Sunset Park

by Paul Auster

Paperback, 2011

Status

Available

Genres

Publication

New York : Picador, 2011

Description

After falling in love with an underage girl and stirring the wrath of her older sister, New York native Miles Heller flees to Brooklyn and shacks up with a group of artists squatting in the borough's Sunset Park neighborhood.

Media reviews

Visst finns det briljanta stycken i ”Sunset Park”, och som vanligt vimlar det av intrikata dubbel­gångarteman och dolda litterära referenser, men boken är roligare att analysera än att läsa.
4 more
Visst finns det briljanta stycken i ”Sunset Park”, och som vanligt vimlar det av intrikata dubbel­gångarteman och dolda litterära referenser, men boken är roligare att analysera än att läsa.
Samtidigt framstår romanen som helhet som alltför tillrättalagd och lättsmält för att lämna några djupare avtryck.
Sunset Park får nöja sig med att vara en konventionell roman om att tappa bort sig själv och sedan mödosamt leta rätt på jaget igen. Paul Auster är alltid kompetent, och precis som vanligt är berättelsens nu, i läsögonblicket, ganska förtrollande.
Kirkus Reviews
Though Paul Auster's metafictional narratives have often veered toward the sort of literary gamesmanship that owes little to the conventions of realism, this is a very different novel for him, rooted in the realities of contemporary America--most specifically an ongoing war in Iraq and an economic recession that threatens employment in general and the publishing business in particular. (Best Books 2010)

User reviews

LibraryThing member pdebolt
Sunset Park is an extraordinarily good book. Paul Auster has shown the vulnerabilities and strengths of damaged people living in the midst of the modern-day economic chaos, and has managed to make them likable. Miles Heller has lived with debilitating guilt for six years, estranging himself from his parents, who also ache separately and together. When Miles agrees to live in Brooklyn with three other people who are squatters in an abandoned house in Sunset Park, he reunites with Bing and meets Ellen and Alice. These four people struggle to succeed despite the "baggage" they each bring to the relationship and to the living arrangement. I loved the discussions of baseball trivia, books, authors and movies, but the ending saddened me. Ultimately, this is a book worth reading.… (more)
LibraryThing member porch_reader
This was one of my Brattle Book Shop purchases in Boston, and I started reading it on the plane ride home. It drew me in immediately. We begin in the financially troubled times of 2008 with Miles Heller. In his 20s, he lives in Florida and trashes out foreclosed houses. Tragic events in his past have caused him to flee his NYC home and avoid his parents. His only joy comes from his relationship with a girl he met in the park, but then he has to hit the road again and leave her behind. He ends up back in NYC, in an abandoned house in Sunset Park, and there the perspective shifts. We see events through the eyes of Miles' friends in Sunset Park and through the eyes of his parents. Despite the shifting perspective, a consistent mood permeates this book. The financial difficulties are matched by difficulties in the characters personal lives. Their lack of a permanent home is matched by a similar tenuousness in their identities. They are desparately searching for something or someone to connect with - a dissertation, a girlfriend, art, old typewriters. But just when they begin to figure things out, their foundation shifts again.

Despite its dark tone, I thought this book was very well written. It has a bit of plot, but mostly it creates the feeling of searching for an identity, a purpose, and then dealing with the roadblocks in your way. It is heartbreaking in places and hopeful in others, but it always feels honest.
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LibraryThing member browner56
Miles Heller is a prodigal son of sorts. Eight years ago, he suddenly dropped out of college and completed a self-imposed exile by cutting off contact with his family and almost all of his friends. At the urging of Bing Nathan, the one figure from his past with whom he kept in touch, Miles has returned to New York during the fall of 2008 in the midst of a personal crisis that mirrors the economic malaise gripping the entire country. Miles joins Bing and two other women who have taken up squatting in an abandoned house in a rundown neighborhood of Brooklyn. The roommates—all broken people to varying degrees—know that they will eventually be evicted, but can they sort out their professional, emotional and financial issues before that day arrives?

“Sunset Park” develops this story from many points of view, including those of Miles, his roommates, and his estranged parents. This approach works nicely as many of the same events are told from different perspectives with satisfying and sometimes surprising results. However, other devices in the book do not work as well: Miles’ obsession with photographing the abandoned possessions of those who lost their homes in the economic meltdown frames the opening scene but is then more or less forgotten; the “Hospital of Broken Things” is an implausible and rather clumsy metaphor for the house where Bing and his friends are squatting. Also, for as much investment as the unfolding story requires of the reader, the ending is disappointingly abrupt and unconvincing.

I have always found Auster to be an engaging, masterful writer and one of my favorite novelists. He has established a reputation for producing intellectually challenging post-modern novels (e.g., books about people who are writing the book you are reading, stories told from the point of view of a dog), but “Sunset Park” takes a more straightforward approach to story-telling. Of course, there are still abundant cultural references (e.g., the movie “The Best Years of Our Lives” and the play “Happy Days” provide contrasting contexts for the novel) and coincidences (e.g., Miles and his girlfriend find each other because they are reading the same paperback version of “The Great Gatsby” in a park one day) that mark all of Auster’s books, but there is less sleight-of-hand here than usual.

All that said, I liked “Sunset Park” but it does not rank among the author’s best work. I have no complaints at all from a technical perspective; the writing here is precise and the myriad perspectives are certainly woven together well. Ultimately, though, this is the tale of a confused son and heartbroken parent reuniting after almost a decade apart and that should be a story read more from the heart than from the head. Sadly, given the almost clinical way some of the plotting and characterizations are developed, that was not the case for me.
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LibraryThing member arubabookwoman
[Sunset Park] by [[Paul Auster]]

28 year old Miles has been a drifter since he dropped out of college, and has not been in touch with his family in nine years. He cleans up foreclosed homes in South Florida, so that they can be resold by the banks. The work is called "trashing out," and Miles never opens a door "without a feeling of dread."

As the novel opens, he is living with 17 year old Pilar, a high school student, whose parents recently died. When Pilar's sisters threaten statutory rape charges, Miles decides to leave Florida a while, and return for Pilar once she reaches the age of consent.

In the second part of the book, Miles has returned to New York City, where his family lives and where he grew up, to await Pilar's coming of age. He is ambivalent about reestablishing contact with his family, and joins a group of squatters living in an abandoned home in the Sunset Park area of Brooklyn. The focus of the book changes from Miles to the people he lives with, including Bing, a former friend who shares Miles's lack of ambition, Alice, a Ph.D student and her writer boyfriend who are having problems, and Ellen, an artist who is haunted by the affair she had with the teenage boy she was supposed to be tutoring. Each of these squatters becomes the pov character in sections that focus on them rather than on the story-line involving Miles.

The third section is focused on Morris, Miles's father, a book publisher who knows that Miles is back in New York, but believes that Miles must be the one to initiate contact. Morris is having problems with his wife, and his publishing company is beginning to struggle.

In the final section, the stories of all the characters are neatly tied up. While Auster is a good writer, and I've enjoyed many of his books, I don't think Sunset Park is one of his better works. I felt the novel was unfocused (or perhaps had too broad of a focus), and lacked cohesion. I'm not sure what the point of including such detail about the characters Miles was squatting with was. I don't know what their live stories, each with a beginning and a resolution, added to what I believe was essentially Miles's story.

In addition, parts of the novel felt simplistic and unreal (Miles and Pilar meet in a park where they are both reading The Great Gatsby. He falls in love with her because she is so smart for a teenager. And Mile's father, who has been secretly spying on Miles, witnesses their first meeting.).

Overall, reading Sunset Park was an interesting ride, but in the end I wasn't sure where I'd been and why.
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LibraryThing member edwinbcn
Sunset Park by Paul Auster is the novel written for the Occupy Wall Street generation. Here is a long quotation:

Since the war in Vietnam, which began nearly twenty years before he was born, he would argue than the concept known as America has played itself out, that the country is no longer a workable proposition, but if anything continues to unite the fractured masses of this defunct nation, if American opinion is still unanimous about any one idea, it is the belief in the notion of progress. He contends that they are wrong, that the technological developments of the past decades have in fact only diminished the possibilities of life. In a throwaway culture spawned by the greed of profit-driven corporations, the landscape has grown ever more shabby, ever more alienating, ever more empty of meaning and consolidating purpose (page 72).

He in the quotation above is Bing Nathan, the central character is the novel, characterized as the militant debunker of contemporary life who dreams of forging a new reality from the ruins of a failed world ...he does not believe in political action. He belongs to no movement or party. (p.71)

Sunset Park is a novel that looks back to the 1970s and 1980s with nostalgia, to the time before before new technologies such as cellphones, computers and all things digital, to an age when things were tangible, as opposed to virtual. Things "live", such as "live music".

To regular readers of Auster a quirky name such as the Hospital of Broken Things is a typical name. It is the name of Nathan's shop where he repairs broken things, such as manual typewriters, mechanical watches, record players, rotary telephones, wind-up toys, etc. The name, of course, refers to the Boulevard of Broken Dreams, which in turn refers to Sunset Boulevard.

Along with the story of Nathan, we are introduced to the lives and ideas of several of his friends, whose lives all connect to the main theme of the novel which is the loss of belief in what is going on in America. Miles Heller is a photographer who works clearing out the homes of evicted families, who fled their homes as they could no longer pay their mortgages. Miles has developed a compulsive habit of photographing personal items in such homes. There are quite a few references to a movie from 1946, The Best Years of Our Lives directed by William Wyler.

The plot of this movie tells the story of three American soldiers, coming home after WWII and fitting back into society. One of these soldiers, Al, had worked as a bank executive and loan officer, and because of his war experience he is appointed vice president of a bank, which anticipates an increase in loans to returning war veterans. In the movie, Al approves a loan to a veteran without collateral, and is reprimanded by his boss not to gamble on further loans without collateral. This 1946 movie is early to predict that the bank gambles with their depositors' money, which is justified by gambling on the future of the United States. Until the wake-up call in November 2008.

Altogether, Sunset Park is a very readable novel, perhaps a bit too readable. It is a bit different from Paul Auster's previous novels, in the sense that it is easier to read, and allusions to the theme are a bit thick and very obvious. Perhaps that is because Auster knows that his audience, at least the younger portion of it must have everything spelled out for them. They would not know better after having graduated from "Pifflebum Tech, Asswipe U or the Institute for Advanced Retardation. The characters in Sunset Park are relatively "normal", and the novel is devoid of quasi-expressionist style elements, as in The New York Trilogy.

I liked this novel more than I expected I would, but not as much as some of Auster's earlier work. The sense of infinite possibilities and optimism, has made place for pessimism and nostalgia. It is, however,the nostalgia I like.
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LibraryThing member smcbeth
I was drawn into this book and started out loving it, lost that lovin' feelin' and got it back again only to lose it yet again. I think the extra characters were superfluous. I was interested in Miles and his family and Pilar. I found the others tedious distraction. I could have used way less of them. I thought the whole ending was BAD, from the cops entrance to Sunset Park, what ensues, and how Miles resolves his dilemma. However, Auster is a very captivating writer who can really turn a phrase and write some absolutely beautiful prose. I'm willing to try another Auster book. Maybe this wasn't his best.… (more)
LibraryThing member railarson
New Yorker book critic James Wood wrote an article about author Paul Auster last year that masqueraded as a synopsis of a new novel before revealing itself as a parody using the tropes that Auster is known for. Intellectual male protagonist with a dark sense of loss? Check. Violent accident? Check. Doppelgangers akimbo? Check. Check.

The back-and-forth argument as to whether Auster is merely doing what postmodernist writers do—i.e., borrow liberally from popular culture as to point out the foibles of modern life and paucity of new ideas in the face of existential crisis—or has succumbed to the greasy but comforting business of slinging familiar fare like a grizzled line cook on the graveyard shift had all but killed my desire to read another Auster novel ever since. That was a shame.

I discovered Auster a few years ago and had jumped into the deep end quite quickly, devouring In the Country of Last Things, Leviathan, The Book of Illusions, and Oracle Night in short order. Maybe Wood was right, and Auster had become somewhat of a one-trick pony, but if it’s a good trick, what the hell? The weird thing? Wood’s parody actually sounded pretty good. Which brings us to Sunset Park.

Auster’s latest starts out like a parody of the parody, sort of a literary “fuck you” to the critics. We find twenty-eight-year-old Miles Heller mucking out foreclosures in Florida in his seventh year of self-imposed exile from his family after dropping out of college. Heller’s dark sense of loss stems from accidentally pushing his stepbrother in front of a speeding car while arguing on the side of a winding road in the Berkshires.

Heller is pretty screwed up, and although characters male and female seem to be powerless before his supposed charms, he’s not a sympathetic enough protagonist to hang a novel upon. He may have actually offed his brother on purpose, and he is carrying on with—that is to say, sodomizing—a seventeen-year-old Cuban girl.

It’s easy to see how Heller could have been emotionally stunted by his brother’s death, and the girl, Pilar Sanchez, is about the same age as he was when the break occurred. As hard as Auster tries to give their relationship credibility, gifting Sanchez with above-average intelligence and insatiable curiosity, it is still a little unseemly when she refers to her various orifices as the off-limits mommy hole, and the A-OK funny hole.

Given that this is an Auster book, this strange relationship is mirrored in the backstory of one of Heller’s roommates once he’s forced to retreat back to New York by a greedy, and possibly jealous, older Sanchez girl upon threat of incarceration for statutory rape. An old friend of Heller’s, the bearish Bing Nathan, and a group of like-minded twenty-somethings have opened up a squat in the seedy Sunset Park district just in time for Heller’s exile.

Ellen Brice, a woman who “projected an aura of anxiety and defeat,” had been impregnated at twenty by a sixteen-year-old who she had supposed to be watching. Brice, while physically and emotionally understated, is perhaps the key to Sunset Park. Auster’s novel is ultimately about depression, both national and personal, and the poor judgment that can arise from being in that state of mind. He has placed his box of broken characters smack down in the financial meltdown of 2008; the national malaise mirrors the feeling of Heller’s peers who have burned through their initial promise, and are now adrift.

The third squatmate, Alice Bergstrom, is neck deep in her dissertation for Columbia. She has become obsessed by William Wyler’s 1946 film The Best Years of Our Lives; a film that examines the difficulties soldiers returning from WWII had relating to domestic life once again. Heller and company don’t have the monolithic bummer of a world at war, but they do have the collapse of a system that was to provide each and every one of them a chance at the American Dream. It is interesting that among his peers, only the vindictive Sanchez sister, a recent immigrant, has the balls to grab ahold and squeeze what she can out of what little she is presented with.

Within all this, Auster weaves a thematic thread involving baseball pitchers; especially those who showed great promise then flamed out, often tragically. For my money, if you’re a New York author and you’re going to use baseball as a metaphor to describe the human condition, then you’re going to have to go up against Don DeLillo’s masterful set piece that opens Underworld. That bit transcended any interest one might, or might not have, in the detailed ephemera of the national sport. In the shadow of DeLillo’s big game, Auster’s latest pitch falls low and outside. Or maybe that’s the point.
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LibraryThing member karieh
This book really drew me in – and I can’t quite put my finger on why…. I didn’t find this to be a larger than life book – it’s about average people with pretty average lives – dealing with average problems, joys and grief.

The main character, Miles, provided the anchor to the story. His voice was the strongest for me and flowed through the way all of the other characters were described. His view of the world and of his world, is not one that I share but it is one that was compelling to me.

“He finds it soothing to talk about these things with Eduardo Martinez in the late afternoon light of this Thanksgiving Thursday, and even if the subject matter could be considered somewhat grim – stories about failure, disappointment, and death – baseball is a universe as large as life itself, and therefore all things in life, whether good or bad, whether tragic or comic, fall within its domain. Today they are examining instances of despair and blighted hope, but the next time they meet (assuming they meet again), they could fill an afternoon with scores of funny anecdotes that would make their stomachs hurt from laughing so hard.”

Miles is in a cycle of running from parts of his life, and eventually finds himself living in an abandoned house with other people, most of whom seem to be in a sort of “paused” part of their life. They are waiting to finish something or start something or waiting for someone else. This creates a very interesting atmosphere in the house…a certain feeling of hesitation that colors all that I read about the characters. Or maybe it’s more of a feeling of reflection – comparison of the current state of the world to the past…their own pasts or the collective past.

Alice, who moves into the house while she tried to finish her dissertation, finds herself comparing her generation to the Greatest Generation as she immerses herself in the time period following World War II.

“…when she thinks of that generation of silent men, the boys who lived through the Depression and grew up to become soldiers or not-soldiers in the war, she doesn’t blame them for refusing to talk, for not wanting to go back into the past, but how curious it is, she thinks, how sublimely incoherent that her generation, which doesn’t have much of anything to talk about yet, has produced men who never stop talking…”

“…whereas with the silent men, the old men, the ones who are nearly gone now, she would give anything to hear what they have to say.”

The one jarring note (other than the odd coincidence of all of the main characters watching the same 64-years old movie within a short period of time) was that when the events in the house finally, slowly, started to move forward, the story took a crashing, disastrous, game changing turn. One that could be foreseen, and one that made sense in the context of the story, but one that had me shaking my head as I turned the last page. Such a change in mood and so many questions being asked before bringing everything to a halt was unexpected to say the least.

I feel a part of me is still waiting for the answers, waiting for the story to begin again.
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LibraryThing member libsue
I've been intrigued by Paul Auster and his writing for some time. He's one of those authors that is so well regarded that he consistently gets glowing reviews, but I've never picked up one of his books to read. Well, after reading Sunset Park I've decided to try to read all of his novels.
Sunset Park follows the decent of its main character Miles Heller as he travels from the Upper West Side in Manhattan to Florida and then back to Sunset Park Brooklyn.
Auster adeptly interweaves the stories of Miles, his roommates, and those close to them in this story.
Throughout he maintains the theme of living one's life as though viewing it through a lens, or vicariously experiencing others lives.
A keeper.
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LibraryThing member skippersan
In Sunset Park, Paul Auster explores a couple of old themes: self-chosen poverty and reconciliation with a father. Two defining events in Miles Heller’s life have brought him to where the novel begins. When sixteen years old, while living in New York, he had argued with his older stepbrother, Bobby, and ended up shoving him into the street where he fell in front of a speeding car. Of course the memory of the death haunted Miles, but not nearly as much as the nagging self-doubt as to whether he heard or saw or somehow knew of the car’s approach before giving the fatal shove. He knew he had mixed feelings about his stepbrother, but could never be sure afterward that he hadn’t meant to kill him. The second defining moment came, five years afterward, when he overheard a mean conversation between his parents about him and what he had become since Bobby’s death. After hearing that conversation, he dropped out of college and simply disappeared, never contacting his parents in any way for over seven years.

The novel begins in Florida, where he falls in love with Pilar Sanchez, an underage but extremely bright and intellectually ambitious girl. He tries to conceal their illegal relationship from the rest of the world and also tries to conceal his own guilty past from her. He tells her very little about himself. He has deliberately pared his life down to the bare minimum—just enough to satisfy a handful of needs. His job, an odd outgrowth of consumerism, consists in cleaning out the abandoned belongings from abandoned houses. It doesn’t pay well, but it works for him. He never feels tempted to pocket anything he finds on the job—at least not for himself—but, in order to buy off the suspicion of Pilar’s relatives, he starts gifting them with some of the nicer things he steals from work. Alas, the precarious balance of his life can’t last forever. When things start to fall apart, Miles flees Florida and goes back to the New York he had once escaped, back, in fact, to his childhood burg where he squats in an abandoned house in Sunset Park with his best friend from childhood and some other bright non-conformists.

Miles, in short, has lived on the edge of morality and outside the law ever since leaving home, but looks to be on the verge of returning to mainstream society throughout the novel. Pilar will soon be eighteen and they hope to marry; Miles plans to reunite soon with his parents and ask forgiveness; the squatters intend to move soon into a legal, low-rent arrangement. The tension of his life-on-the-verge permeates the novel, from start to finish, making for a gripping tapestry of stories. Certainly this book is no worse than the others of Auster’s I have read.

On the minus side, I don’t see that Auster's recent treatment of his favorite themes has deepened or matured over Moon Palace. He plays around with the form a lot. The novel unfolds entirely in present tense and contains no quotation marks throughout. One sentence may take two pages. The conversation with his actress mother contains stage directions: (Eyes welling up with tears. Silence, four seconds. Then the downstairs buzzer rings.). He even narrates one section in second person. So he flashes his postmodern credentials in such a subdued manner that the common reader could easily stay lost in the fiction and miss all the literature. All in all, I enjoyed Sunset Park, but I just wish I could say more than that.
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LibraryThing member keren7
I liked this book and found it more readable than the past Auster books I've read. I at first really got into this book, but then I found it harder to pick up as the story way slowed down. And then, just when I liked the book again, the story takes a puzzling turn for the worst. Its almost liked Auster didn't know where the story was going and he finally decided at the end but he didn't spend a lot of time trying to develop the ending. The ending was such a let down for me, but oveall the character study was good.… (more)
LibraryThing member bcquinnsmom
My thanks to Sonia at Librarything, the LT Early Reviewers' program, and Henry Holt Publishers for the opportunity to read this novel. As it turns out, I liked this book -- it's one of those stories that you take with you long after you've finished it.

Sunset Park is a story about people living life on the edge of a world that is slowly passing them by. Miles Heller, the main character, chose to put himself into exile from family life after not being able to cope with his guilt over his stepbrother's death, ending up after seven years in Florida with a job cleaning out homes that have been foreclosed on so that the bank can resell them. Each day he records via photography the remnants of the dashed hopes of the American dream -- the possessions left behind when the good old days passed and the changing economy forced people out of their homes. He is invited by a friend to take up residence in an old, abandoned home in Sunset Park (New York) and join the other squatters there who plan to stay until they are forcefully thrown out, an invitation he accepts due to circumstances in Florida that make it impossible for him to remain there. The roommates have individual lives, but together are all wounded people who cling together, forging a kind of wall against the forces of a changing world that they often do not understand, one in which they've somehow lost their way. Part of the book's focus is on loss and abandonment, as well as hope and the role of fate.

The story details the stories of the roommates before and after the arrival of Miles, as well as Miles' family members to whom he has neither seen nor spoken in the years since he left. It's also an ode to what was, and how these people have learned to survive (or not) in a world that has left much of society in the proverbial dust as it turns to value profit and money above all. It's also a look at the need for human connection and the power of relationships to keep people going in the worst of times. For example, Miles' father Morris is a publisher whose company has always encouraged new talent, but now due to economic circumstance, must bypass these people and stick to the older, more well-known writers that initially helped to make his company flourish. He wonders how long it's going to take him to become another "can man," and spends time pondering his relationship with his son, who wrote at the age of 11 that "wounds are an essential part of life, and until you are wounded in some way, you cannot possibly become a man." How prophetic: at one point, speaking of the main character in this book, one of the characters wonders "What war did Miles Heller march off to, ... what action has he seen, how long has he been away? ... He walks around with an inner wound that will never heal..." And then there's Bing -- a "warrior of outrage, the champion of discontent, the militant debunker of contemporary life who dreams of forging a new reality from the ruins of a failed world."

Overall, Sunset Park is at times a gut-wrenching novel that has something relevant to offer. My biggest problem with this book are the tangents that the author takes at times that made me want to rein him back to the core of this story, which often detracted from my reading experience. But it's very much worth reading, and I'd recommend it.
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LibraryThing member quilted_kat
Miles Heller is an emotionally damaged young man who has been hiding for seven and a half years from his family and his past. When his new life takes an unexpected turn, he accepts the offer of an eccentric friend to join him in a squat in New York with several other people: a college student working on her dissertation, and an artist.

I usually love Paul Auster's writing. This story, however, felt rather flat. The minor characters surrounding Miles held more depth and interest than his own story. A rather unsatisfying book, with an unsatisfying ending. But, coming from Paul Auster, there were still a lot of good tidbits hiding around the edges.
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LibraryThing member lucienspringer
Paul Auster is like a member of an indie band who's hit it big. He inspired cultish affection with his earliest books, and has spent more recent years being accused both of turning away from his strengths and of treading water by repeating himself. Like a long-lasting musician, though, he's hung in there long enough that a new generation of fans can get to know him solely through his later books and judge them more clearly.
I'm not one of those, but I think I'm still objective enough to say that Sunset Park definitely stands up with the best of his work.
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LibraryThing member MarkMeg
A very convoluted story about how family and friends handle the 2008 financial difficulties. The story revolves around Miles Heller who has run away from his family for seven years and finally ends up back in New York making his peace with them and with his world.
LibraryThing member SalemAthenaeum
Following the hopes and fears of a group of people from different backgrounds and experiences brought together through one man during the economic collapse of 2008, Sunset Park speaks from the heart of a nation in pain, trying to recover.
LibraryThing member atelier
Another fine novel by the master storyteller, Paul Auster. As in his other books, Auster once again mixes a sense of eerie circumstance into what otherwise would be a plain tale of plain folks to give a subtle sense of otherworldliness to his fictional universe. Any fan of Auster's will certainly enjoy this further adventure of the mind while new readers will soon become fans. Highly recommended.… (more)
LibraryThing member chorn369
Paul Auster has captured what it means to be an ambitious, poor, intelligent, confused college graduate trying to make a way in the world. I'll never forget the five characters who squat in the impoverished Brooklyn neighborhood of the book's title and how they grew and fell, sometimes simultaneously, and how others in their orbit were damaged or enriched by their actions.

The book is set in the post-2008 economic crisis, and the terrible U.S. economy and the foreclosed housing market factor as characters too. One of the protagonist's jobs is to inventory houses abandoned by their owners, and he obsessively takes photos of the detritus. Yet this feels like a book that will stand the test of time, like the Broadway play "Rent" or even "La Bohème."

"Sunset Park" kept me reading all night.
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LibraryThing member TooBusyReading
I really liked this book and I'm not quite sure why.

The story is simple. A man in his twenties has walked away from his family and from participating in his own life until he falls in love with an underage girl. A disparate group of people, each with his or her own quirks and problems, illegally live together in an abandoned house in Sunset Park. People nursing their own wounds cause pain in others. Nothing mysterious or suspenseful or surprising. All is tied together by the themes in the film The Best Years of Our Lives.

So why did I like it so much? Perhaps the writing. Does this fall into that vague genre of “literary fiction”? Does that mean anything, or is it just that the writing can try too hard or be a bit pretentious as easily as it can be lyrical and poetic? And does the lack of quotation marks make it better or just harder to read? For me, the writing was often beautiful but occasionally annoying. There were a couple of small sections that I didn't like. I liked and cared about the characters and the events in their lives, they became real to me.

I received an advance edition, so these quotes may not be the same in the published edition:

Does everyone live happily ever after?

His rent is low, since he lives in a small apartment in a poor neighborhood, and beyond spending money on bedrock necessities, the only luxury he allows himself is buying books, paperback books, mostly novels, American novels, British novels, foreign novels in translation, but in the end, books are not luxuries so much as necessities, and reading is an addiction he has no wish to be cured of.


How can any reader not relate to that?

Taking one of those pills is like swallowing a small dose of death. Once you start with those things, your days are turned into a numbing regimen of forgetfulness and confusion, and there isn't a moment when you don't feel your head is stuffed with cotton balls and wadded-up shreds of paper. She doesn't want to shut down her life in order to survive her life.

...a head splitting open from the sheer force of the darkness within it, a life broken apart by the too-much and too-little of this world.


Sunset Park is the first book I've read by this author, and I very much enjoyed it. A sample of the audio book, read by the author, was included. I appreciate a book that is read by the author because the meaning and the emphasis comes through the way that he intended. However, I prefer reading books rather than listening to them.

I am grateful to the publisher for giving me an advance reader's edition of this book.
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LibraryThing member kisigler
This was an engaging and well-written novel that I had trouble putting down, but in the end I found it to be disappointing. I suppose that I am one of those readers who has put Paul Auster in the 'post-modernism' box, but that is where I like him best. This novel has some elements that will be familiar to readers of his other books (a dead child, a man trying to obliterate his identity, writers, even a brief mention of a private detective), but it never comes together in the strange and fascinating ways that some of those other books do. If you are looking for a good, straight story, read this. If you expect something a little more from a Paul Auster novel, you might want to skip this one.… (more)
LibraryThing member williecostello
'Sunset Park' was a bit of a breath of fresh air for me. Although it's without a doubt an Auster novel, it avoids many of his most common (and I think) most tired tropes: his preoccupation with writing and writers ('Leviathan', 'Invisible'), a verging-on-gimmicky use of metafictional elements ('City of Glass', 'Travels in the Scriptorium'), and plots that focus more on how people cope with situations rather than people themselves ('The Music of Chance'). 'Sunset Park', in contrast, is a novel about characters, and although these characters do exhibit classic Auster traits (there are Columbia grads, baseball fans, and fiction aficionados among them), it still feels like Auster is doing something different, contenting himself with fleshing out his portraits of these people, rather than seeing how they react to outlandish circumstances. I don't think Auster is the best person to write this sort of novel, but I still love his style, and it's nice seeing him do something a bit different for a change.… (more)
LibraryThing member ptdilloway
It's stuffed with too many characters to reach a satisfactory conclusion.
LibraryThing member bibleblaster
Auster has always been one of my favorites. This is more conventional than many of his...and maybe less successful because of that. I enjoyed it, as I enjoy all of his books, but if you're new to him, start with one of his others (Music of Chance; Man in the Dark; Moon Palace)
LibraryThing member zibilee
Twenty-something Miles Heller is in a relationship with a much younger woman. In fact, the woman in question is underage. After a brief scuffle in Florida with her family over their relationship, Miles moves back to New York for a few months while he awaits his lover's eighteenth birthday, sharing a house with a few friends and acquaintances. Though this seems to be a normal arrangement, the four people sharing the house are actually illegal squatters who have taken over the run-down farmhouse in the far reaches of Brooklyn. Meanwhile, Miles is considering visiting the family from whom he's been estranged for seven years and is mulling over his complicity in the death of his step-brother, Bobby. Miles' father and mother are deeply delighted that he's decided to make contact after all these years, and unbeknownst to Miles, have been keeping tabs on his whereabouts through a friend. As the narrative thread winds its way along, the reader gets glimpses of the situation as seen through the eyes of Miles, his parents and the three other squatters. Both sparse and evocative, Auster relates a story of a very unusual yet somehow ordinary set of people trying to find peace and permanence in the harsh realities of today's society.

Lately I've been reading a lot about Paul Auster and his writing. Most of what I've heard has been encouraging, but I have to admit I was a bit intimidated. After reading Steph's review of The New York Trilogy, I knew that this was an author I wanted to tackle and quickly bought my own copy, which I promptly let linger quietly on my shelf. When the opportunity arose for me to read Sunset Park came, I was excited and thrilled and found myself inordinately consumed with questions about the book. Would I understand it, or would it all go over my head? Would it be too complex for me to really get a good handle on what Auster was trying to do with the story? What I found was that although Auster's writing can be deeply complex, I had no trouble understanding or relating to his story or the characters in it.

Sunset Park deals with a handful of very different characters sharing a lot of the same emotions and feelings. Though they are at different stages in life and in differing places, all are dealing with loneliness, apathy and identity issues. These themes were forefront in the novel and very fluid from character to character. Each of the main players spends time dealing with regret and missed opportunity, and share common feelings of dissatisfaction for their lives and in the relationships that they have. They are all beset by individual quandaries but are all facing the same issues from different perspectives. I thought it was interesting that Auster does such a wonderful job of making each of these characters so similar, yet there is no chance that you will mistake one for another, and equally no chance that their plights will become repetitive and overdone. There's an underlying pathos to all the tales here, and although there's no overt drama, there is some slightly stinging sadness that permeates the narrative and which made the characters and their stories very sympathetic to me.

The plot in this novel is not really fast flowing nor expansive, and it can be argued whether or not there's really a plot here at all. The book is more of a handful of character studies, and as such, spends a lot of time delving into the past and present situations of the people Auster chooses to write about. These character sketches are generous and one of the things I like about Auster's writing is that he's kind to his characters. This is not only true in the literal sense but also in the figurative sense, as each character is given time to explain themselves and their actions, and each facet of their personalities is fully detailed. Not one of the characters gets short shrift, and even those on the periphery seem to get a chance to validate themselves and tell their side of the story. There were a couple of characters who rather put me off, but even so, they were still very three-dimensional and interesting, and I felt something akin to closeness to all of them. I think this had to do with the strength of Auster's creation of them, and the fact that they were all so lifelike.

Auster's writing style was very quiet and spare. Things were not overly described or plodding; rather it seemed that he chose to relate things in a simple and straightforward manner. Certain themes and symbols were scattered throughout the novel and tied together nicely through differing segments, making this story a little more literary and portentous than others I've read recently. I especially liked the varying statements made on modern day America, and specifically, the economic downturn that so many are facing today. There was a boldness and an inevitability in the description of theses scenes that made them feel at once refreshing yet also strangely hopeless. A great deal of page space was given over to the internal thoughts of the characters and to the motivations behind their actions, which is something I enjoyed a lot. I like knowing why someone feels as they do and why they're doing the things they are doing, which is something Auster does just right. At its close, the story suddenly shifts and all that the reader knows becomes invalid and malleable. This is something I felt was very well done, and I enjoyed the fact that the end of the book wasn't tied up in a neat little bow and didn't feel contrived.

If you haven't read anything by Auster, I would definitely recommend this book. It's not nearly as intimidating as I thought it would be, and it has the added benefit of being remarkably agreeable in style and execution. Those readers who like character studies will eat this book up, and despite the fact that it's written with in a quiet and undemanding hand, I enjoyed it very much. I'm looking forward to reading The New York Trilogy and possibly other books by Auster. Recommended.
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LibraryThing member kirstiecat
I'm a big fan of Paul Auster but I was somewhat disappointed by this one, especially by the ending which seemed implausible but not in a typical Auster way..I mean, this wasn't written with the same postmodern tinges but more with the notion of my generation's sense of floating by with a slightly more meaningful main character trying to overcome a major incident in his life that caused him to separate himself from his family for a period of years.

The strengths of this novel is that it delved into some interesting characters and intricacies of their personalities. (Most of these characters are squatters in their 20s and 30s in Sunset Park, Brooklyn but some are part of the older generation and are mainly writers). It's a portrait of a generation overall, too...our hopes, our goals, our despairing moments too even when we happen to be at a sort of standstill in some ways. There are certainly some interesting things that these characters feel and think and that is something Auster seems to always bring to the table. The major deficit is that it just doesn't live up to his other works overall. The style isn't doing anything new or innovative and the topic isn't altogether adventurous for him. At the end, you just sort of feel like, "That's it? Really?"


A bit of a let down to me, I'm afraid. Much more recommended by him is The Brooklyn Follies or City of Glass.


Memorable Quotes:

pg. 68 "He closes his eyes...in the darkness behind his lids, he sees himself as a black speck in a world made of snow."

pg. 145 "He remembers Renzo as a young, young writer just out of college, living in a forty-nine-dollar-a-month apartment on the Lower East Side, one of those tenement railroad flats with a tub in the kitchen and six thousand cockroaches holding political conventions in every cupboard..."

pg. 190 "If all the sixty-year-old broads come across as bizarre looking thirty-year-olds, who's going to be left to play the mothers and the grandmothers?"

pg 216 "The human body is strange and flawed and unpredictable. The human body has many secrets, and it does not divulge them to anyone, except those who have learned to wait...the human body can be apprehended but it cannot be comprehended..."

pg. 266-267 "We do not grow stronger as the years advance. The accumulation of sufferings and sorrows weakens our capacity to endure more sufferings and sorrows, and since sufferings and sorrows are inevitable, even a small setback in life can resound with the same force as a major tragedy when we are young."
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