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Leviathan Paperback – September 1, 1993

4.1 out of 5 stars 79 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Auster ( The Music of Chance ) captivatingly renews a theme central to his acclaimed New York Trilogy and Moon Palace --that of the other, the shadow self whose parallel life somehow jumps the track and threatens the more sober protagonist. After his valued friend and fellow writer Ben Sachs blows himself up with a bomb, Peter Aaron reviews their 15-year bond--including their shared love for Ben's lovely wife--and tries to reconstruct Ben's life. A boyhood experience in the Statue of Liberty haunted Ben until his transformation following a plunge from a fire escape at a drunken Fourth of July party in Brooklyn. After this fall, Ben stopped writing and became the "Phantom of Liberty," detonating Statue of Liberty replicas as a sign to America to "mend its ways." Peter's writing, on the other hand, surges "as though I had caught fire." The novel explores the fictional act: the relation between conflicting stories and kinds of truth; the reading of an address book, a la Sophie Calle, as a fertile text jammed with mysterious characters; role-reversal as self-discovery, practiced by photographer Maria and prostitute Lillian, women friends intimately linked to Peter and Ben. Finally, Peter (and Auster) appropriates the title of Ben's abandoned novel, a title that evokes the biblical sea monster and, thanks to Hobbes, the state, implying that the novel is itself a monster genre that merges diverse humans, their nightmares and passions. 25,000 first printing; author tour.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Born on August 6, 1945, Benjamin Sachs describes himself as "America's first Hiroshima baby . . . the original bomb child." Forty-five years later, while the FBI investigates Sachs's mysterious death, Sachs's friend Peter Aaron attempts to explain his even more enigmatic life--the personal and political forces that propelled his progression from Vietnam War protester to successful novelist to bomb-wielding terrorist. Auster's inventive plot, reminiscent at times of works by Paul Theroux, con tains bizarre coincidences which affirm that "everything is connected to everything else" as well as disturbing ambiguities that proclaim the elusiveness of truth. Both suspenseful and meditative, this new novel by the author of The Music of Chance ( LJ 9/1/90) blends a crime story with a thoughtful examination of important psychological and moral questions. For most public libraries. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/ 1/92.
- Albert E. Wilhelm, Tennessee Technological Univ., Cookeville
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 274 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (September 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140178139
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140178135
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #724,749 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Paul Auster is a blatantly theoretical novelist. He dissects and deconstructs literary genres and trends with the precision of a Swiss watchmaker. But some accuse him of abandoning the delight of a story for a view from the ivory tower. I tend to disagree, for the most part, but offer up "Leviathan" as an example of an Auster book that's both a page-turner and a think-piece.
For po-mo lit-lovers, Auster is in fine form. His modus operandi of casting himself as the literary quasi-detective is in full effect here. Narrator Peter Aaron (check those initials) is married to lovely Iris (Auster is married to novelist *Siri* Hustvedt). He is a writer by trade. "My books are published... people read them, and I don't have any idea who they are... as long as they have my book in their hands, my words are the only reality that exists for them," he says, defensively.
The book he is currently writing -- and the book "you" are currently holding -- is an examination of his recently deceased friend, Benjamin Sachs ("Six days ago, a man blew himself up by the side of the road in Northern Wisconsin," reads the novel's enticing opening line). Sachs has enough vaguely roguish qualities to make "Leviathan" a fascinating picaresque. But he's also an idealist, and fiercely intelligent. He's a writer manque, whose first novel blew the critics away but was a failure with readers. Sachs is a character who exists mostly in absentia, periodically jumping back into Aaron's life to offer up enough details to tantalize his friend, and keep the reader off-balance. "Even though Sachs confided a great deal to me over the years of our friendship," Aaron says. "I don't claim to have more than a partial understanding of who he was.
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Format: Paperback
Leviathan has excellent prose and narrative pacing. It is the sort of book you can read in one or two sittings. I would jump from thinking the book was completely ridiculous to sheer absorption. The male characters took themselves too seriously, but sometimes that provided a nice comic effect. I understand that Peter Aaron is roughly based on Paul Auster (P.A., and he ends up marrying Iris, who is the protagonist of "The Blindfold", based on and by his wife Siri Hustvedt), but I was wondering Sachs was based on Delillo, who the book is dedicated too. Delillo's first book is Americana, is that anything like The New Collosus? Sachs' initials also spell BS, who knows if that means anything. What is fun about Leviathan is the great plot twists, and the way the philosophical abstractions add to the suspense. Usually, for me, philosophical digressions weigh down the narrative. Reaing it a second time is fun because Auster foreshadows a lot with symbolism (Aaron's double vision at the bar for example). The female characters are generally weak, except for Maria Turner - who is probably the best character in the book. The male characters are a little charming, but they don't have the self-irony they think they do. They're clever, but not the center of the universe.
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By A Customer on September 14, 2002
Format: Paperback
Leviathan is a fascinating book, and it clips along at a very quick pace - I read it over the course of a couple of study halls. It cannot, however, hold a candle to a book such as The New York Trilogy (my favorite Auster novel, and the standard to which all others are compared). Leviathan is complex, but ends up feeling rushed, particularly the second half. The characters are well crafted, but are too frequently cast aside as the plot rushes forward. Auster needed to trim the book down, or expand upon it.
Despite the hurried feeling, Levithan is nonetheless a very interesting novel, and does a wonderful job of bringing up questions about America and the American citizen's identity within America. It is fitting that the book is dedicated to Don DeLillo, a writer who frequently confronts this sort of question in his work.
All in all, an excellent read. Despite the adrenaline rush, Leviathan is steeped in a sense of philosophical melancholy. Whether or not there is hope for America, Paul Auster proves there is hope for American literature.
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By Adam Kelly on September 10, 2005
Format: Paperback
Having recently read Leviathan and The Music of Chance, I can't help but fear that anything Auster has done or will do after 1987 will always be dwarfed by The New York Trilogy. There is nothing wrong with Leviathan as entertainment - it is a fast-paced page turner with an interesting plot and enjoyable (if incomplete) characterisation. The problem is it feels like an early work by a writer of potential, not one by a great writer coming after such a masterpiece as NYT. The thematics go in too many different directions - philosophical, political and sensational - and the second half of the novel feels rushed, heading towards a conclusion that contains only a half-hearted version of the metafictive brilliance that we know Auster is capable of. Too many of the plot-lines go nowhere in the end, and the book is finally too many things at once to make a real mark.

Auster is a highly skilled and thought-provoking writer who can hold the attention like few others with the pace and punch of his sentences. He should be capable of more than is on show here, and I shall continue to read his later work with the hope that he lives up to his promise.
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