Saturday, April 30, 2011

Paul Auster's City of Glass

The first book in Paul Auster's New York Trilogy, City of Glass is an exploration of identity and theology clad as a detective story. The tale begins when a crime novelist named Quinn begins receiving a series of calls at night, mistakenly trying to hire him as a private investigator. Eventually the author decides to just pretend to be a P.I. and take the case. His client is a strange, awkward man, the son of a theology professor who thought if he raised his boy without any human language that he would end up speaking the original language of God as spoken by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. When the professor is released from prison, the man and his femme fatale wife suspect he will try to seek vengeance, so Quinn is supposed to keep tabs on the old man. This being a detective story, of course not everything is as it seems.

This graphic adaptation manages to take a complex, intricate story and add even more dimensions with graphic representations and fantastic interpretations of the narrative. It was done by Paul Karasik and David Mazzucchelli, both Eisner Award winning creators who have been making avant garde comics for decades. Karasik is known for cartooning for a diverse range of publications, from The New Yorker to Nickelodeon Magazine, a memoir comic about living with autism done in collaboration with his sister Judy, The Ride Together, and his collections of the works of Fletcher Hanks. Karasik blogs about his life and work here. Mazzucchelli is best known for his landmark works with Frank Miller on Batman: Year One and Daredevil: Born Again as well as his original graphic novel, Asterios Polyp.

Reviewers have acknowledged that this graphic novel is something to be contended with. Carl Doherty praised this adaptation as being as good as its source material while cautioning, "If you’re the kind of reader who needs to know the answer to a riddle, then this might not be the book for you." Tom Bernard wrote that the book "is something like a waking dream; even though the artists keep showing possible avenues of escape, the reader ends up feeling trapped in the story." Dealing with many complex questions, Darren was left feeling "perplexed" but "with the feeling a second read-through would definitely be rewarding."

Published by Picador, a preview for this edition is available at

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