The New York Trilogy is a collection of three short novels, “City of Glass”, “Ghosts”, and “The Locked Room”, published between 1985 and 1986. The books elevated Paul Auster to fame, and showed how he used dramatic effect in a post-modern literary setting. The plots of the books involve ambiguity, as Auster experiments with the detective genre, as in each of the books there is a real detective and there seems to be an actual mystery to solve, but the existential quest always overlaps and takes the place of an actual inquiry.
Sometimes the investigation involves the language itself, in particular the role of names in the stories. The easiness of becoming somebody else through changing a name, a habit of the characters in the books, is used as a symptom of a fragmented personality.
In “City of Glass” a writer of detective fiction becomes a private investigator, and finds himself going mad as he investigates a case. The second book, “Ghosts,” involves a man named Blue who is a private investigator trained by a man named Brown, investigating a Mr Black, for a client called Mr White. “The Locked Room” is the story of a writer with writer’s block who inveigles himself into the life and family of another writer.
The New York Trilogy is a brilliant philosophical adventure everybody should reflect upon. Many writers have treated the themes of chance and mortality, among them Thomas Pinchon, Don De Lillo, David Foster Wallace, and Haruki Murakami. In an interview with Joseph Mallia, Auster is questioned about the genre of The New York Trilogy, and if it can be considered a mystery novel. This is what he answered: “I tried to use certain genre conventions to get to another place, another place altogether. The question of who is who and whether or not we are who we think we are. The whole process that Quinn undergoes in that book—and the characters in the other two, as well—is one of stripping away to some barer condition in which we have to face up to who we are. Or who we aren’t. It finally comes to the same thing”.