The Brooklyn Follies [NOOK Book]

Overview

From the bestselling author of Oracle Night and The Book of Illusions, an exhilarating, whirlwind tale of one man's accidental redemption




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 ...

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The Brooklyn Follies

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Overview

From the bestselling author of Oracle Night and The Book of Illusions, an exhilarating, whirlwind tale of one man's accidental redemption




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: 9781429900096
  • Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/1/2007
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 370,525
  • File size: 443 KB

Meet the Author

Paul Auster

Paul Auster is the bestselling author of Oracle Night, The Book of Illusions, and Timbuktu. 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 thirty languages. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.





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 Prize for Literature, the Prix Médicis Étranger, the 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 a Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

"Auster has an enormous talent for creating worlds that are both fantastic and believable. . . . His novels are uniformly difficult to put down, a testament to his storytelling gifts."--Timothy Peters, San Francisco Chronicle
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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


I opened our Rand McNally Road Atlas and studied the map of Vermont. "Get off at Exit Three," I said to Tom. "We're looking for Route Thirty, which squiggles up diagonally to the northwest. After about forty miles, we'll start bobbing and weaving until we get to Rutland, find Route Seven, and take that straight to Burlington."
Why do I linger over these trivial details? Because the truth of the story lies in the details, and I have no choice but to tell the story exactly as it happened. If we hadn't made that decision to get off the highway at Brattleboro and follow our noses to Route Thirty, many of the events in this book never would have taken place. I am thinking especially of Tom when I say that. Both Lucy and I profited from the decision as well, but for Tom, the long-suffering hero of these Brooklyn Follies, it was probably the most important decision of his life. At the time, he had no inkling of the consequences, no knowledge of the whirlwind he had set in motion. Like Kafka's doll, he thought he was simply looking for a change of scenery, but because he left one road and took another, Fortune unexpectedly reached out her arms to him and carried our boy into a different world.

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Reading Group Guide

 Discussion Questions

1. What role does redemption play in the novel? Nathan tells us that he returned to Brooklyn because "I was looking for a quiet place to die," and yet he manages to build a quirky, vibrant life. What are some other examples of redemption in the book?

2. The need for companionship both causes pain for the characters in The Brooklyn Follies and at the same time offers them fulfillment. What alliances and loves develop which demonstrate this need? How do the need for community and the need for love distinguish themselves or blend into one another?

3. Nathan claims that he is not the central character of this story. "The distinction of bearing the title of Hero of this book belongs to my nephew, Tom Wood." In what ways is this statement misleading? In what ways is it accurate? Why would Nathan make such a claim?

4. Coincidence plays a huge role in The Brooklyn Follies: Nathan finding Tom at the book store, for example, or Nathan’s car breaking down in Vermont and leading to The Chowder Inn. How is both the plot and character development driven by chance, or twist of fate, in this novel?

5. When Nathan first encounters his nephew Tom, he sees that his favorite relative has become "a sad sight to behold . . . everything about him suggested defeat." How do Tom’s failures mirror Nathan’s disappoints about his own life, his own fate at the outset of the novel, prior to the revitalization of his life? How do their respective recoveries also reflect one another?

6. Contemporary American fiction often focuses on the individual; The Brooklyn Follies weaves a tapestry of community. In the suburbs, where Nathan felt isolated, he believed his life was "sad and ridiculous." He comes to Brooklyn seeking solitude and yet finds kinship almost by accident. What do you see in this commentary on city life versus suburban life?

7. In this novel, how does Brooklyn act as a fortress of reason vis-à-vis the rest of the country? What damage do we see wrought outside of the city and corrected as a result of a character’s move to the urban environment?

8. How would you describe Nathan’s style as a narrator? What are the advantages and disadvantages does this style of narration?

9. Look at the passage on pages 154–156 in which Tom delivers the story of Kafka’s doll. "When a person is lucky enough to live inside a story, to live inside an imaginary world, the pains of this world disappear," he says. How can this statement, as well as the story of Kafka’s doll, serve as parable for Nathan’s life as a whole?

10. The Brooklyn Follies ends forty-six minutes before the attack on the World Trade Center, with Nathan Glass "happy, my friends, as happy as any man who had ever lived," having just been released from the hospital after his second near-death experience. What do you think Auster is trying to convey to his audience with this reminder of the complicated and dangerous world in which we live? In what ways does the book highlight the differences of pre- and post-9/11 life in America?

11. "Another ex," says Harry Brightman. "By the time a man gets to be our age, Nathan, he’s little more than a series of exes." By the time we have reached the end of The Brooklyn Follies, is this statement still applicable to Nathan’s life? Why or why not?

12. In reference to Tom’s discovery of pictures of his sister Aurora in a pornographic magazine, Nathan says, "When you’ve lived as long as I have, you tend to think you’ve heard everything, that there’s nothing left that can shock you anymore . . . then, every once in a while, something comes along that jolts you out of your smug cocoon of superiority, that reminds you all over again that you don’t understand the first thing about life." What are some other occasions during which Nathan experiences this sort of jolt? Do any other characters find themselves jolted as such?

13. In comparing Poe and Thoreau, Tom Wood has selected two American authors who were very much interested in the idea of sanctuary. How do the spirits of these two authors and the respective sanctuaries they sought infuse Tom and Nathan’s interactions? What other giants of American literature have an influence, direct or indirect, on the characters in The Brooklyn Follies?

14. "You love life," says Nathan to Tom, "but you don’t believe in it. And neither do I." This statement quickly becomes untrue as both men cast off their inertia. To what extent does action create belief for both Nathan and Tom? What obstacles to action do they face and overcome?

15. "All men contain several men inside them and most of us bounce from one self to another without ever knowing who we are," says Nathan. While he is a rather self-aware individual, in what ways does Nathan surprise himself with another self?

16. How is this a book of both happy endings and terrible fates? Cite examples of how Auster intersperses and intertwines these two seemingly irreconcilable states.

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Customer Reviews

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( 62 )
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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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