City of Glass, and the two subsequent volumes that make up the New York Trilogy, is, on one level, about the relationship between an author, his characters, and the readers of the books that he writes. It is mostly concerned with the question of who has the real power in this relationship: the author, who is often equated to God and/or the Father, supposed controller of words and destinies; the characters, who in almost all of Auster's works become aware of the fact that they are trapped in someone else's story, and who usually react by taking control themselves; the readers, each of whose individual minds shape the words that Auster has written into their own version of the story that he is trying to tell; and even the critics, who try to exercise their own power over the books by imposing their interpretations on them as if they were law. These issues are explored through the comparison of the detective and the crime that he is investigating to the reader/critic and the book that he or she is reading (there are also some extremely compelling passages about the structure of Don Quixote that delve into these issues).
City of Glass is Paul Auster's first official novel, not counting the popular detective novel that he wrote under a pseudonym. It contains bits and pieces of ideas that he had been working on for yearsthe parts about the Tower of Babel were originally part of Moon Palace. It is a stunning exploration of identity and language told from a point of view that is never really made very clear. This is the book that begins the New York Trilogy, one of the few masterpieces in recent literary history. There is almost nothing more that I can say about it. One could easily write volumes on the 150-odd pages that make up this work, but one could never say it quite so well or simply as the novel itself. This book is so full of ideas that I am beginning to believe that it was never meant to be written aboutonly discovered by each individual reader.