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City of Glass: The Graphic Novel (New York Trilogy) Paperback – August 1, 2004

4.2 out of 5 stars 89 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

I cannot possibly offer enough praise for David Mazzucchelli and Paul Karasik 's adaptation of City of Glass. While some critics found it to be a dry choice of books to turn into a comics, I think the interplay between image and text only heightens the original metafictional narrative. The treatment of the first speech by the crazy antagonist, Peter Stillman--in which the word balloons trail from random objects such as a broken television and a bottle of ink--is brilliant. Neon Lit: Paul Auster's City of Glass deftly illustrates why comics is a perfect format for exploring fictions about text: the words become visible objects of the story. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Karasik and Mazzucchelli's 1994 comics adaptation of Auster's existentialist mystery novel, reprinted here with an introduction by Art Spiegelman, has been a cult classic for years. The Comics Journal named it one of the 100 best comics of the century. Miraculously, it deepens the darkness and power of its source. Auster's novel (about a novelist named Quinn who's mistaken for a detective named Paul Auster and loses his mind and identity in the course of a meaningless case) zooms around in metafictional spirals, but it doesn't have a lot of visual content. In fact, it's mostly about the breakdown of the idea of representation and the widening chasm between signifier and signified. So the artists, perversely and brilliantly, play fast and loose with the text. Mazzucchelli draws everything in a bluntly sketched, bold-lined style, and having set up a suitably film noir mood at the beginning, he substitutes literal depictions of what's happening for symbolic or iconic images wherever possible. One character's monologue about the loss of meaning in his speech is drawn as a long zoom down his throat, followed by Charon arising from a void, a cave drawing, a series of holes and symbols of muteness and finally a broken marionette at the bottom of a well. This reflected, shattered Glass introduces a whole new set of resonances to Auster's story, about the things images can and can't represent when language fails.
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Product Details

  • Series: New York Trilogy
  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprint edition (August 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780312423605
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312423605
  • ASIN: 0312423608
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.3 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (89 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #128,483 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
After reading several of the reviews on City of Glass, I felt a need to give my own opinion. This is a book of perception. One person could perceive it as some sort of [messed] up mystery novel, though if they read it expecting a detective story they will be sorely dissapointed. Another could perceive it as a book about morality, but even that seems cheap and weak. I believe that this is a book about perception and identity.
The main character is Daniel Quinn, who writes under the name William Wilson, about the charcter Max Work. At the beggining of the novel he identifies more with Max that with either of the other aspects of himself. Quinn receives a phone call from Peter Stillman for Detective Paul Auster (look familiar?) and chooses to claim his identity as well.
Then he interacts with Peter Stillman , son of Peter Stillman (who coincidently(?) has the name of Quinn's dead son). This is the gentleman whose case he is supposed to be working on, under the name of Paul Auster. Damaged as a result of a freakish childhood Peter Stillman is an anomolous character. He refers to himself as Peter Nobody, Anything, and Not Here. He claims that he is learning how to be Peter Stillman. Another case of identity confusion.
Quinn is sent on a mission to track Peter Stillman, father of Peter Stillman, an old man who, regardless of the number of times he meets Quinn can never recognize him. Thus Quinn pretends to be a different person each time they encounter eachother.
City of Glass is strange and disturbing and thought provoking. I haven't even meantioned Daniel Quinn the writer, pretending to be Paul Auster the detective, meeting Paul Auster the writer, and his son Daniel. Or how Don Quixote and Cervantes and Quinn and Paul Auster are all the same person!
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Format: Paperback
City of Glass is the story of Daniel Quinn, a poet turned mystery writer, who is called one night by a person urgently seeking a detective. After several nights of "Sorry, wrong number," Quinn decides to impersonate Paul Auster, the detective the person wants to hire. Accepting the assignment leads to his ultimate ruin.

This story is primarily about Quinn's descent from depression into outright obsession and madness. Horrific abuse based on misinterpreted religion plays a big part in the book, as does the threat of murder. The perceived danger eventually disappears and the case fades away, but Quinn cannot return to his former life, and ends up completely delusional.

City of Glass is a book of unusual subtlety. Much of the tension is implicit, but is sensed through sections of extensive dialogue. The sparse artwork of the book, finally, highlights the dialogue by moving it along and filling it out, rather than distracting the reader from what is being said.

This is an exceptional work of fiction, even for readers unaccustomed to graphic novels.
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Format: Paperback
Having not read Paul Auster's original novel I can't compare it with the graphic novel, but I can certainly assume it must be an excellent book since it provided the source for this excellent work. I also can't say that I fully understand everything that goes on in this deceptively simple-looking little book; there are multiple layers, and the more times you read it the more questions it answers...and the more questions it asks.

A widower named Quinn lives in New York City with nothing to do but write detective novels. They fill the time, but they don't mean much to him. He walks around the city and likes to feel lost. He is so alone that his loneliness has actually become his companion. One night his phone rings: a wrong number. The caller wants something. He has no reason, but he goes along because it provides a direction, something he has been sorely lacking for years. He becomes involved in a case that has nothing to do with him and he lets it become an obsession. He imagines himself a detective, like the hero of his novels. He imagines that New York is his cocoon, protecting him from the real world, when actually it could be his Hell. He may be losing his mind.

Who is Quinn? Are the other characters in the novel parts of himself, or are they real? Is he looking for a reason to go insane, or is the world really this way? And what parts of Quinn belong to the novel's author, Paul Auster, who also appears in the novel? What is being said here about writing, about loneliness, about language, about growing old, about families, about faith? Questions upon questions. Some are answered in repeated readings, some are never answered. They are for you.
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Format: Paperback
The real magic here is that, in reworking Paul Auster's original novel, Karasik and Mazzucchelli have done what so many had deemed impossible: they have produced a true literary adaptation in comics form. This is no "Classics Illustrated"; this is a comic that strengthens its source material rather than diminishing it. The original book's concern with the gap between language and meaning is given further depth and resonance in the comic, which finds a visual language equivalent, and does it in a way that no other medium could have. This is no mere illustrated text, but comics as a formidable language and medium in itself. Interestingly, when the original book and the comic are read together, the comic itself almost becomes a physical character, another in the story's proliferation of literary doubles.
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