Can you tell already? Would I be putting a picture of the young, hungry Auster next to a picture (probably just a bad day, but) of the present-day Looking Really Bad Auster if I had a similar reaction as, well, nearly everyone else?
I finished The Brooklyn Follies this afternoon (traffic jam due to car accident, 3:35PM, Forest Ave) and thank god. Sublimely disappointing? My earlier comment about the book, about Auster’s overinflated dialog, holds true throughout the rest of the story. I can accept that, given that this is a book of Follies – the name, to me, suggests that this will be something of a production, theatrical – that the dialog might come across as stilted in that pursuit; in the end, however, it’s just irritating. When 90% of the conversation comes across as one grand statement or pronouncement after another, you don’t feel that the characters are real enough for you to care about what happens, and it makes them all unlikable.
The book is not without its pleasures; the story, itself, is somewhat entertaining, and as a statement of life directly prior to 9/11, it has the effect of nostalgia, both for the good and the bad that came before that day. There are passages that are vintage Auster; I dog-eared as many pages for good bits as I did for bad bits. There are, however, passages that are not vintage Auster, but second-rate Russo. Reading The Brooklyn Follies in the shadow of The New York Trilogy is like watching Over the Hedge instead of Waking Life or A Scanner Darkly – it’s predictable rhythms, cliches, and none of the innovation or risk we get from Auster’s earlier works. Is it worth reading? Depends on how long your TBR list is. As a summer beach read, you could do so much worse. As Auster goes, though, it’s better to go back to the good old days.