- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: Henry Holt (2010)
- Language: English
- ASIN: B005CDTEYI
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.1 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (97 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,928,610 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Sunset Park: A Novel Hardcover – 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Auster (Invisible) is in excellent form for this foray into the tarnished, conflicted soul of Brooklyn. New York native Miles Heller now cleans out foreclosed south Florida homes, but after falling in love with an underage girl and stirring the wrath of her older sister, he flees to Brooklyn and shacks up with a group of artists squatting in the borough's Sunset Park neighborhood. As Miles arrives at the squat, the narrative broadens to take in the lives of Miles's roommates--among them Bing, "the champion of discontent," and Alice, a starving writer--and the unlikely paths that lead them to their squat. Then there's the matter of Miles's estranged father, Morris, who, in trying to save both his marriage and the independent publishing outfit he runs, may find the opportunity to patch things up with Miles. The fractured narrative takes in an impressive swath of life and history--Vietnam, baseball trivia, the WWII coming-home film The Best Years of Our Lives--and even if a couple of the perspectives feel weak, Auster's newest is a gratifying departure from the postmodern trickery he's known for, one full of crisp turns of phrase and keen insights.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
*Starred Review* Passionately literary, Auster nonetheless publishes as frequently as a genre author, writing poetic and brainy feigned procedurals featuring inadvertent outlaws. In his sixteenth novel, four flat-broke twentysomething searchers end up squatting in a funky abandoned house in Sunset Park, a rough Brooklyn neighborhood. Bing, the “sloppy bear” ringleader, plays drums and runs the Hospital for Broken Things, where he mends “relics” from a thriftier past. Melancholy artist Ellen is beset by erotic visions. Grad student Alice is researching pop-culture depictions of postwar sexual relationships. Miles is a fugitive. Poisoned by guilt over his stepbrother's death, he hasn't communicated with his loving father, a heroic independent publisher; his kind English professor stepmother; or his flamboyant actor mother for seven years. Lately he's been in Florida, “trashing out” foreclosed homes, stunned by what evicted people leave behind in anger and despair. Miles returns to New York after things turn dicey over his love affair with a wise-beyond-her-years Cuban American teenager. As always with the entrancing and ambushing Auster, every element is saturated with implication as each wounded, questing character's story illuminates our tragic flaws and profound need for connection, coherence, and beauty. In a time of daunting crises and change, Auster reminds us of lasting things, of love, art, and “the miraculous strangeness of being alive.” --Donna Seaman --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
The main characters are seem to lead pointless lives of indecision and different degrees of failure. The main character is Miles Heller's M.O. He is not very ambitious and a wanderer despite having three years of Ivy league education under his belt. He is erudite and reads many books and offers insight and analysis of books, ideas and people when he chooses to speak. being somewhat introverted. He overhears an argument between his stepmother and father about his problems and lack of ambition. Frustrated with his life and family. he takes to the road at age 21 and lives in four different states eeking out a living with menial low paying jobs. He appears and identifies himself as a loser destined to fail at everything. He moves to Florida and acquire a jobs as a "trash out inspector" that empties foreclosed. houses of valuables left behind by former owners. He meets and fall in love with a 17 year high school student who becomes the great love of his life. Her name is Pilar Sanchez who he believes is intelligent and sharp witted, but offers no substantial proof of her intelligence except that, she reads books;. they actually meet in a local park where they both are reading the same book, "The Great Gatsby"
Unfortunately her sister is a greedy and jealous bitch who wants Miles to lavish her with gifts from the items he collects from the foreclosed houses he empties. Miles refuses and she threatens to inform the police that his sister is 17 and sleeping with a 28 year old man ( at this point Miles has been away from his New York family for close to 8 years with minimal contact through a mutual friend who reports to his father of his whereabouts. Miles is more or less forced to leave the state or risk serious jail time. He returns secretively to New York where he joins his mutual friend who has taken over a broken down house in "Sunset Park" He has filled the house with 3 other friends who are poor and destitude and on the verge of homelessness. Therefore, they occupy this shack of a dwelling as squatters, not fearing they could be evicted at any tome by the police. His friend is big burly slob with a violent temper because of his anti-society and radical views . Like Miles, he a loser with no direction and makes a pittance repairing broken typewriters and framing posters. The other members of the squatter house is a somewhat disheveled women who strives to be a painter but has mental and inner personal issues, and sees herself as a loser who cannot gain any traction in the New York City Art scene. The last member is a tall, large blond women in her thirties who is completing a dissertation at Columbia University. Her topic is male and female relationships after World War II focused on returning veterans having trouble getting adjusted to home with their families. Working on the last chapter of her study, she provides( or is it Auster) an analysis of the classic film. " The Best Years of Our Lives" of the post war period that is well made, though somewhat sentimental but offers a hopeful ending for the characters involved. The story is common, but film is carried by skill and the sincerity of the actors playing the main parts. This is another of Auster's pointless digressions which comes across as just" filler", and seems obliquely related to lives of the people involved in the novel. Unfortunately, Auster is again schooling his reader and demonstrating how informed he is about film history. The film is generally a great film but has its limitations and flaws, yet the female dissertation student chooses it as a way to pull together several of the thematic issues of her study.
The novel is flawed by the author's digressions, and showcasing his encyclopedia knowledge of trivia that weaken the narrative structure and obscure what the author is attempting to convey to the reader Even his reportage of the inner monologue of each character seems contrived and detached from what these characters may actually think in their individual desperate situations. This novel does not "REFLECT" the inner life and anguish of its characters, but instead superimposes the author's suppositions and judgments about them that does ring true to this reader. The novel has one believable character which draws out the reader empathy. he is Morris Heller, the father of Miles. He own a publishing company that he has successfully built over the course of his life, but may go under unless he can find new investors. Besides his profligate son his second wife is neurotic, overly scholarly wife and unforgiving of his one time fall from grace and runs off to England to teach Exeter College. All these pressures and including his uncertainty about his son Miles is wearing the man down. he is a good man with integrity but is hampered by family and business problems
The denouement of this jumbled narrative is both vaguely suspected, but also unsuspected. Where everything in Miles life seems to be working out, including a ceasefire within his family, and with friends. Miles prepares to return to Florida and when his girl friend Pilar turns 18 and legal, he will ask her to marry him Unfortunately, Miles is again railroaded by fate, or just his succession of stupid mistakes and lackadaisical misjudgments about people. The upheaval is serious enough to return all the major players of the novel back to square one.
If Auster has a theme to convey, it may be an indirect rebuke of the 60's countercultural mantra "to do your own thing in your own time, and that..."it all is good". Fate is a positive force in this cosmic view of the universe; whereas fate is a cruel interlocutor in people's lives and grudgingly offers second chances Miles and his squatter house friends may be either victims of fate, or just stupid in their life choices and decisions.. Whether Auster's haphazard parable intends this theme is also unclear.. .
Miles Heller is fairly directionless. Seven years ago he dropped out of college and stepped out of his parents' lives; since then, he has drifted around the country without any real plans. While living in Florida and working on a crew that empties foreclosed homes, he meets Pilar, a wise-beyond-her-years high school senior, and the two fall in love. Running afoul of Pilar's older sister, Miles flees back to his native New York until Pilar's 18th birthday. In New York, he joins his old friend, Bing, and two others as they squat in an abandoned house in Brooklyn's Sunset Park neighborhood. Miles uses the return home as an opportunity to reconnect with his parents and mentor Pilar from afar, while each of his housemates struggles with their own self-discoveries, and his father, Morris, deals with his own shaky marriage and his fears of mortality.
While the book starts out being narrated by Miles alone, after a point his voice is joined by those of his housemates and both of his parents, publisher Morris and actress Mary-Lee. Each has a unique viewpoint and each character occupies their own space with their own unique voice. I found this book tremendously compelling and thought-provoking, as it was both about big and small ideas. This is a story about relationships, self-confidence (and the lack thereof), discovering your true self, baseball and seizing opportunities that come your way. I found the ending a little too melodramatic and predictable, but it also left me to imagine what the next steps would be in the characters' lives. So good to see Paul Auster back on track again!!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Miles Heller is really the central character in a book that often turns to other characters to tell...Read more
I'm not so old fashioned however, the sexual description in the first chapter (or maybe it was the second...Read more