Summary and book reviews of The Brooklyn Follies by Paul Auster

The Brooklyn Follies

by Paul Auster

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

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Book Summary

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

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.

The Brooklyn Follies is Paul Auster's warmest, most exuberant novel, a moving and unforgettable hymn to the glories and mysteries of ordinary human life.

CHAPTER 1
overture

I was looking for a quiet place to die. Someone recommended Brooklyn, and so the next morning I traveled down there from Westchester to scope out the terrain. I hadn't been back in fifty-six years, and I remembered nothing. My parents had moved out of the city when I was three, but I instinctively found myself returning to the neighborhood where we had lived, crawling home like some wounded dog to the place of my birth. A local real estate agent ushered me around to six or seven brownstone flats, and by the end of the afternoon I had rented a two-bedroom garden apartment on First Street, just half a block away from Prospect Park. I had no idea who my neighbors were, and I didn't care. They all worked at nine-to-five jobs, none of them had any children, and therefore the building would be relatively silent. More than anything else, that was what I craved. A silent end to my sad and ridiculous life.

The house in Bronxville was ...

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About this Guide

The following list of questions about The Brooklyn Follies are intended as resources to aid individual readers and book groups who would like to learn more about the author and this book. We hope that this guide will provide you a starting place for discussion, and suggest a variety of perspectives from which you might approach The Brooklyn Follies.


About the Book

Nathan Glass, a curmudgeonly fifty-nine-year-old retired insurance salesman in recovery from lung cancer, returns to Brooklyn looking for a place to die. The dark premise of Paul Auster's The Brooklyn Follies belies the humor and surprising mirth Nathan finds upon moving back to his birthplace. Along with his literature-loving, cab-...
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Reviews

Media Reviews

Austin American-Statesman

The Brooklyn Follies is a valentine to Auster's neighborhood. But it's in the imagining that he place really comes alive; Auster is every bit as much the bard of Brooklyn as was Whitman. It is his Yoknapatawpha County and then some.

The San Francisco Chronicle

A classical work of American literature in the most traditional 19th century meaning of the phrase. It is a multilayered tapestry, with whimsical chapter headings and Dickensian depth. It is a novel striving for a true sense of community.

Bookpage

Another Paul Auster masterpiece...He may, in fact, be America's best writer. The Brooklyn Follies is quite simply a wonderful, lyrical novel, a joyful celebration of life's pleasures and ironies"

Kirkus Reviews

... it's hard to be ironic and warm and fuzzy simultaneously, and the American novelist who most closely resembles England's Ian McEwan really shouldn't try to be Anne Tyler... An egregious misstep in an otherwise estimable career.

Booklist - Donna Seaman

Starred Review. Auster also takes subtle measure of a time that will live in infamy, the era of the 2000 election and September 11, 2001.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Auster's graceful, offhand storytelling carries readers along, with enough shadow to keep the tale this side of schmaltz. The result is an affectionate portrait of the city as the ultimate refuge of the human spirit.

The Observer - Toby Lichtig

His preoccupation with chance means that the reader must practise a lot of belief-suspension as the characters start to pinball from one odd encounter to the next.

Reader Reviews

Alex

The Brooklyn Follies
Reading this novel was not a satisfying experience for me. To my ear, the story never rang true. Nevertheless, I found it interesting and entertaining enough for the first 3/4 of the book. After that, for me, the author’s style became too didactic ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Paul Benjamin Auster was born on February 3, 1947 in Newark, New Jersey.  His father, Samuel Auster, was a landlord; his mother, Queenie was about 13 years younger than her husband; the marriage was not a happy one.

Auster's passion for reading began when he was about 12 and his uncle, Allen Mandelbaum (a professor of Italian literature, a poet, and a prolific translator) left several boxes of books in storage in the Auster's house while he traveled to Europe.  Paul read the books avidly and developed an interest in writing and literature that further accentuated his feeling that he was "an internal émigré, an exile in my own house." (from his memoir, Hand to Mouth)

He went to school in ...

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