Wrong Numbers: The Endless Fiction of Auster and Deleuze and Guattari and

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Author: Robert Briggs
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 6,440 words

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[(essay date winter 2003) In the following essay, Briggs underlines the elusive nature of identity in The New York Trilogy and asserts the interconnectedness inherent in all of Auster's work.]

It was a wrong number that started it.--Paul Auster, The New York Trilogy

One ought, probably, to make a start for oneself, but I think that on this point Jeffrey T. Nealon says it best:

The detective novel is often analyzed in terms of its metafictional and metaphysical appeal. Whether consciously or unconsciously, the genre comments upon the process of sifting through signs, and ultimately upon the possibility of deriving order from the seeming chaos of conflicting clues and motives. The unravelling work of the detective within the story mirrors and assists the work of the reader, as both try to piece together the disparate signs that might eventually solve the mystery. The reader of the detective novel comes metafictionally to identify with the detective, as both reader and detective are bound up in the metaphysical or epistemological work of interpretation, the work of reading clues and writing a solution or end.(91-92)

Detective fiction, then, is never just that, but always something more. Or rather, detective fiction is just that only when there's something further (meta) to the story (fiction) than things at first suggest.

(But what if this turned out to be just a red herring, something thrown in to throw you off the scent from the start?)


Insofar as fiction can be thought of in terms of its difference from truth or adequation, it is possible to suggest that fiction marks and bears the marks of all that is nonidentical with the true. This is to say that the fictive may be an attribute of the inactual, the inauthentic, the inadequate, the illusory, the duplicitous, the fabulous, the errant, the erroneous, and so on, to the extent that each of these constitutes an order of nontruth, of nonidentity with the true. Indeed, given that a certain concept of the true sees truth as identity itself, as the condition of adequation, fiction may be thought of as constitutive or derivative of nonidentity as such. How the nonidentical as such may be thought of, however, remains to be seen.

It is in this sense of fiction as nonidentity, nevertheless, that the "book," as discussed by Deleuze and Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus, is fictional through and through:

A book has neither object nor subject; it is made of variously formed matters, and very different dates and speeds. To attribute the book to a subject is to overlook this working of matters, and the exteriority of their relations. [...] In a book, as in all things, there are lines of articulation or segmentarity, strata and territories; but also lines of flight, movements of deterritorialization and destratification. [...] All this, lines and measurable speeds, constitutes an assemblage. A book is an assemblage of this kind, and as such is unattributable. It is a multiplicity--but we don't know yet what the...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|H1100074308