The New York Trilogy  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The New York Trilogy is a series of novels by Paul Auster. Originally published sequentially as City of Glass (1985), Ghosts (1986) and The Locked Room (1986), it has since also been collected into a single volume.


Plot introduction

Ostensibly presented as detective fiction, the stories of The New York Trilogy have been described as "meta-detective-fiction"; "anti-detective fiction"; "mysteries about mysteries"; a "strangely humorous working of the detective novel"; "very soft-boiled"; a "metamystery"; "glassy little jigsaws"; a "mixture between the detective story and the nouveau roman". This classifies Paul Auster as a postmodern writer whose writings have been influenced by the 'classical literary movement' of American postmodernism through the 60s and 70s. However, there are "a certain coherence in the narrative discourse, a neo-realistic approach and showing a responsibility for social and moral aspects going beyond mere metafictional and subversive elements", which distinguish him from a 'traditional' postmodern writer. The New York Trilogy is a particular form of postmodern detective fiction which still uses well-known elements of the detective novel (e.g. the classical and the hard-boiled detective novel), but also creates a new form that links "the traditional features of the genre with the experimental, metafictional and ironic features of postmodernism".

A 2006 reissue by Penguin Books is fronted by new pulp magazine-style covers by comic book illustrator Art Spiegelman.

City of Glass

The first story, City of Glass, features a writer turned private detective descending into madness. It explores layers of identity and reality: Paul Auster the writer of the novel; "the author" who reports the events as reality; "Paul Auster the writer", a character in the story; "Paul Auster the detective", who may or may not exist in the novel; Daniel Quinn, initials.


The second story, Ghosts, is about a private eye called Blue who is investigating a man named Black for a client named White. Black and White turn out to be the same person, a writer who is writing a story about Blue watching him.

The Locked Room

The Locked Room is the story of a writer who lacks the creativity to produce fiction. Fanshawe, his childhood friend has produced creative work, and when he disappears the writer publishes his work and replaces him in his family. While trying to deal with their relationship, he discovers his creative gift, and it emerges that he is the author of the three stories of the trilogy. The title is a reference to a "locked room mystery", a popular form of early detective fiction.

Allusions and references to other works

City of Glass is referenced in the 2001 video game Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, which contains a character named Peter Stillman; the reference has been further confirmed by the game's early design documentation, that revealed other characters named after Quinn and his aliases, which were not included in the final version of the game. The references are thematically appropriate, as the game also exploited metafictional issues in questioning the relationship between the player of a video game and the protagonist of the game itself.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The New York Trilogy" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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