Dealing with life issues and guilt

2012-01-11 00:00

PAUL Auster is a major figure on the American literary scene, and Sunset Park is beautifully constructed and written, and never less than compulsively readable.

It is the kind of book that deals with major issues — guilt, recession-induced poverty, love and deceit — but also gallops along at the pace of a thriller.

Miles Heller is 28 years old and was once a straight-A student, on the verge of a good career. But then he took off, his life seemingly paralysed by the guilt he feels over the accidental death of his stepbrother. He has abandoned his family and ties, and now gets by doing dead-end jobs. Until he falls in love with Pilar. That would be fine, but Pilar is underage, and discovery would see Miles jailed for statutory rape.

So he heads back to New York, and a squat in a derelict house. What he doesn’t realise is that his parents have been kept abreast of his movements over the past seven years by one of his new housemates­, and so the great confrontation and reconciliation is never going to be other than somewhat one-sided.

While the book is filled with interesting characters, the pivo- tal­ Miles is unlikeable. Whether caused by his imagined guilt or not, he is purely reactive, seemingly unable to take control­ of his life or make intelligent decisions.

And so he reacts to circumstances, often disastrously. And his remoteness­ means the reader becomes less involved in his fate than might otherwise be the case.

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