Inward Gaze of a Private Eye

Citation metadata

Author: Stephen Schiff
Editors: Daniel G. Marowski and Roger Matuz
Date: 1988
Publisher: Gale
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 783 words

Document controls

Main content

Article Preview :

The quirky richness of Paul Auster's Locked Room took me by surprise. This is the final volume in his New York Trilogy, and the first two, City of Glass and Ghosts, left a sour, medicinal taste, as if I had swallowed something terribly good for me but not very toothsome. Widely lauded as postmodern and postexistentialist and post a few other things, these two slender novels turn the detective genre into something tonier: the gum-shoes in their chilly pages keep meeting doppelgängers and spitting out references to Don Quixote and Hawthorne and Thoreau. And the more they stalk their eccentric quarry, the more they seem actually to be stalking the Big Questions—the implications of authorship, the enigmas of epistemology, the veils and masks of language.

For mystery fans whose pleasure in the genre consists in putting together puzzle pieces, Mr. Auster's glassy little jigsaws can be seductive. His plots—decorated with death threats and “dark-eyed” women and all the other private-eye flotsam—draw one in like those of any other page-turner. But once the door bangs shut, the clue-sniffing reader finds himself on a swift elevator to a loftier plane. Soon he is deposited, still sniffing, on...

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|H1420000405