am 21. Oktober 1997
In search of a good mystery I went to the Edgar Awards to find an author with whom I was unfamiliar. The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster was unavailable, so I picked up Moon Palace instead.
I finished the book in one sitting. It seems to be more than a novel or stories strung together to tell a tale, but rather a grouping of real and beautiful pictures orchestrated with words. There is a sense of loss at its end, as if people you have known are now, once more beyond reach. It is one of those books that you wish you had only just begun, or that it was three times longer in length.
I'll go back to the book and read it again and I will read the rest of Auster's work.
This is a book which I found very entertaining to read though I don't think
it's first rate. I guess it has many autobiographical elements because it
is about a young man's quest for himself, his family, his identity. In that
respect it can be described as a typical "Bildungsroman", but it also
contains elements of the adventure novel, which, in part, accounts for the
It unfolds in several steps. In the first part we get an impression of the
protagonist as a child - his father is unknown, his mother is dead, so he
lives in close companionship with his beloved Uncle Victor, a clarinettist
from the Cleveland Orchestra who gradually is degraded to living from
hand to mouth.
Part 2: Uncle Victor has died, the protagonist has taken up college in New
York, but instead of continuing studying he is thrown out of his course.
Having inherited a little sum of money he withdraws into a tiny room in
Manhattan secluding himself totally from his friends (who are away on
summer vacation anyway) and starts reading through the library which his
uncle has left to him. He sells the books gradually and tries to survive on
the little money he gets by selling them to a book vendor. When he is
evicted from his room he tries to survive by sleeping in Central Park and
relying on his good luck to find something to eat when it comes to the
worst and he is near starving. He is saved from near death by a beautiful
Chinese dancer, Kitty, and his friend, who finally find out about him.
part 3: How he is gradually brought back to life and begins a love
relationship with Kitty. He is now willing to cope with life again and take
up a job.
Part 4: This job consists of pushing the wheelchair of an old miser, Mr
Effing. Their relationship is one as between a moody, harsh officer and a
young recruit: The boy is constantly put to the test by Mr Effing's cruel,
unjust, incalculable remarks and wishes, but the boy keeps his temper,
behaves correctly, so that in the end he wins Mr Effing's trust, and the
latter prepares him for writing his life story as a kind of a premeditated
obituary: Effing was a rich heir, he married a rich girl who was
unfortuantely terribly frigid, they only made love twice, the first time
sufficed to make it clear to her what an abominable thing sex was, the
second time was, when he left her for good, not knowing that he had
impregnated her with a son. Effing, who had led a life of desolation, was
also on a quest for himself, and as a painter he went to Utah. There he
found a murdered man in a hidden cave which was staked full with food. He
stayed there living on the food (similar to the protagonist living alone in
New York) painting memorable paintings, until the killers of the dead man
returned. Efiing expected them and killed them instead, preferring now to
stay in hiding to be regarded as dead. Since the three killers had enough
money in their saddle bags he could after some time return to civilization,
buy himself a passport (his real name was Barber), and become rich again
and the miser as which he presents himself to the young man. Effing has found
out that he has engendered a son, Solomon Barber, and he wants the young
man to seek him out and hand over his inheritance, a large sum of money.
After that he wills his own death to take place on the 12th of May.
Part 5: The young man finds Mr Barber, a ridiculously fat scientist who has
a brilliant mind but otherwise is a failure. As it turns out he made
love to the boy's mother, which happened in the early 70s and meant social
degradation to him. The young woman left him, gave birth to the narrator,
and died in an accident. This means that the narrator has found his father,
and that Effing was his grandfather. Barber and the narrator become
friends in a way, it is only when they visit his mother's grave and the son
finds out that Barber really loved her that he becomes furious and
inadvertently (but symbolically) pushes Barber into an open grave, where
the monstrously fat man seriously hurts himself, has to be pulled out of it
again, but dies of the accident.
Part 6: His separation from Kitty: She didn't want to keep the baby who she
was expecting of him, whereas having a child would have meant a world for
Last part: How he continues the journey to Utah (begun with his father
Barber) to find the cave with the paintings of his grandfather (Effing).
This is another adventurous quest: how he in vain tries to find it, how he
learns that meanwhile it is buried under Lake Powell, how his car is
stolen, how he continues on foot, and how he finally reaches the Pacific
coast in a spirit of liberation and happiness.
All this sounds pretty contrived and too unlikely. But the writer finds an
ingenious device to make the stories make sense: Effing leaves it open if
his story is true or only made up, if he has only been "inventing a parable to explain (his
life's) inner meanings" (p. 183). Moreover, Effing's stories and education
of his grandson had the effect of setting the young man free of his "bondage to the
world" (p.228), i.e. by realizing that mind triumphs over matter. Hence the
title and the many references to the moon. The narrator is fascinated by
the navigational rule that "we find ourselves only by looking to what
we're not. You can't put your feet on the ground until you've touched the
sky." (p. 154).
In this respect the unlikely coincidences and connections in a way also
In a way the narrator presents himself a bit too much as the nice guy: He
is always very decent, e.g. he pays back every cent that his recovery cost
his friend, or in the end he only blames himself for the alienation from
Kitty, or he never fails once in his dealings with mean old Effing, so that it looks a bit to
prefabricated. In the tradition of the cowboy tales he presents himself as
the unsentimental tough simpleton who learns things the hard way. Yet the truth
he learns is worth consideration: you must open yourself to anything that goes beyond
drab normalcy, trying to detect something spiritual and unfathomable in
the real world.
am 29. April 1998
We read the novel "Moon Palace" written by Paul Auster in our English class and everyone wrote down a statement on the novel. This is the review summarising our different aspects and various opinions on the book. In the whole our class liked the novel and considered it interesting and enjoyable to read even though there are some points of criticism. One is that the moon that Paul Auster chose as a leading motive for his novel loses its fascination and its importance by not fitting into the context and being artificially forced into various situations. Often a logical connection of the term and the plot is missing. The second aspect that a lot of us disliked was the fact that there are so many coincidences occurring in the book, for example Fogg meeting his long-lost father and grand-father only by accident, that all realism and parts of the book's fascination get lost. Paul Auster's novel contains many different stories that are taking place during different times and diverse settings. That they sometimes don't become one is irritating and confusing for the reader and make a connection and a deeper meaning missing. Another point of criticism was the author's way of starting every episode with its result. Caused by this a lot of tension is lost. Disappointing for some of us was the ending of the story. Fogg losing everything he had reached and gained throughout the whole novel, his father, his grand-father, his girlfriend and all his money seemed like destroying the whole development in the book. But nevertheless many of us considered "Moon Palace" an enjoyable novel that is combining aspects of entertainment and sense and is including an imaginative plot. The selection of settings contained in the novel is of importance because each of the totally different settings has its own function in the story. By jumping around in time as well as in setting with diverse flashbacks and describing the life of Fogg's ancestors, "Moon Palace" becomes thrillin! g and full of tension. What is also interesting and different about this novel is that caused by giving the reader the ending of the story at the beginning a new kind of tension is created. The question is no longer what might happen, but how is it going to become reality. Paul Auster's understandable language and style are familiar and he makes the words meet the point, so the reader feels bound close to the action and can in this term feel and live with the main character. This character, Fogg, is created by the author in a fascinating way. He is an individualist having his own extraordinary ideas who is going through a story of initiation. Fogg changes from a dreamer and outsider into an adult taking over responsibility. By this development he is becoming a round and interesting character.
As a conclusion I would say that some of us would not have gone through the novel voluntarily and for others "Moon Palace" was a book that once you start reading it you will hardly stop, everyone found some positive aspects about it and it was a welcome change in English lessons.
am 15. Januar 2002
Dieses Buch ist wirklich nur zu empfehlen. Es ist schon erstaunlich wie Auster die Geschichte von 3 Generationen in ein einziges Buch verpackt, und dies dabei auch noch sehr kurzweilig erscheint, auch wenn man sich durch die ersten 20 Seiten regelrecht durcharbeiten muss. Aber sobald man diese Hürde geschafft hat entfalltet die Geschichte ihre ganze Faszination, und diese reißt auch bis zum Ende nicht ab, denn sie ist voll von Überraschungen und teils auch lustigen Zufällen. Wer dieses Buch nicht kennt ist selber Schuld...
am 23. April 2001
Paul Austers "Moon Palace" ist mit Sicherheit eines der interessantesten Werke der neueren amerikanischen Literatur. Obwohl er als Vertreter der Postmoderne und als Autor mehrerer pikaresker Romane (z.B. auch "Mr. Vertigo") oftmals auf Grund der häufigen Verwendung des Zufalls zur Lösung von Konflikten oder Weiterführung der Erzählungen kritisiert wurde, macht gerade dieses Element seine Romane überaus lesenswert und überraschend. Wer eine getreue Abbildung der Wirklichkeit sucht, wird Austers Romane sicher befremdend finden. Wer allerdings nach Literatur sucht, die den Leser verblüffen kann und ihn förmlich zwingt weiter zu lesen, dem sei dieses Buch wärmstens empfohlen. Ganz nebenbei erfährt der Leser nicht nur etwas über das Leben des Protagonisten Marco Stanley Fogg sondern auch noch viel über die Geschichte der USA und auch über die verschiedensten Gegenden der Vereinigten Staaten. Wenn ein Buch fünf Sterne verdient hat, dann dieses. Kaufen!!!
am 3. Dezember 1999
Moon Palace is the story of Marco Stanley Fogg, a fatherless boy who finds his long lost father and grandfather at the age of 20. He is nearly killed at one point while pursuing a philosophical quest, trying to forsake the physical world like some buddhist monk. The end is strange and leaves you with a feeling of emptiness.
I think that Moon Palace is a very interesting book, Paul Auster's great writing skills make this an unputdownable book. After a slow start the action proceeds at a rapid rate with something new happening on every page. Paul Auster weaves many stories into each other, however, making it difficult to keep track of the plot.
All of these coincidences form the leitmotif of the novel, but in the end Paul Auster goes overboard. There are simply too many coincidences for the reader to accept causing the book to lose its integrity, therefore only three stars.
"Moon Palace" ist die Geschichte des jungen Mannes Marco Stanley Fogg von 1969 bis 1972. Marco, ein Waise, verliert zuerst alles und endet als Obdachloser im Central Park. Dort wird er, halb verhungert, von Kitty Wu gerettet, ein Mädchen, welches er erst einmal vorher gesehen hat. Er zieht mit ihr zusammen und nimmt einen Job an. Seine Aufgabe ist die Betreuung des 86 Jahre alten, blinden, im Rollstul sitzenden Zynikers Thomas Effing. Als dieser seinen eigenen Tod nahen spürt, berichtet er Fogg seine unglaubliche Lebensgeschichte, die dieser zu aufzuschreiben hat. Nach Effings Tod lernt Fogg plötzlich seinen Vater und dessen verwegene Lebensgeschichte kennen. Nach der Trennung von Kitty ist Fogg wieder dort angelangt, wo er zu Beginn des Romans bereits war: im Nichts.
Die Stärke von Austers zweitem Roman nach "The New York Trilogy" liegt weniger in dem oben skizziertem Plot. Der wirkt mit all seinen plötzlichen Wendungen manchmal sogar ein wenig arg konstruiert. Seine Stärke ist vielmehr die genaue, liebevolle Chrakterzeichnung, allen voran die des Thomas Effing. Der Leser ist zuerst von diesem herzlos erscheinden Zyniker, der seine Umgebung wie den letzten Dreck behandelt, abgestoßen. Doch zeigt sich, dass sich hinter der rauhen Schale ein durchaus herzliches und menschenfreundliches Wesen verbirgt. Außerdem zählt seine Lebensgeschichte, die er Fogg diktiert, zu den Höhepunkten von "Moon Palace".
Äußerst gelungen ist Paul Auster das Motiv des Mondes, welches in den verschiedensten Momenten des Romans auftaucht um die unterschiedlichen Hauptthematiken (Elternschaft, Einsamkeit, Neubeginn) zu betonen.
Fazit: Postmoderne Variente von "The Catcher in the Rye" mit einigen Schwächen. Dazu zählt der an einigen Stellen arg konstruiert wirkende Plot und der teilweise farblos erscheinende M.S. Fogg. Da wirkt Holden Caulfield überzeugender. Dennoch bleibt "Moon Palace" auf jeden Fall lesenswert.
am 11. November 1999
A Paul Auster novel is like getting a tarot card reading. Tarot cards each have an independent meaning and are interesting singularly. The "reader" is really a story teller and attempts to combine these randomly placed cards into a coherent overall story and/or meaning. Similarly, Auster's novels make use of continuing and very personal themes, events, characters, and ideas. In each of his books these very well developed and creative fascinations are blended and pieced together in narrative form. Whereas neither balance, order, nor harmony is attained, there is a tremendous rhythm, a music from selective chance. This style is worthy of the great appreciation he gets.
This novel could have been his greatest. The characters were compelling. The stories within stories and historical backdrop were very rich. I learned much from this book. Every detail woven in it is worth a thousand images, perfect expressions of twentieth century America.
However, the ending was at par with one of those cheesy new age books where two hypnotherapy patients have been seeing the same therapist for years and happen to sit next to each other on an airplane and find out not only this but that they have been married in 17 different past lives. I won't give any specifics about the ending away because evidently many people liked it, but it was ridiculous. Auster went too far at the end and destroyed the novel's integrity.
Still, I would recommend it to anyone because 95% of it is absolutely brilliant.
am 3. Dezember 1999
Paul Auster's Moon Palace is an interesting book, but it is difficult to grab hold of the main story, because the book consists of a large number of small stories. The narrative is a description of Marco Stanley Fogg's life connected with the stories of the various odd characters whom he meets. Throughout the novel the events happen by coincidence, but all these coincidences correspond, and many of them refer to the moon. This structure makes the book very confusing and sometimes these kaleidoscopic events get too much. E.g. the name of the maincharacter; M.S. Fogg. If the MS means manuscript, the result is a foggy manuscript, which is a good characterization of the novel.
M.S. Fogg compares himself to the moon, and an important quote is, "the sun is the past, the earth is the present and the moon is the future" as said by the scientist Nikola Tesla. What this means becomes clear in the last two pages, so hang on for a crazy ending!
We, as high school students, think that the novel is quite complicated, because of all these coincidences and referments. The novel includes many people (mostly artists and scientists) from this century, and it tells the reader much about the city of New York and the American way of living.
Moon Palace is also a story about loneliness and the lack of a father, and what hard times can do to a man.
We recommend the novel, but be prepared to be confused!
Auster's novel is quite unusual in many ways, the plot is driven by coincidences and accidents that you either find quite unbelievable or accept them for what they are within the framework of the novel. It is about a young man's odyssee for his identity - and is is quite a journey he has to finish before he finds his peace of mind. The Moon Palace of the title is not really that relevant at all but throughout the novel there are lots of references to the moon. But as a symbol it doesn't have just one meaning but keeps changing its meaning throughout the book. Marco, the protagonist and narrator of the story - grew up without his father and the search for this role in his life takes him all across the US, from the east to the west - to find at the end that he can do without it - simply because he has, too.
It took me some time to warm up to this novel but then it is quite fascinating. Give it some time to work its magic on you.