I don’t know if you’ve read much Paul Auster. I have read a few of his….namely the one I most remember is Brooklyn Follies, which is a perfectly good book about a bookshop owner in a Brooklyn neighborhood dealing with the changing face of the city etc etc. It was nice, if sentimental.
So, this one is definitely NOT sentimental. This is a set of diary entries written by a woman named Anna Blume living in an unnamed city in a unnamed future where an unnamed disaster has led to a kind of societal collapse. It’s a kind of dystopia, but it’s more like a fallen world, and given that it was written in 1988 or so, it really leads to some questions about what sets of fears and anxieties we’re working with. It reminds me in a lot of ways of Samuel Delaney’s Dhalgren in that the dystopia is NOT the worst thing you’ve ever seen and it’s not a kind of roving bands of state police kind of thing either. There’s a clear and obvious breakdown.
It’s a surprising novel to me because it’s a novel about the structures of society fading away. This is both a city of crime, but it’s also a city of loss. This is almost a reaction to movies like Robocop, The Running Man, or Predator 2 that saw the 80s uptick in crimes (because of the War on Drugs) as the downfall we’d been worrying about. So this is not a hopeful novel at all, but it is one that reminds you that society might break down, but it’s not going to look like that.