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4 3 2 1: A Novel
     

4 3 2 1: A Novel

by Paul Auster
 

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A New York Times Bestseller

The Millions’s “Most Anticipated”
Vulture’s “Most Exciting Book Releases for 2017”
The Washington Post’s Books to Read in 2017
Chicago Tribune’s “Books We’re Excited About in

Overview

A New York Times Bestseller

The Millions’s “Most Anticipated”
Vulture’s “Most Exciting Book Releases for 2017”
The Washington Post’s Books to Read in 2017
Chicago Tribune’s “Books We’re Excited About in 2017”
Town & Country's "5 Books to Start Off 2017 the Right Way"
Read it Forward, Favorite Reads of January 2017

“An epic bildungsroman . . . . Original and complex . . . . A monumental assemblage of competing and complementary fictions, a novel that contains multitudes.”
Tom Perrotta, The New York Times Book Review

“A stunningly ambitious novel, and a pleasure to read. . . . An incredibly moving, true journey.”—NPR

Paul Auster’s greatest, most heartbreaking and satisfying novel—a sweeping and surprising story of birthright and possibility, of love and of life itself.

Nearly two weeks early, on March 3, 1947, in the maternity ward of Beth Israel Hospital in Newark, New Jersey, Archibald Isaac Ferguson, the one and only child of Rose and Stanley Ferguson, is born. From that single beginning, Ferguson’s life will take four simultaneous and independent fictional paths. Four identical Fergusons made of the same DNA, four boys who are the same boy, go on to lead four parallel and entirely different lives. Family fortunes diverge. Athletic skills and sex lives and friendships and intellectual passions contrast. Each Ferguson falls under the spell of the magnificent Amy Schneiderman, yet each Amy and each Ferguson have a relationship like no other. Meanwhile, readers will take in each Ferguson’s pleasures and ache from each Ferguson’s pains, as the mortal plot of each Ferguson’s life rushes on.

As inventive and dexterously constructed as anything Paul Auster has ever written, yet with a passion for realism and a great tenderness and fierce attachment to history and to life itself that readers have never seen from Auster before. 4 3 2 1 is a marvelous and unforgettably affecting tour de force.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Tom Perrotta
…original and dauntingly complex…it's impossible not to be impressed—and even a little awed—by what Auster has accomplished. 4 3 2 1 is a work of outsize ambition and remarkable craft, a monumental assemblage of competing and complementary fictions, a novel that contains multitudes.
Publishers Weekly
09/26/2016
Almost everything about Auster’s new novel is big. The sentences are long and sinuous; the paragraphs are huge, often running more than a page; and the book comes in at nearly 900 pages. In its telling, however, the book is far from epic, though it is satisfyingly rich in detail. It’s a bildungsroman spanning protagonist Archie Ferguson’s birth in 1947 to a consequential U.S. presidential election in 1974. Some warm opening pages are dedicated to the romance of the parents of Ferguson (as the third-person narrator refers to him throughout), Rose and Stanley. In its depiction of the everyday life of its hero, the book also gives a full history of America during this period through the eyes of Ferguson who, not coincidentally, is roughly the same age as Auster. He roots for the nascent Kennedy administration, sees Martin Luther King’s peaceful resistance, and recognizes both the greatness and the iniquity in L.B.J.’s actions as president. These national events are juxtaposed against Ferguson’s coming-of-age: he goes to summer camp, has a sad first love with a girl named Anne-Marie, and gets an education via his beloved aunt Mildred. One of the many pleasures of the book is Ferguson’s vibrant recounting of his reading experiences, such as Emma Goldman’s Living My Life, Voltaire’s Candide, and Theodore White’s The Making of the President, 1960. Auster adds a significant and immersive entry to a genre that stretches back centuries and includes Augie March and Tristram Shandy. (Jan.)
From the Publisher

“An epic bildungsroman . . . . Original and complex . . . . It’s impossible not to be impressed – and even a little awed – by what Auster has accomplished. . . . A work of outsize ambition and remarkable craft,a monumental assemblage of competing and complementary fictions, a novel that contains multitudes.”—Tom Perrotta, The New York Times Book Review

Ambitious and sprawling . . . . Immersive . . . . Auster has a startling ability to report the world in novel ways.”—USA Today

“A stunningly ambitious novel, and a pleasure to read. Auster’s writing is joyful even in the book’sdarkest moments, and never ponderous or showy. . . . An incredibly moving, true journey.”—NPR

Sharply observed . . . . Reads like a sprawling, 19th-century novel.”—The Wall Street Journal

Ingenious . . . . Structurally inventive and surprisingly moving. . . . 4 3 2 1 reads like [a] big social drama . . . while also offering the philosophical exploration of oneman’s fate.”—Esquire

Mesmerizing . . . Continues to push the narrative envelope. . . . Four distinct characters whose lives diverge and intersect in devious, rollicking ways, reminiscent of Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life. . . . Prismatic and rich in period detail, 4 3 2 1 reflects the high spirits of postwar America as well as the despair coiled, asplike, in its shadows.”—O, the Oprah Magazine

“The power of [Auster’s] best work is . . . his faithful pursuit of the mission proposed in The Invention of Solitude, to explore the ‘infinite possibilities of a limited space’ . . . . The effect [of 4 3 2 1] is almost cubist in its multidimensionality—that of a single, exceptionally variegated life displayed in the round. . . . [An] impressively ambitious novel.”—Harper’s Magazine

“Auster’s magnificent new novel is reminiscent ofInvisible in that it deals with the impossibility of containing a lifein a single story . . . . Undeniably intriguing . . . . A mesmerizing chronicle of one character’s four lives . . . The finest—though one hopes, farfrom final—act in one of the mightiest writing careers of the last half century.”—Paste Magazine

Wonderfully clever . . . . 4 3 2 1 is much more than a pieceof literary gamesmanship . . . . It is a heartfeltand engaging piece of storytelling that unflinchingly explores the 20thcentury American experience in all its honor and ignominy. This is, withoutdoubt, Auster’s magnum opus. . . . A true revelation . . . One can’t help but admit they are in the presence of a genius.”—Toronto Star

“A multitiered examination of the implications of fate . . . in which the structure of the book reminds us of its own conditionality. . . . A signifier of both possibility and its limitations.”—The Washington Post

“At the heart of this novel is a provocative question: What would have happened if your life hadtaken a different turn at a critical moment? . . . Ingenious.”—Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“Auster presents four lovingly detailed portrayals ofthe intensity of youth – of awkwardness and frustration, but also of passion forbooks, films, sport, politics and sex. . . . [Trying] to think of comparisons [to the novel] . . . [nothing] is exactly right . . . . What he is driving at is not only the role of contingency and the unexpected, but the ‘what-ifs’ that haunt us, the imaginary lives we hold in our minds that run parallel to our actual existence.”—The Guardian

“Draws the reader in fromthe very first sentence and does not let go until the very end. . . . An absorbing, detailed account – four accounts! – of growing up in the decades following World War II. . . . Auster’sprose is never less than arresting .. . . In addition to being a bildungsroman, “4321” is a “künstlerroman,” aportrait of the artist as a young man whose literary ambition is evident evenin childhood. . . . I emerged from . . . this prodigious book eager for more.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“Leaves readers feeling they know every minute detail of [Ferguson’s] inner life, as if they were lifelong companions and daily confidants. . . . It’s like an epic game of MASH: Will Ferguson grow up in Montclair or Manhattan? Excel in baseball or basketball? Date girls or love boys too? Live or die? . . . A detailed landscape . . . for readers who like taking the scenic route.”—TIME Magazine

“Auster pays tribute to what Rose Ferguson thinks of as a ‘dear, dirty, devouring New York, the capital of human faces, the horizontal Babel of human tongues.’. . . Sprawling . . . occasionally splendid.”—The New Yorker

43 2 1 is that rarest of books - a masterpiece by a genius. . .. Auster’s first novel in seven years is nothing short of trueliterature. It is why we read.”—Newark Star Ledger

?“Magnificently conceived . . . . Auster is a peerless storyteller . . . .4 3 2 1 is also a brilliant compendium of the tumultuous 1960s . . . . Impressively smooth . . . . The development and mingling of four versions of Archie Ferguson not only illuminate and enhance his character, it gives the storytelling the power of enchantment that sustains the reader through the length of the book.”—Seattle Times

“A bona fide epic . . . both accessible and formally daring.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune

Inventive, engrossing.”—St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Arresting .. . . A hugely accomplished work, a novel unlike any other.”—The National (UAE)

“Brilliantly rendered,intricately plotted . . . a magnum opus.”—Columbia Magazine

“Auster’s first novel inseven years is . . . . an ingenious move . . . . Auster’s sense of possibility, his understanding of what all his Fergusons have in common, with us and one another, is a kind of quiet intensity, a striving to discover who they are. . . . [He] reminds us that not just life, but also narrative is always conditional, that it only appears inevitable after the fact.”—Kirkus (starred review)

“Auster has been turning readers’ heads for three decades, bending the conventions of storytelling . . . . He now presents his most capacious, demanding, eventful, suspenseful, erotic, structurally audacious, funny, and soulful novel to date . . . [a] ravishing opus.”—Booklist (starred review)

Rich and detailed. It’s about accidents of fate, and the people and works of art and experiences that shape our lives even before our birth—what reader doesn't vibrate at that frequency?”—Lydia Kiesling, Slate

“Auster illuminates how the discrete moments in one’s life form the plot points of a sprawling narrative, rife with possibility.”—Library Journal (starred review)

Mesmerizing . . . . A wonderful work of realist fiction and well worth the time.”—Read it Forward

Frisky and sinuous . . . energetic. . . . A portrait of a cultural era coming into being . . . the era that is our own.”—Tablet magazine

“Almost everything about Auster's new novel is big. . . Satisfyingly rich in detail . . . . A significant and immersive entry to a genre that stretches back centuriesand includes Augie March and Tristram Shandy.”—Publishers Weekly

Library Journal
★ 01/01/2017
Critics were quick to describe Autser's Invisible, a quaternary tale that told a contiguous narrative across a multitude of voices and authors, as a mere exercise in textual irony, lacking readability and substance. Here, the author has greater success as he returns to the four-part literary form with the coming-of-age story of Archibald Ferguson. Set in the 20th century, this novel chronicles Archibald's maturation through four possible, yet divergent, life paths. Family fortunes, careers, and hometowns shift and change as Archibald's life unfolds across each metaphorical fork in the road. However, one constant remains: his love for Amy Schneiderman. By interweaving each chapter into a single narrative and playing with metafiction, Auster winks at the multitude of universes contained within a single story and slyly presents the reader with essentially four drafts of a novel in progress. VERDICT Fusing the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics with the bildungsroman literary genre, Auster illuminates how the discrete moments in one's life form the plot points of a sprawling narrative, rife with possibility. [See Prepub Alert, 7/22/26.]—Joshua Finnell, Los Alamos National Lab., NM
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2016-12-06
Four versions of an ordinary life. Auster's first novel in seven years is nothing if not ambitious: a four-part invention, more than 800 pages, that follows the life (or lives) of Archie Ferguson, despite his name a child of Jewish Newark, born in the 1940s. If such a territory seems well-traveled (Philip Roth, anyone?), Auster, as he often does, has something more complex in mind. Indeed, his subject in these pages is identity: not how it gets fixed but rather all the ways it can unfurl. To that end, he develops the book as four distinct narratives, each imagining a different life for Archie depending on the circumstances faced by himself and his family. It's an ingenious move, and when it works, which is often, it gives a sense of breadth and scope, of unpredictability, to the novel as a whole. This is underscored by Auster's decision to keep the rest of the book naturalistic, taking place in an identifiable world. Thus, once young Ferguson discovers baseball, he watches Game 1 of the 1954 World Series, Giants versus Indians, in which Willie Mays made his legendary catch. Later, he will end up in Europe as an aesthete, or as a student transferring to Brooklyn College, or in Rochester, New York, as a journalist reporting on the aftermath of the 1960s and the bombing of Cambodia. The history helps to keep us rooted, both because it's recognizable and also because it remains consistent across the novel's narratives, its variations on this single life. So, too, Auster's sense of possibility, his understanding that what all his Fergusons have in common, with us and with one another, is a kind of quiet intensity, a striving to discover who they are. "It could never end," he writes about one incarnation of the character. "The sun was stuck in the sky, a page had gone missing from the book, and it would always be summer as long as they didn't breathe too hard or ask for too much, always the summer when they were nineteen and were finally, finally almost, finally perhaps almost on the brink of saying good-bye to the moment when everything was still in front of them." With this novel, Auster reminds us that not just life, but also narrative is always conditional, that it only appears inevitable after the fact.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781627794466
Publisher:
Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
01/31/2017
Pages:
880
Sales rank:
8,885
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.90(d)

Meet the Author

Paul Auster is the bestselling author of Winter Journal, Sunset Park, Invisible, The Book of Illusions, and The New York Trilogy, among many other works. He has been awarded the Prince of Asturias Award for Literature, the Prix Médicis étranger, an Independent Spirit Award, and the Premio Napoli. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and is a Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Brooklyn, New York
Date of Birth:
February 3, 1947
Place of Birth:
Newark, New Jersey
Education:
B.A., M.A., Columbia University, 1970

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