The Brooklyn Follies

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Overview

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 ...
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Overview

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.

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.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
With this novel, veteran storyteller Paul Auster proves that he still has some surprises up his sleeve. Diehard fans will find all of the author's trademark themes -- loss, identity, and the persistent intrusion of chance; but this time out, Auster seasons his signature stew of postmodern pessimism with an unexpected dollop of buoyancy. The Brooklyn Follies tells the story of a man who returns home to die but finds instead a million reasons to live.
Publishers Weekly
Nathan Glass, a retired life insurance salesman estranged from his family and facing an iffy cancer prognosis, is "looking for a quiet place to die. Someone recommended Brooklyn." What he finds, though, in this ebullient novel by Brooklyn bard Auster (Oracle Night), is a vital, big-hearted borough brimming with great characters. These include Nathan's nephew, Tom, a grad student turned spiritually questing cab driver; Tom's serenely silent nine-year-old niece, who shows up on Tom's doorstep without her unstable mom; and a flamboyant book dealer hatching a scheme to sell a fraudulent manuscript of The Scarlet Letter. As Nathan recovers his soul through immersion in their lives, Auster meditates on the theme of sanctuary in American literature, from Hawthorne to Poe to Thoreau, infusing the novel's picaresque with touches of romanticism, Southern gothic and utopian yearning. But the book's presiding spirit is Brooklyn's first bard, Walt Whitman, as Auster embraces the borough's multitudes-neighborhood characters, drag queens, intellectuals manqu , greasy-spoon waitresses, urbane bourgeoisie-while singing odes to moonrise over the Brooklyn Bridge. 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. (Jan.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
The dying Nathan Glass rediscovers a long-lost nephew, whose megawatt boss introduces him to the "ancient kingdom of Brooklyn, New York." Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A retired insurance salesman returns to his native Brooklyn to die-and is instead recalled to life-in Auster's uncharacteristically upbeat 12th novel (Oracle Night, 2003, etc.). Nathan Glass, approaching 60 and diagnosed with lung cancer, has a lot to die for: He's long divorced, estranged from his adult daughter, exhausted from years of toiling for Mid-Atlantic Accident and Life. Then, like an Iris Murdoch character, he becomes involved in others' lives and experiences the gratifications of contingency. Nathan's nephew Tom Wood has forsaken a promising academic career, gone to seed and settled for an unrewarding job at Brightman's Attic, a used bookstore run by "born prankster" Harry Dunkel (aka Brightman), a gay art and manuscript forger who, during impassioned bull sessions with Tom and Nathan, discloses his hopeful vision of an imaginary utopian "Hotel Existence" (which echoes Tom's abandoned thesis on "Imaginary Edens" in classic American literature). The plot keeps thickening with the arrival of Nathan's nine-year-old great-niece Lucy, daughter of Aurora ("Rory"), Tom's promiscuous, drug-addled, vagrant sister. A trip to Vermont brings serendipitous accidents, ends at a country inn that's the incarnation of Harry's idealized fantasy and gives Tom a second chance at fulfillment. But "accident and life" break in, returning the principal characters to Brooklyn to rearrange their lives and relationships-a pattern, re-echoed at the conclusion, in which Nathan survives and looks to the future, on the verge of an ominously significant Date in Recent History. The novel is energized throughout by fancy symbolic footwork, and intermittently by Nathan's habit of recording "the slapstickmoments of everyday life" in a loose gathering of jottings he calls The Book of Human Folly. But 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 (or, God help him, Nicholas Sparks). An egregious misstep in an otherwise estimable career. Agent: Carol Mann/Carol Mann Agency
From the Publisher

"A charming, beguiling story about the terrible beauty of families and the redemptive power of love . . . Auster's writing is packed with surprises."—USA Today

"A bighearted, life-affirming, tenderly comic yarn."—The Washington Post

"Probably the first authentic attempt to deal with the post—September 11 world . . . It is a multilayered tapestry, with whimsical chapter headings and Dickensian depth."—San Francisco Chronicle

"Auster has written a sublime soap opera about the ways in which people abandon and save one another. He captures a historical moment, our twisted America, and he offers a message of hope. Love will save us. We will save each other. Auster employs tough-guy talk and funny, believable stories of folly in his search for wisdom and goodness."—The Boston Globe

“Auster has written a sublime soap opera about the ways in which people abandon and sanother. H

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312426231
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 10/17/2006
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.28 (h) x 0.89 (d)

Meet the Author

Paul Auster

PAUL AUSTER is the bestselling author of Travels in the Scriptorium, Oracle Night, and Man in the Dark, among many other works. I Thought My Father Was God, the NPR National Story Project Anthology, which he edited, was also a national bestseller. His work has been translated into more than thirty-five languages. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Biography

Much later, when he was able to think about the things that happened to him, he would conclude that nothing was real except chance. But that was much later. In the beginning, there was simply the event and its consequences.

This sentence from the opening of Paul Auster's first novel, City of Glass, could also serve as a template for the author's career, both in circumstance and theme. City of Glass is perhaps the best known of Auster's postmodern detective New York Trilogy, which is rounded out by Ghosts and The Locked Room. Though the novels nominally involve cases to be solved, at base they are about the mystery of identity and how easily it can be lost or altered. In City of Glass, a mystery writer mistakenly receives a phone call for detective Paul Auster and assumes his identity, becoming embroiled in a case. The trilogy was a welcome breath of fresh air for both detective stories and postmodernist writing, and it put Auster on the publishing map.

Setting out to write his subsequent novel, Auster kept in mind the subtitle "Anna Blume Walks Through the 20th Century." The result was a woman's post-apocalyptic urban journey, In the Country of Last Things. Subsequent works such as Moon Palace, The Music of Chance, Leviathan, and Mr. Vertigo offered heroes caught up in strange worlds, playing out their stories over existential subtexts. The Music of Chance carries references from Beckett's Waiting for Godot in its story about a drifter who ends up teaming with a card player named Jack Pozzi to hustle two wealthy eccentrics in a fateful poker game. In Mr. Vertigo, a boy who has the ability to levitate goes on the road in the 1920s as "the Wonder Boy," moving through a panorama of pre-Depression America.

Auster's ability to blur the line between fantasy and reality has resulted in unique stories that never operate solely as good yarns. The New York Times wrote of Leviathan -- a dead man's coincidence-ridden story, as narrated by his friend -- "Thus in the literary looking glass of Leviathan, in which things are not always what they seem, our pleasure in reading the story is enhanced by the challenge of making other connections." Auster's fondness for allegory has earned him both praise for his cleverness and criticism from reviewers who, even as they praise his talent, occasionally find him heavy-handed.

The director Philip Haas adapted The Music of Chance for the 1993 film starring James Spader and Mandy Patinkin. But it was Wayne Wang who drew Auster to the movie business in earnest, convincing him to write the screenplay for 1995's Smoke, which was adapted from the short story "Auggie Wren's Christmas Story." The film did well enough to get producer Miramax on board for a sequel bringing back star Harvey Keitel, Blue in the Face. This time, Auster not only wrote the script but co-directed with Wang; he later went full-fledged auteur with the 1998 film (also starring Keitel) Lulu on the Bridge.

In 1999, Auster made the unconventional choice of writing from a canine's point of view in Timbuktu -- although as Auster noted in the Guardian, Mr. Bones "is and isn't a dog." In telling the story of himself and his owner, a homeless "outlaw poet" named Willy G. Christmas, Mr. Bones offers a meditation on mortality, human relationships, and dreams. "If anything," Auster said in a chat with Barnes & Noble.com readers, "I thought of Willy and Mr. Bones as a rather screwball, nutty, latter-day version of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, the befuddled knight-errant and his loyal squire." The New York Times called Timbuktu his "most touching, most emotionally accessible book."

Auster earned some of his best reviews with his tenth novel The Book of Illusions, about a widower who develops an obsession with an obscure silent-film star and is surprised with an invitation to meet the presumed-dead actor. Book magazine called it "certainly his best...the book [has] the drive and dazzle reminiscent of the classic hardboiled yarns of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett."

Auster is an author who, in both his fiction and his nonfiction, rekindles hope for the romantic, the coincidental, and the magical in everyday life. He does this not with fantastic story lines but by heightening the significance of twists and coincidences that happen to us all the time -- if we approach things in a certain light, our lives become like movies. Auster spins the projector.

Good To Know

Auster's wife Siri Hustvedt, whom he met in 1981, is also a novelist and essayist; writing about her novel The Blindfold, the Village Voice Literary Supplement called Hustvedt "a writer of strong, sometimes astonishing gifts." Auster's first wife was writer Lydia Davis.

Desperately poor in the late '70s and working unhappily as a French translator to make ends meet, Auster wrote a detective novel called Squeeze Play to make some money. He also invented a card game called Action Baseball that he tried to sell to game manufacturers. However, Squeeze Play is "not a legitimate book," he told the Guardian; it was published under a pseudonym. Later, an inheritance from his father allowed Auster the financial freedom to focus more on his writing.

Auster has enjoyed a remarkably international following, even in the days before his Hollywood projects raised his profile; his novels have been translated into several languages, and web sites from Germany to Japan pay him homage.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Paul Benjamin
    2. Hometown:
      Brooklyn, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 3, 1947
    2. Place of Birth:
      Newark, New Jersey
    1. Education:
      B.A., M.A., Columbia University, 1970

Read an Excerpt

THE BROOKLYN FOLLIES


By PAUL AUSTER

Henry Holt and Company

Copyright © 2006 Paul Auster
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-8050-7714-6


Chapter One

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 already under contract, and once the closing took place at the end of the month, money wasn't going to be a problem. My ex-wife and I were planning to split the proceeds from the sale, and with four hundred thousand dollars in the bank, there would be more than enough to sustain me until I stopped breathing.

At first, I didn't know what to do with myself. I had spent thirty-one years commuting back and forth between the suburbs and the Manhattan offices of Mid-Atlantic Accident and Life, but now that I didn't have a job anymore, there were too many hours in the day. About a week after I moved into the apartment, my married daughter, Rachel, drove in from New Jersey to pay me a visit. She said that I needed to get involved in something, to invent a project for myself. Rachel is not a stupid person. She has a doctorate in biochemistry from the University of Chicago and works as a researcher for a large drug company outside Princeton, but much like her mother before her, it's a rare day when she speaks in anything but platitudes-all those exhausted phrases and hand-me-down ideas that cram the dump sites of contemporary wisdom.

I explained that I was probably going to be dead before the year was out, and I didn't give a flying fuck about projects. For a moment, it looked as if Rachel was about to cry, but she blinked back the tears and called me a cruel and selfish person instead. No wonder "Mom" had finally divorced me, she added, no wonder she hadn't been able to take it anymore. Being married to a man like me must have been an unending torture, a living hell. A living hell. Alas, poor Rachel-she simply can't help herself. My only child has inhabited this earth for twenty-nine years, and not once has she come up with an original remark, with something absolutely and irreducibly her own.

Yes, I suppose there is something nasty about me at times. But not all the time-and not as a matter of principle. On my good days, I'm as sweet and friendly as any person I know. You can't sell life insurance as successfully as I did by alienating your customers, at least not for three long decades you can't. You have to be sympathetic. You have to be able to listen. You have to know how to charm people. I possess all those qualities and more. I won't deny that I've had my bad moments as well, but everyone knows what dangers lurk behind the closed doors of family life. It can be poison for all concerned, especially if you discover that you probably weren't cut out for marriage in the first place. I loved having sex with Edith, but after four or five years the passion seemed to run its course, and from then on I became less than a perfect husband. To hear Rachel tell it, I wasn't much in the parent department either. I wouldn't want to contradict her memories, but the truth is that I cared for them both in my own way, and if I sometimes found myself in the arms of other women, I never took any of those affairs seriously. The divorce wasn't my idea. In spite of everything, I was planning to stay with Edith until the end. She was the one who wanted out, and given the extent of my sins and transgressions over the years, I couldn't really blame her. Thirty-three years of living under the same roof, and by the time we walked off in opposite directions, what we added up to was approximately nothing.

I had told Rachel my days were numbered, but that was no more than a hotheaded retort to her meddling advice, a blast of pure hyperbole. My lung cancer was in remission, and based on what the oncologist had told me after my most recent exam, there was cause for guarded optimism. That didn't mean I trusted him, however. The shock of the cancer had been so great, I still didn't believe in the possibility of surviving it. I had given myself up for dead, and once the tumor had been cut out of me and I'd gone through the debilitating ordeals of radiation treatment and chemo, once I'd suffered the long bouts of nausea and dizziness, the loss of hair, the loss of will, the loss of job, the loss of wife, it was difficult for me to imagine how to go on. Hence Brooklyn. Hence my unconscious return to the place where my story began. I was almost sixty years old, and I didn't know how much time I had left. Maybe another twenty years; maybe just a few more months. Whatever the medical prognosis of my condition, the crucial thing was to take nothing for granted. As long as I was alive, I had to figure out a way to start living again, but even if I didn't live, I had to do more than just sit around and wait for the end. As usual, my scientist daughter had been right, even if I'd been too stubborn to admit it. I had to keep myself busy. I had to get off my ass and do something.

It was early spring when I moved in, and for the first few weeks I filled my time by exploring the neighborhood, taking long walks in the park, and planting flowers in my back garden-a small, junk-filled patch of ground that had been neglected for years. I had my newly resurgent hair cut at the Park Slope Barbershop on Seventh Avenue, rented videos from a place called Movie Heaven, and stopped in often at Brightman's Attic, a cluttered, badly organized used-book store owned by a flamboyant homosexual named Harry Brightman (more about him later). Most mornings, I prepared breakfast for myself in the apartment, but since I disliked cooking and lacked all talent for it, I tended to eat lunch and dinner in restaurants-always alone, always with an open book in front of me, always chewing as slowly as possible in order to drag out the meal as long as I could. After sampling a number of options in the vicinity, I settled on the Cosmic Diner as my regular spot for lunch. The food there was mediocre at best, but one of the waitresses was an adorable Puerto Rican girl named Marina, and I rapidly developed a crush on her. She was half my age and already married, which meant that romance was out of the question, but she was so splendid to look at, so gentle in her dealings with me, so ready to laugh at my less than funny jokes, that I literally pined for her on her days off. From a strictly anthropological point of view, I discovered that Brooklynites are less reluctant to talk to strangers than any tribe I had previously encountered. They butt into one another's business at will (old women scolding young mothers for not dressing their children warmly enough, passersby snapping at dog walkers for yanking too hard on the leash); they argue like deranged four-year-olds over disputed parking spaces; they zip out dazzling one-liners as a matter of course. One Sunday morning, I went into a crowded deli with the absurd name of La Bagel Delight. I was intending to ask for a cinnamon-raisin bagel, but the word caught in my mouth and came out as cinnamon-reagan. Without missing a beat, the young guy behind the counter answered: "Sorry, we don't have any of those. How about a pumpernixon instead?" Fast. So damned fast, I nearly wet my drawers.

After that inadvertent slip of the tongue, I finally hit upon an idea that Rachel would have approved of. It wasn't much of an idea, perhaps, but at least it was something, and if I stuck to it as rigorously and faithfully as I intended to, then I would have my project, the little hobbyhorse I'd been looking for to carry me away from the indolence of my soporific routine. Humble as the project was, I decided to give it a grandiose, somewhat pompous title-in order to delude myself into thinking that I was engaged in important work. I called it The Book of Human Folly, and in it I was planning 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. When I couldn't think of stories to tell about myself, I would write down things that had happened to people I knew, and when that source ran dry as well, I would take on historical events, recording the follies of my fellow human beings down through the ages, beginning with the vanished civilizations of the ancient world and pushing on to the first months of the twenty-first century. If nothing else, I thought it might be good for a few laughs. I had no desire to bare my soul or indulge in gloomy introspections. The tone would be light and farcical throughout, and my only purpose was to keep myself entertained while using up as many hours of the day as I could.

I called the project a book, but in fact it wasn't a book at all. Working with yellow legal pads, loose sheets of paper, the backs of envelopes and junk-mail form letters for credit cards and home-improvement loans, I was compiling what amounted to a collection of random jottings, a hodgepodge of unrelated anecdotes that I would throw into a cardboard box each time another story was finished. There was little method to my madness. Some of the pieces came to no more than a few lines, and a number of them, in particular the spoonerisms and malapropisms I was so fond of, were just a single phrase. Chilled greaseburger instead of grilled cheeseburger, for example, which came out of my mouth sometime during my junior year of high school, or the unintentionally profound, quasi-mystical utterance I delivered to Edith while we were engaged in one of our bitter marital spats: I'll see it when I believe it. Every time I sat down to write, I would begin by closing my eyes and letting my thoughts wander in any direction they chose. By forcing myself to relax in this way, I managed to dredge up considerable amounts of material from the distant past, things that until then I had assumed were lost forever. A moment from the sixth grade (to cite one such memory) when a boy in our class named Dudley Franklin let out a long, trumpet-shrill fart during a silent pause in the middle of a geography lesson. We all laughed, of course (nothing is funnier to a roomful of eleven-year-olds than a gust of broken wind), but what set the incident apart from the category of minor embarrassments and elevated it to classic status, an enduring masterpiece in the annals of shame and humiliation, was the fact that Dudley was innocent enough to commit the fatal blunder of offering an apology. "Excuse me," he said, looking down at his desk and blushing until his cheeks resembled a freshly painted fire truck. One must never own up to a fart in public. That is the unwritten law, the single most stringent protocol of American etiquette. Farts come from no one and nowhere; they are anonymous emanations that belong to the group as a whole, and even when every person in the room can point to the culprit, the only sane course of action is denial. The witless Dudley Franklin was too honest to do that, however, and he never lived it down. From that day on, he was known as Excuse-Me Franklin, and the name stuck with him until the end of high school.

The stories seemed to fall under several different rubrics, and after I had been at the project for approximately a month, I abandoned my one-box system in favor of a multibox arrangement that allowed me to preserve my finished works in a more coherent fashion. A box for verbal flubs, another for physical mishaps, another for failed ideas, another for social gaffes, and so on. Little by little, I grew particularly interested in recording the slapstick moments of everyday life. Not just the countless stubbed toes and knocks on the head I've been subjected to over the years, not just the frequency with which my glasses have slipped out of my shirt pocket when I've bent down to tie my shoes (followed by the further indignity of stumbling forward and crushing the glasses underfoot), but the one-in-a-million howlers that have befallen me at various times since my earliest boyhood. Opening my mouth to yawn at a Labor Day picnic in 1952 and allowing a bee to fly in, which, in my sudden panic and disgust, I accidentally swallowed instead of spitting out; or, even more unlikely, preparing to enter a plane on a business trip just seven years ago with my boarding-pass stub wedged lightly between my thumb and middle finger, being jostled from behind, losing hold of the stub, and seeing it flutter out of my hand toward the slit between the ramp and the threshold of the plane-the narrowest of narrow gaps, no more than a sixteenth of an inch, if that much-and then, to my utter astonishment, watching it slide clear through that impossible space and land on the tarmac twenty feet below.

Those are just some examples. I wrote dozens of such stories in the first two months, but even though I did my best to keep the tone frivolous and light, I discovered that it wasn't always possible. Everyone is subject to black moods, and I confess that there were times when I succumbed to bouts of loneliness and dejection. I had spent the bulk of my working life in the business of death, and I had probably heard too many grim stories to stop myself from thinking about them when my spirits were low. All the people I had visited over the years, all the policies I had sold, all the dread and desperation I'd been made privy to while talking to my clients. Eventually, I added another box to my assemblage. I labeled it "Cruel Destinies," and the first story I put in there was about a man named Jonas Weinberg. I had sold him a million-dollar universal life policy in 1976, an extremely large sum for the time. I remember that he had just celebrated his sixtieth birthday, was a doctor of internal medicine affiliated with Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital, and spoke English with a faint German accent. Selling life insurance is not a passionless affair, and a good agent has to be able to hold his own in what can often turn into difficult, tortuous discussions with his clients. The prospect of death inevitably turns one's thoughts to serious matters, and even if a part of the job is only about money, it also concerns the gravest metaphysical questions. What is the point of life? How much longer will I live? How can I protect the people I love after I'm gone? Because of his profession, Dr. Weinberg had a keen sense of the frailty of human existence, of how little it takes to remove our names from the book of the living. We met in his apartment on Central Park West, and once I had talked him through the pros and cons of the various policies available to him, he began to reminisce about his past. He had been born in Berlin in 1916, he told me, and after his father had been killed in the trenches of World War I, he had been raised by his actress mother, the only child of a fiercely independent and sometimes obstreperous woman who had never shown the slightest inclination to remarry. If I am not reading too much into his comments, I believe Dr. Weinberg was hinting at the fact that his mother preferred women to men, and in the chaotic years of the Weimar Republic, she must have flaunted that preference quite openly. In contrast to the headstrong Frau Weinberg, the young Jonas was a quiet, bookish boy who excelled at his studies and dreamed of becoming a scientist or a doctor. He was seventeen when Hitler took control of the government, and within months his mother was making preparations to get him out of Germany. Relatives of his father's lived in New York, and they agreed to take him in. He left in the spring of 1934, but his mother, who had already proved her alertness to the impending dangers for non-Aryans of the Third Reich, stubbornly rejected the opportunity to leave herself. Her family had been Germans for hundreds of years, she told her son, and she'd be damned if she allowed some two-bit tyrant to chase her into exile. Come hell or high water, she was determined to stick it out.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from THE BROOKLYN FOLLIES by PAUL AUSTER Copyright © 2006 by Paul Auster. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 62 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2010

    Great fun with literary merit

    A delight to read, a heart-warming page-turner, wise and beautifully written.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    AUTHOR'S READING: THE PERFECT VOICE

    New Jersey born Brooklyn based Paul Auster has given us memorable poetry, golden short stories, and bestselling novels, including Oracle Night, The Book of Illusions and Timbuktu. He sets his latest novel in his chosen home, Brooklyn, and introduces Nathan Glass, a very ordinary man who helps us to see the extraordinariness of life. Nathan is 59 years old, once a life insurance salesman, and he has returned to Brooklyn to die. He's divorced, and has no contact with his only child. All Nathan wants is to be left alone he doesn't want to be bothered and he won't bother anyone. However, it's not long before he meets his nephew, Tom Wood, whom he hasn't seen in years. Tom now works in a bookstore owned by Harry Brightman. It is through Tom and Harry that Nathan is drawn into the world and meets new people in the Park Slope neighborhood. At times, it doesn't sound as if Nathan or his friends think much of life in fact, they say the world stinks. We hear Harry saying that they try to avoid the world. To this Tom replies, 'We're right in the thick of it, whether we like it or not. It's all around us, and every time I lift my head and take a good look at it, I'm filled with disgust. Sadness and disgust. You'd think World War Two would have settled things, at least for a couple of hundred years. But we're still hacking each other to pieces, aren't we? We still hate each other as much as we ever did.' However, listen as the story evolves as does Nathan. From the stuff of everyday life Auster has fashioned a hopeful, uplifting story. Hearing it read in his voice is a joy as he segues between the voices of Nathan, Tom and Harry during their dinner table conversations. Auster's voice is deep, his accent Eastern - a perfect fit. - Gail Cooke

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 14, 2006

    A Vastly Entertaining Series of Quadrilles: Dances to the Tune of Life

    Paul Auster slips out of his chameleon skin once again to prove he cannot be pigeonholed as a one-theme creative writer. THE BROOKLYN FOLLIES is an unabashedly romantic novel but romantic in only the dark method of tale-weaving Auster can muster. It is the Yin and Yang of lives intertwining, families fragmented for well-motivated reasons, but then families reconstructed for equally well-motivated reasons. The result is a prolonged narrative on the vicissitudes of life and how one extended family not only copes but makes destinies better. Our narrator is Nathan, a 59-year-old victim of cancer who moves to Brooklyn to anonymously die. His family is nowhere to support him, his life has crumbled and he simply seeks a place to await his end. But his end is nowhere in sight as he encounters peripheral family members gone equally astray, dancing their own disappointments, responding to their own failings. Yet through a series of incidents and turns of events - some so bizarre as to test credibility yet populated with some of the most interesting cast of characters yet assembled - Nathan's grip on the edge of life becomes more the center of a changing life that winds in and out of family quirks to land on terra firma. To be more specific about the plot would take pages and would also deprive the reader of the joys of discovery as the pages turn in this addictive novel. Paul Auster writes beautifully, never wasting a word or a moment or a development or a beat. The tales he weaves bond strange bedfellows and surprise tilts of the story windmill, but he always lands on his feet in making it all come together. Some readers have complained that the ending is too sugarcoated, but the getting there certainly isn't. If Auster is electing to create a story that pleads for screen adaptation he has succeeded exceptionally well. These characters will live on whether on eventual celluloid or simply as creations of a very fertile mind. Highly recommended. Grady Harp

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 13, 2006

    Disappointing

    I am a fan of Paul Auster, and his 'Moon Palace' is one of my favorite books. But this latest novel was disappointing. The narrator, Nathan Glass, writes in a kind of self-important, self-conscious manner that grows tiresome. After a few chapters it seemed a bit like reading a clumsy holiday letter filled with gossip. You follow a recounting of the strange experiences of a number of people whose lives eventually converge in Brooklyn, but what's the point? Any one of the characters' lives might have made for an interesting novel, but throwing in a glimpse of each just felt like a mish-mash. The momentous event tossed in on the very last page appeared contrived and wholly expected. Is every contemporary New York novelist going to find a way to work that event into a book? Perhaps I am missing something, but on finishing the book, I just shrugged my shoulders and thought, 'huh'?

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 26, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    This is an enjoyable story of a man who re-connects with his fam

    This is an enjoyable story of a man who re-connects with his family and finds the value of life in the simple things. The dialogue is excellent and the characters are well drawn. Over all this is a light story with humor and pathos. I thought, due to the title, Brooklyn would be descibed and would be key to the story, but this story is about people and not places. The fact that it takes place in Brooklyn is a non factor. I plan on reading more by Paul Auster.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2012

    Highly Recommended

    Beautifully written - strong character development

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2008

    Another solid novel from Auster

    I really enjoyed this one, though the theme strayed a bit from some of his other books. The only way it strayed was in not using surrealism, mystique, and strange scenarios. The writing was still good - I thought the characters were developed enough to warrant some emotion and for the story to be told well. I also love that it takes place in Brooklyn, NY, a neighborhood adjacent to the one where I grew up. This was a wonderfully written story about an aging, divorced and retired man who recently beat cancer and moved back to his childhood neighborhood to live out the rest of his ordinary days alone and in anonymity. This, of course, doesn't happen, as he runs into his nephew 'whom he had lost contact with'and gets wrapped up in his life and the lives of those that surround him. It's like 'a book about nothing' 'in Seinfeld terms', life's normalcy and freak occurrences, people's interactions, and identity. A recommended read.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2006

    Loved it!

    This was my first experience with a Paul Auster book and I enjoyed it very much. The way in which the story was written as well as the characters in the book, got me into it from the first page. The author seems to have an equal sense for the dramatic and sense of humor. On my next trip to B&N, bought two more Auster books!

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    Posted March 4, 2011

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