- 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: 97 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,161,115 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's dry, gravelly voice has a gravitas all its own. He reads his novel about Miles Heller, hiding out from the authorities in the titular Brooklyn neighborhood, interspersed with discursions on film and baseball, fate and chance. While Auster should intuitively knows the rhythms of his own work, his reading can be oddly choppy; he occasionally comes down too hard on the wrong word. Still his voice is enough to convey a sense of the writer. One almost feels that Auster is himself an Auster character, blowing smoke rings in an empty room while pondering America's mysteries and minutiae. A Holt hardcover. (Nov.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. 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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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!!
In "Sunset Park" there is the usual alienated protagonist - 28 years old Miles Heller, who lives the life of a hermit, having abruptly cut all the ties to his prominent family of New York publishers. He managed to avoid all contact for seven years, quit college and lives a truly minimalistic life, moving a lot and doing odd physical jobs to sustain himself. When we meet him, he lives in Florida - but the one thing he has not predicted changes the order of things forever: Miles falls in love with a teenager, an extremely bright and ambitious high school girl, Pilar Sanchez. His relationship with a minor and its consequences force him to accept an offer from an old friend, Bing Nathan, to move back to Brooklyn and join the group of squatters occupying an abandoned house in the Sunset Park neighborhood (I wonder whether Auster was inspired by a real house... I bet he was). Now Miles is close to his family, and there is the question of reconciliation, making peace...
The book if full of anecdotes about the lives of football players and initially I felt it might put me off (as I know nothing of football and the names mean nothing to me), but I found myself following and thinking about the random parallels between the lives of the characters and the players. The stories were an integral part of the novel and in no way a distraction or a show-off.
In fact, everything mentioned in the novel has a role: it is not a random choice of "The Great Gatsby" for a book that brings Pilar and Miles together. It is important that Alice is doing her graduate work on the old Hollywood movies and chooses to focus on the particular one ("The Best Years of Our Lives"), obsessing with it, that Ellen in turn becomes obsessed with human body... Every detail is a piece of a puzzle, indispensable and fitting perfectly in its place.
Questions that come to mind after reading: is minimalist way of life more often than not an escape, not a choice of two equivalents?
And are people really unable to change their general direction in life? Is one tragedy a predictor of the further one, even if we desperately try to avoid them? Back to an old truism: is there anything that can be called bad or good luck that defines us?
Initially, for a moment, I was disappointed by the ending - but almost immediately I was grateful for it not being different. Paul Auster succeeded yet again in delivering very well constructed, complex, interesting, thoroughly modern novel.
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Miles Heller is really the central character in a book that often turns to other characters to tell...Read more