BookBrowse Reviews The Brooklyn Follies by Paul Auster

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The Brooklyn Follies

by Paul Auster

The Brooklyn Follies by Paul Auster
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  • First Published:
    Dec 2005, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2006, 320 pages

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Auster's warmest, most exuberant novel, a moving and unforgettable hymn to the glories and mysteries of ordinary human life

From the book jacket: Nathan Glass has come to Brooklyn to die. Divorced, estranged from his only daughter, the retired life insurance salesman seeks only solitude and anonymity. Then Nathan finds his long-lost nephew, Tom Wood, working in a local bookstore - a far cry from the brilliant academic career he'd begun when Nathan saw him last. Tom's boss is the charismatic Harry Brightman, whom fate has also brought to the "ancient kingdom of Brooklyn, New York."  Through Tom and Harry, Nathan's world gradually broadens to include a new set of acquaintances - not to mention a stray relative or two - and leads him to a reckoning with his past.

Among the many twists in the delicious plot are a scam involving a forgery of the first page of The Scarlet Letter, a disturbing revelation that takes place in a sperm bank, and an impossible, utopian dream of a rural refuge. Meanwhile, the wry and acerbic Nathan has undertaken something he calls The Book of Human Folly, in which he proposes "to set down in the simplest, clearest language possible an account of every blunder, every pratfall, every embarrassment, every idiocy, every foible, and every inane act I had committed during my long and checkered career as a man." But life takes over instead, and Nathan's despair is swept away as he finds himself more and more implicated in the joys and sorrows of others.

Comment: When reading reviews in the media it is so easy to fall into the trap of thinking that a particular opinion is that of the newspaper or magazine itself, whereas in reality it is just the opinion of one person, albeit someone who has probably read more widely than most.  This is why, at BookBrowse, I always try to gather as wide a range of opinions as I can - because so often, as the saying goes, one man's meat is another man's poison, and it is easy to be put off a particular book simply because of having read one negative review.

The Brooklyn Follies is a case in point.  If you were to read Publishers Weekly and Booklist (who both award it coveted 'starred review' status) you'd be rushing to the bookstore before breakfast; but if you read, Kirkus Reviews (one of the other pre-publication review sources) you'd have a very different perspective; to quote Kirkus: "It's hard to be ironic and warm and fuzzy simultaneously.. [Auster] shouldn't try to be Anne Tyler (or, God help him, Nicholas Sparks). An egregious misstep in an otherwise estimable career."

So who do you believe?  Like everything in life, I suggest you listen to what others have to say and then make up your own mind!  This is, of course, exactly what you can do at BookBrowse - by first reading the range of critical opinion and then browsing a substantial except for yourself!

This review was originally published in January 2006, and has been updated for the October 2006 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.



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