Sunset Park, according to a White Dude

Sunset Park, a novel by Paul Auster. Blurry picture on cover shows a young blond boy wearing a black sweater, tossing something unseen into the air.
Sunset Park

Sunset Park 
Paul Auster

I was so disappointed in this book. I picked it up because I used to live in the neighborhood south of Sunset Park, Brooklyn. I would ride my bike up 5th Avenue to the best taco place in the city, Tacos Matamoros. Then I’d go to La Gran Via Bakery and get myself a delicious coconut macaroon that was so good, a friend declared it must be made with baby jesus parts. Afterwards, I’d walk to the park known for having some of the best views in Brooklyn.

The most delicious macaroon, ever.

And yes, Paul Auster, sometimes I’d walk around gorgeous Greenwood cemetery, looking at the graves of the famous and not-so-famous.

In Paul Auster’s idea of Sunset Park, the vibrant, diverse community becomes nothing more than a sordid backdrop for four white privileged twenty somethings to play out their anarchist dreams while squatting in an abandoned and dilapidated house.

The plot – as much as there is one – revolves around Miles Heller. Miles is battling some serious physic wounds from a teenage trauma. Wounds are a major theme here, made most clear by a young Miles engaging in a thoroughly mature critique of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Despite Miles’s hurt, or maybe sometimes because of it, people are drawn to Miles. Everyone loves him. Including seventeen year old Miami schoolgirl, Pilar. It’s because Miles is running from rape charges that he ends up in Brooklyn. It’s no big deal – everyone agrees, Miles is so great. Just let him have his Pilar. (Ew.)

If you can get past these issues, the book has some good qualities. The descriptions of Miles’s relationships with his parents are particularly realistic. They show people bumbling along, making mistakes, but ultimately forging lasting bonds.

I wish that the rest of the novel could have lived up to the better parts. Le sigh. Oh well – another author I can say I’ve read, and not have to mess with again, at least for a while.

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