around him. I don't want to give a synopsis of the novel -- you can go find one online if you want that -- but instead to talk about what it means to read a novel set 20 blocks down the way from where I live, how I feel more like a part of fictional Brooklyn than I do real Brooklyn.

In fictional Brooklyn, I imagine the heat and the cold and the smells and the traffic, but in real Brooklyn I sweat and I shiver and I cover my nose to keep them all out. In fictional Brooklyn, I know people just like that, but in real Brooklyn I know those people. So why do I feel more of an affinity for fictional Brooklyn than real Brooklyn? Is there still a left-over romanticism left over from when I didn't yet live here, but I'd heard my friends' stories? Is it just always easier to project myself into someone else's story rather to create my own? I think this is one of those blog posts that won't resolve completely -- but will just end with these questions. Not unlike Sunset Park itself.

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