Leviathan

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Overview

New York Times bestselling author Paul Auster (The New York Trilogy) opens Leviathan with the tearing of a bomb explosion and the death of one Benjamin Sachs. Ben’s one-time best friend, Peter Aaron, begins to retrospectively investigate the transformation that led Ben from his enviable, stable life to one of a recluse. Both were once intelligent, yet struggling novelists until Ben’s near-death experience falling from a fire escape triggers a tumble in which he becomes withdrawn and disturbed, living alone ...

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Leviathan

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Overview

New York Times bestselling author Paul Auster (The New York Trilogy) opens Leviathan with the tearing of a bomb explosion and the death of one Benjamin Sachs. Ben’s one-time best friend, Peter Aaron, begins to retrospectively investigate the transformation that led Ben from his enviable, stable life to one of a recluse. Both were once intelligent, yet struggling novelists until Ben’s near-death experience falling from a fire escape triggers a tumble in which he becomes withdrawn and disturbed, living alone and building bombs in a far-off cabin. That is, until he mysteriously disappears, leaving behind only a manuscript titled Leviathan, pages rustling in the wind.

A provocative novel about friendship and betrayal, sexual desire and estrangement -- about the intrusions of the unpredictable into the everyday. Leviathan is Paul Auster at his prime, conceptualizing worlds of tremendous complication and bizarre plausibility. The chief protagonist in this story is novelist-journalist named Benjamin Sachs. At the beginning of the novel he is blown to pieces while attempting to manufacture a bomb by the side of a snowy winter road in Wisconsin. How he came to this abrupt, untimely end is the ostensible topic being investigated by the imaginary author of the present novel, one Peter Aaron, who had known Sachs well. Aaron, it seems, is particularly concerned with recounting the life of Sachs because he is afraid lest the authorities . .. will misrepresent Sachs' career.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140178135
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/2/1993
  • Edition description: Reprint Large Print
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 626,430
  • Product dimensions: 5.18 (w) x 7.88 (h) x 0.54 (d)

Meet the Author

Paul Auster is the bestselling author of The New York Trilogy and many other critically acclaimed novels. He was awarded the Prince of Asturias Prize in 2006. His work has been translated into more than forty 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

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2007

    Auster is a living genius...

    I bought this book because I like Paul Auster and I was looking for a good book to take with me on a plane. I had no idea what was waiting for me. Once again, Auster's story is so plausible and thoroughly detailed that you can't help but think it to be true. Sachs becomes known to all of us by the end of the book - exactly Auster's, and Peter's, intention. Anyone who has had a close friend - one whose commitment and responsibilities are questionable at times - should read this book. I learned about myself. As for Auster, he is a master storyteller, and he is doing exactly what he should be doing in this world.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2003

    A cool book

    My dad found this book when I was 8. I kept the book for some reason. Just this summer I picked it up and actually read it. And I have to say that I should have read it a long time ago, but I am glad that I have such a gem in my bookshelf.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2003

    Paul Auster writes another amazing book

    I'm a ninth grade student and I've just begun to read Auster. His style is amazing and I find that the writing is intellectual and interesting while at the same time being imaginative and meaningful as well. So far I've only read a handful of his books but so far they've failed to disappoint me. Woo hoo, go Paul Auster!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2002

    Frighteningly Real

    In Leviathan, Auster relates the story of a deep and unbreakable friendship between two men whose tumultuous lives mercilessly toss them about in a storm of happiness and hardships. It demonstrates with frightening plausibility that a string of seemingly random events can indeed end with a tragic climax. With the skill of somebody who writes what he knows, Auster creates characters so REAL that you feel like you've known them all of your life.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 5, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 21, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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