Nathan Glass is our white 60-year-old hero, a deeply liberal Democrat retiree from the insurance business, who suffers from lung cancer in remission. After his divorce, he returns to Brooklyn, “looking for a quiet place to die”. And before checking out, he intends to write The Book of Human Folly, a personalized account of every stupid, wrong move he had committed during his “long and checkered career as a man”.
Nevertheless, as the novel goes on he meets characters from the Park Slope neighborhood, who will interrupt our wan protagonist’s solitude and spin him around, so life takes over instead, and his despair is swept away as he gets himself implicated in other people´s life.
Everything starts to turn on when Nathan accidentally gets together with his long-lost nephew, Tom, who has seemingly given up on life. After dropping out of University, he has resigned himself to a string of meaningless jobs. Both characters mix enthusiasm and desperation; “you love life, Tom, but you don´t believe in it. And neither do I”.
From a doomed atmosphere to the lively neighborhoods, Nathan discovered
are less reluctant to talk to strangers than any tribe, they butt into one
another´s business at will.
Nathan acquaints with Marina, a beautiful married waitress. He also befriends Harry Brightman a shady, likable, gay, owner of a bookstore. And it is when Lucy, nine-year-old Tom´s niece, who refuses to speak and reveal the whereabouts of her mother, Aurora, comes into their lives, that she suddenly opens a bridge between their past and their future, and gives some form of redemption to the characters.
The novel seems to go nowhere. The Hotel Existence in Vermont represents the promise of a better world. Harry dies after an extortion episode and leaves all his wealth to Tom and to his mate Rufus, a travesty known as Tina. Nancy, a jewellery designer, gets in love with Aurora, Nathan with her mother, Tom married Honey, and Raquel, Nathan´s beloved daughter gets in touch after some time of cold distance, and tells Nathan he soon will be grandfather and they will be close from then on. And so on the novel gathers the characters in a big family. Paul Auster tends to show his liberal Democrat point of view. On the contrary, Lucy´s bad family situation is blamed on her Fundamentalist evangelical southern father.
The book ends up just forty-six minutes before the first plane crashed into the North tower of the World Trade Center, on 11 September, 2001. An incredibly loud finale, just before the smoke covered N.Y. with human pain and sorrow.
Under my personal point of view, Auster focuses the interest on happiness of ordinary human life, Brooklyn Follies is a book about survival, written for those who have suffered an unfortunate reversal, and wait for fate to turn direction.
Mercedes Martín Panero. Advanced level. Year 2