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...
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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: 241,088
  • File size: 443 KB

Meet the Author


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.

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


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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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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