The Brooklyn Follies

The Brooklyn Follies

by Paul Auster

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Nathan Glass has come to Brooklyn to die. Divorced, retired, estranged from his only daughter, the former life insurance salesman seeks only solitude and anonymity. Then Glass encounters his long-lost nephew, Tom Wood, who is working in a local bookstore. Through Tom and his charismatic boss, Harry, Nathan's world gradually broadens to include a new set of acquaintances, which leads him to a reckoning with his past.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312429003
Publisher: Picador
Publication date: 10/27/2009
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 598,946
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

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.


Brooklyn, New York

Date of Birth:

February 3, 1947

Place of Birth:

Newark, New Jersey


B.A., M.A., Columbia University, 1970

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Henry Holt and Company

Copyright © 2006 Paul Auster
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-8050-7714-6

Chapter One


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.


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.
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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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The Brooklyn Follies 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 83 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A delight to read, a heart-warming page-turner, wise and beautifully written.
GailCooke More than 1 year ago
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
Guest More than 1 year ago
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
Guest More than 1 year ago
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'?
KristenLewis on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Brooklyn Follies immediately draws the reader into the narrator's broken world. Nathan Glass is retired, recently divorced, estranged from his family, and recovering from lung cancer, has moved to Brooklyn, looking, as he puts it, "for a quiet place to die." To fill the time, he begins a modest project, The Book of Human Folly, for which he draws on his own experiences, experiences of people he knows, and incidents from history...
Smiler69 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An interesting story which I only truly started appreciating after I finished the book.
manadabomb on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My first introduction to Auster's work is a good one. He has a wonderful way of writing and created a "story of survival" that might even make a cynic think that things can get better.Follies is set around the time of Bush stealing his election and 9/11. But thankfully, not a lot of time is spent on national events. The majority of time is spent getting to know Nathan Glass, a 60ish year old man who comes to Brooklyn to find a quiet place to die. Recently divorced and a survivor of lung cancer, he's all but given up on himself. Enter Tom Wood, his nephew who he had lost touch with for years. Tom lives in Brooklyn as well and is in the same boat as his uncle, unhappy, feeling without redemption and unable to move forward.Family is key to this novel, not just blood relatives but the strangers-turned-friends kind of family. Everyone is trying to survive and banding together, the motley crue in Follies does just that.
GrazianoRonca on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Brooklyn Folliesby Paul Auster Henry Holt and Company, New York (2005)andHarperAudio (2006), Audio CD From Austen to Auster. The characters: Nathan Glass, tha main character and the mirror of the others; Tom Wood, his nephew, from whom tree born a little brunch: Lucy (Tom's niece, 9-year-old); Harry Brightman, who (without knowing) lights new paths to follow. Nathan has come to Brooklyn to die, in this city of follies he met Tom, who's working in a library owned by Harry. Others threads (people) run in this book crossing each other. From a background without hope and lives at the end of their days, give birth to a new order (a natural order). Almost at the beginning Auster writes: 'All men contain several men inside them, and most of us bounce from one self to another without ever knowing who we are.' p.125 From old Europe Auster takes the idea that there must be something beyond all the symbolic order we live in. The problem is we cannot translate this order like a project in our life. 'Aeschylus, Homer, Sophocles, Plato, the whole lot of them. Invented by some clever Italian poets during the Renaissance.' p. 128 Auster specially quotes just Casey Stengel, a baseball player. So the new America helps Auster: a full back to the natural order. This natural order appears with the child Lucy: she prefers no to talk, we have already said all the words. Lucy is the cause of the not planned stop in Vermont's woods. Auster writes: 'I want to talk about happiness and well-being, about those rare, unexpected moments when the voice in your head goes silent and you feel at one with the world.' p. 167 Eventually Harry said: 'one of my dreams was to publish an encyclopedia in which all the information was false.' p. 127
Grendelschoice on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Auster is known for delving into surrealistic meta-mysteries and mind-twisting tales of inner turmoil. But in contrast this is his most accessible book. Funny, warm, and as with all his novels¿¿entertainingly philosophical.
bookworm12 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I started this book on a flight to New York City. I read it on the subway from Brooklyn to Manhattan and sitting in Prospect Park while drinking coffee. I couldn¿t have picked a better book to accompany me on my trip. From the first pages I realized it was set in the same neighborhood that I was staying in in Brooklyn. Much of it happens in a bookstore on Seventh Avenue and I had the chance to visit a bookstore on that very street. I tell you this because reading it in Brooklyn undoubtedly affected how I perceived the story. Nathan Glass moves to Brooklyn after a health scare and a nasty divorce. He runs into his nephew Tom in a small bookstore run by an eccentric man named Harry. The three men find themselves caught in some sort of adult male limbo, each ending up somewhere he didn¿t want to be. Their lives don¿t kick start back into action until Tom¿s 9-year-old niece Lucy appears, refusing to say a word. I adored this story. I loved the beauty of the writing and the realistic characters. Some bad things happen, but that's life. As I read, I felt like I was in their world for awhile, walking down the streets in Brooklyn and perusing the shelves in Harry's shop. It was just a pleasure to read about these deeply flawed people and to part of their lives for a short while. They didn't all get a happy ending, but there were so many wonderful things that happened along the way. There¿s a thin line between being so realistic in a novel that it¿s depressing and awful to read and being realistic, but still exuding a feeling of hope and letting the readers see the joy in your characters¿ lives. Auster is firmly in the second camp. He¿s able to introduce us to Harry, Tom, Nathan and Lucy and make us love them even though we think some of their decisions are stupid. We all screw up and this book celebrates second chances, without shoving sunshine down your throat. On top of all that goodness, there¿s a deep literary love rooted in every page of the book. They are all readers and their discussions are often idealistic and fascinating. I found myself writing down so many quotes I wanted to mention that I ran out of room on my bookmark. Here are a few...¿Reading was my escape and my comfort, my consolation, my stimulant of choice: reading for the pure please of it, for the beautiful stillness that surrounds you when you hear an author¿s words reverberating in your head.¿¿Post-past?¿ ¿The now. And also the later. But no more dwelling on the then.¿¿You can¿t change the weather Tom.¿ Meaning that some things simply were what they were, and we had no choice but to accept them.¿¿Asking forgiveness from someone is a complicated affair, a delicate balancing act between stiff-necked pride and tearful remorse, and unless you can truly open up to the other person, every apology sounds hollow and false.¿
markpeterwest on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Classic Auster. A great reward for finishing my theory-based conference paper. Apparently slight, but packed with ideas, and, as a review on the cover suggests, "not a little wise". Possibly a fairytale of pre-9/11 New York.
nyiper on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It has now been about ten years since the "ending" of this book---it's the perfect time for Paul Auster to write the sequel. I loved the audio version but I want to hear Nathan go on and on about what happens NEXT!!
aperkins on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Brooklyn Follies was a laid back book written by Paul Auster. He is an old man that writes as a hobby about Nathan,the main character who is pretty bored with life. This book is about little snippets in his life in Brooklyn. From reconnecting with his nephew, or saving his niece from physco husband. The Brooklyn Follies is a book you don't want to put down. In some ways, people would call this book a soap opera but in a man version with humor. Auster offers historical moments in history of America making the reader feel as if the characters are right down the street. Auster employs tough-guy situations in and funny upbeat way with believable stories of folly and search for hope. His writing is packed with surprises with a down-to-earth style. I loved it. I would recommend for just a fun read.
sanddancer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Absolutely brilliant - so much here that I loved. The book is written from the point of view of Nathan Glass, an ex-insurance saleman, recovering from cancer and recently divorced with a bad relationship with his daughter. He moves back to Brooklyn, where he was born, with the intention of dying there, having all but given up on life. He occupies his time working on a book of Human Follies, a collection of mishaps he has witnessed in his life, then he bumps into his nephew Tom, with whom he had lost touch, and whose only life is in a slump, and this encounter leds to a series of events that gives new purpose to both their lives.Less tricksy post-modern than some of Auster's other books, it nonetheless still has a rich tapestry of tangents, literary allusions and classic cinema references that are a feature of his work. Like the other books of his that I have really loved, the humanity really shines through here from a cast of unusual, but always believable characters.
cathymoore on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved this book. It's not the sort of thing I'd normally go for so thank heavens for book club or I'd never have come across it. We meet our protagonist Nathan Glass as he moves back to Brooklyn, supposedly to die. He is a bit depressed, recently divorced and in remission from lung cancer. Here in Brooklyn he becomes reacquainted with his nephew and meets some other interesting characters along the way. It is the characters that really bring this book to life, not a lot really happens in this novel, but the characters really jump off the pages and there are some truly beautifully written lines. It swings from deeply sorrowful to almost laugh out loud funny. I'm keeping my eye out for more by this author and although it is something I do very rarely I'm looking forward to reading this again.
wouterzzzzz on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Story about a man returning to Brooklyn "to die". He meets his nephew, who also lost interest in life. Through a series of unexpected events, and by sticking close to each other, they manage to see the good side of life once again.As most of Auster's books, it's storytelling as it is supposed to be. Excellent story, and I really got into it. Before you know it, the book is finished (and that's a positive point:) ).
jody on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Writing out and categorising the extent of human folly is not for everyone, but for Nathan Glass, ex-insurance salesman, ex-husband and apparently ex-father, it seems that is all there is left to do. Brooklyn Follies by Paul Auster is a poignantly funny look at humans and their consistently inevitable way of stuffing up! After surviving a cancer scare, our hero finds himself drawn back to his old neighbourhood of Brooklyn to live out the rest of his sorry life. He is happy to be left alone to enjoy lunch at the Cosmic Diner where he can flirt with Marina the Puerto Rican waitress, stroll the streets of Brooklyn in blissful anonymity and spend his evenings building The Book of Human Folly. But a chance meeting with his long lost nephew Tom, and the surprise appearance of Tom¿s niece Lucy, brings Nathan¿s family relations back into full swing. It is not what Nathan envisioned for his final days, but there it is. One never out-runs their past, or their relatives!I enjoyed this book immensely. It¿s like watching a feel-good movie, with all the variations of characters blending into a circus of human folly. We meet Harry Brightman, a gay, rare book seller who can¿t control his urge to con, a Jamaican transvestite (in love with Harry), a BPM (Beautiful Perfect Mother) who makes jewelry, and Honey Chowder, a loud, over-bearing school teacher with her eyes firmly set on Tom. The whole story is a comedy of errors that Nathan manages to wrangle into some kind of order which brings us to an indubitably happy ending.I only found myself scoffing at one chapter ¿ where Nathan¿s niece Aurora makes her appearance. Unlike the rest of the book, this episode has a weak storyline and plot which momentarily brought the whole novel plummeting to mediocrity. Grant it, there are some crazy people with some crazy schemes throughout the book, but Aurora¿s experiences are just too silly to even contemplate. Why Auster did not (or was not advised to) rewrite this chapter is a mystery to me, for it is the only blight on a great little book.
snash on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a fun book, full of bizarre characters and improbable chance encounters engagingly written. Since truth is stranger than fiction, the story was even believable.
miriamparker on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My least favorite Paul Auster book--very pedestrian for his imagination. And 9/11? Please, no. Don't do that.
msl521 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A great book about life, facing death and relationships. Definitely not as absurdist as some of Auster's other works, but just as interesting. As a Park Slope resident, it is odd to read the mix of real, fictional and larger than life places portrayed in the book.
Carolyn1983 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Like the reviewer lister below, 'Brooklyn Follies' was my introduction to the extremely well-known Paul Auster. Frankly, I was rather disappointed - Auster has a meaty, robust sense of humor that enlivens the text but his characters felt leaden and failed to engage me. Worth one read, but not a second. Conclusion: Try other Auster works before this one!
debnance on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A book that started off promisingly, but, ultimately, was a disappointment. Nathan Glass heads to Brooklyn to die and runs across a favorite nephew unexpectedly. The nephew, despite a strong start, is now working in a bookstore. I kept reading, with faith in Auster that he wouldn't lead me astray, but the characters felt thrown into the story randomly and the ending felt forced.
PrincessPaulina on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
* NO Spoilers were used in the writing of this review! *A charming "slice of life" look at a dysfunctional but lovable NY clan's intertwining fates. Auster's amusing tone hits somewhere between conversational and journalistic, producing witty and effective character sketches with a sharp eye for detail and the quirks of human nature. While this book is by no means an intellectual challenge, it is an entertaining and life-affirming read that reminds us to nejoy life and help our neighbors.
delphica on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
(#14 in the 2007 book challenge)I confess I waited a long time to pick this up because Paul Auster was getting hyped up one side and down the other and I was fed up with it. My loss, it seems, as this was very good, the kind of book where I liked it more with every page. It's a character-driven novel about a somewhat unlikely assortment of people who are thrown together, and spends most of its time looking at how their various backgrounds impact how they develop relationships (all sorts) with each other. The characters were maybe a little too quirky all together to be perfectly realistic, but that kept things snappy and moving along. One thing that threw me, though, was that I know a big deal was made about how this was such a novel about Brooklyn, and really, I felt like it didn't have very much unique to Brooklyn at all, it could have been interesting people living just about anywhere. If I hadn't already known that Paul Auster lives in Brooklyn, I wouldn't have particularly guessed that from this book.Grade: ARecommended: Highly, especially to people who like to keep up on current fiction, and I suppose people who like Brooklyn, because perhaps there's something more Brooklyn-centric there that I just didn't pick up on.
slipstitch on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Sometimes Auster does it, sometimes he doesn't. This time he does: involved tale of an older, jerky man who almost died from cancer, and how he amuses himself after losing his job, his wife, and nearly his family. Everyone he encounters (former-genius-boy-Eng.-grad-student nephew gone to seed, trickster book dealer, long lost neice and her daughter) arises naturally and fits into the overall flow, and the pieces tie together well at the end. That's satisfying storytelling, but the excellent parts are the details: the narrator amuses himself writing the Book of Human Folly at first to record all the embarrassing, painful moments, of his life, and then to expand this to others. His grand-niece sometimes refuses to speak for several days because she's taken a comment made to her early-on literally. The idea of "biography insurance" paid in installments, so not only the rich can afford biographies after they're dead.