The New York Trilogy, Paul Auster
Faber & Faber, March 31, 1987
City of Glass (Sun and Moon Press, 1985)
Ghosts (Sun and Moon Press, 1986)
The Locked Room (Sun and Moon Press, 1986)
It was a move to Chicago that started it, the promise of high-rise anonymity offering an enticing post-graduate beginning. It would be the first of many moves as is the case in the transient life of a renter, each new unlisted address forging a comfortable distance between then and now. But to begin in a high-rise was an interesting choice. That the fifty-some-odd floors each contained the same floor plans, one on top of the next on top of the next—each ghostly inhabitant (past and present) in the towering slab no more than a hazy reflection of one another—did not, at first, seem disturbing at all.
In the city, shadows were film noir backdrops, mysterious and inviting, and they brought to life the allusion that everyone, including our protagonist, was a character in a story. He could have been Quinn or even Paul Auster, a writer-turned-detective attempting to solve the riddle of an all-consuming case. For that matter, our protagonist could just as easily have been the other Paul Auster.
It was simple. As long as he was in control of the make-believe script that mapped his destiny, he would always be safe. He could trip the shadows at any time and return to a self-written definition of home.
Upon this return to self, there are certain plot points that fade the fiction to black and shine the light squarely back on reality. As an example, an apartment lease expires. At that time, a decision to move is doused with so much logic (cheaper rent, cheaper rent, chance at new beginnings, cheaper rent), that the momentum of the potential move generates its own identity, born from the mere spark of contemplation. An entirely new path is set into motion, along with a new set of actions and consequences.
The decision to move (yet again) and leave the past behind is not too difficult. Home is only, after all, where you are and what you make it. Each new address provides its own cozy safety net. There will also always be a new storage room to hold the moving boxes as well as whatever furniture does not quite fit the new dimensions and vibe (boxes that will be ready for a future move, furniture that will be reintroduced in a different episode).
Here we are now in a different corner of the city. A new set of shadows emerge offering new places to dissolve in, possibly even new cases to crack.
As for the rest, it will have to wait. The writer of this entry is not quite himself today.
It was a wrong number that started it, the telephone ringing three times in the dead of night, and the voice on the other end asking for someone he was not.