[(review date 29 March 1987) In the following review, Bleiler offers positive estimation of The Locked Room and In the Country of Last Things.]
In City of Glass, the first volume of The New York Trilogy, Paul Auster wrote of his character Quinn/William Wilson that "what interested him about the stories he wrote was not their relation to the world but their relation to other stories." This is perhaps also true of Paul Auster.
In The Locked Room, the third volume of the trilogy, Auster builds on Fanshawe (1828), Nathaniel Hawthorne's suppressed first novel, which is a secularization of the demon-lover motif with strong mythic elements. Fanshawe is generally rated a bad book, but it has one interesting point: After rescuing a fair maiden from the fate worse than death, Fanshawe rejects her and a worldly life because of a spiritual leprosy that gnaws at his soul.
Auster, who is saturated in 19th-century fiction, in The Locked Room creates another Fanshawe, who, suffering from spiritual death, withdraws from life and passes the possibility of worldliness on to another, normal man. This, however, is not Auster's only theme; he enriches his story with concepts of metaphysical dual identity and interpenetration of author and work. The narrator both is and is not the great writer Fanshawe, and part of his story is the possibility that he will become Fanshawe.
According to the plot line, which is that of a...