This week we had to read the City of Glass in the New York Trilogy. This was a fascinating book and at the end I found myself questioning whether the events of the story really happened. I didn't think that the story was based on real events until the end of the story. I was confused throughout the book about the purpose of Daniel Quinn portraying another person in an attempt of being a detective that he was mistaken for. It was at the end of the book that it clicked for me, he wanted to escape the history that he had, his lost wife and son, his lost desire to write the plays and poems he once did. He wanted that escape from his life that he feared, so he embraced being William Wilson and maintaining that sense of anonymity and then being someone else entirely as a detective and then maintaining his life as a homeless person. Daniel Quinn made for a fascinating character in this book and I enjoyed it.
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City of Glass was really interesting to read. Paul Auster is able to tell the story of a man on a search for his identity, and never makes it clear what point of view the story is told from. Moreover, the reality of the events is never known 100%. Auster is able to portray himself as Quinn who in turn is Bill. There are so many events and interpretations that can be taken from what Auster writes. One part that particularly stood out to me was when Quinn and Stillman share a conversation about Don Quixote. Like Auster, Cervantes wrote his story with an unclear story line in which events are not always defined as real or unreal. The discussion between the two men deals with Cervantes attempt to fool the reader into thinking he is not the actual author. I feel this is what Auster attempted to do as well. By having such unclear events and characters he is able to create a complex story that the reader must interpret in order to understand it all.
The way that City of Glass is written makes the plot ambiguous and for that reason it was challenging to figure out what was real and what was fiction. The fact that the client of the narrator's shares the same name as his deceased son made me wonder whether or not the entire case was a figment of his imagination. He himself isn't really a detective- he projects himself into the character he writes about in his novels. And as he listens to the tale of Peter Jr. through the man's and his wife's accounts, it becomes more obscure. The wife describes the horrible way her husband was treated by his father after his mother died. That rings a bell to the deaths of the narrator's wife and son. The speech bubbles depicted also start messing with the legitimacy of what is being said as they come from inanimate objects.
I also was wondering whether or not the Peter Stillman case was all in Quinn's mind. The subtle similarities between the two men appear right at the beginning of their relationship from the first time they meet. There's the fact that Peter was Quinn's son's name and Peter's mother had also died that ties them together. Additionally, both Peter and Quinn have identity issues after the traumatic events in their lives. Quinn uses William Wilson as his author identity and is now pretending to be the detective Paul Auster. The fact that Auster is the actual author of City of Glass adds another level to this weird identity layering. Peter Sillman also has multiple identities and tells Quinn over and over that that is not his real name. He refers to himself as many different things (Mr. Sad, Peter Rabbit, Mr. Green, etc.) and is unable to understand who he really is. In the chapter after they meet, Quinn uses the line "You bet your bottom dollar" which is something Peter kept saying in his speech. I found all this little similarities really interesting.
The story of Don Quixote stood out to me the most and made me very suspicious of the characters in the novel. I began to see connections between the characters that made me wonder if Daniel Quinn was the Don Quixote of his novel--a mixture of all these people. He says things like "I'm you and you're me" (to Auster's son) The sections about him and Stillman are extremely similar. And finally, there are many similarities between Peter Stillman and Quinn.
I've never read something quite like City of Glass and I thought it was interesting how in the beginning of the story, there is a description of the beauty of mystery novels; about how every word and phrase is relevant, and one cannot figure out the totality of the story until its end. I tried to incorporate this logic while reading City of Glass, yet, I found it difficult to interpret what was relevant to the plot's progression, and what was more so detail and than story. In any case, in the end, I came out with the impression that Max Work was to Quinn as Quinn to Paul Auster. I interpreted this when I read the author writing that he would always have Quinn with him, much like Quinn said about Work. Now, if Auster is the author then it is even more like Quinn and work because the narrator and Auster would be similar to the split between William Wilson and Quinn.
As Quinn describes at the beginning about how he didn't really connect with the main character of his books but connected more with the side character, it looks like Paul Auster is trying to show us something similar that he can't connect with Quinn too. Paul Auster was believed to be a great detective in the book but when Quinn takes on his role, he blunders so many times. Forgetting to pay attention to details and not keeping track of time are a few. This shows that Paul doesn't really connect with Quinn, the main character of his novel.
I really enjoyed reading City of Glass. I found it to be very suspenseful and action packed. I did find some of the discussion between characters to be a bit confusing and complex at times, but overall I fel that it was a smooth read. One of the most mysterious parts of the book occurs when Quinn receives the anonymous phone call for Detective Paul Auster. Quinn then takes on the identity of Detective Auster as he begins the case, which results in confusion when readers are actually introduced to the real Detective Auster. This is a confusing moment in the book because I then started to question who the author of the mystery is. This was not necessarily a bad thing, though, because I find that mystery adds excitement to reading and keeps the plot interesting.
City of Glass is quite a interesting novel. Being a type of detective novel, I think we could say that they mystery here is the character trying to find his identity. From trying to identify with Daniel Quinn to Paul Auster and Paul Auster to Daniel Quinn, I found it a bit challenging to keep up with the fictional versus fact parts of the story. After Daniels wife and son had died he completely lost his mind in a sense becoming unaware of the outside world. He had gone from a father and husband to a nobody. Each move that was made by the characters in the novel keep the reader wondering what was coming next. Between the end of this life and the beginning of "City of Glass," the main character developed a more realistic view of themselves and set out for companionship, for another life, for a new role to play.