4 3 2 1 / Paul Auster

With this book you get four books in one.  It follows the story of its main character, Archie Ferguson, from his birth in the late 1940’s through just after college.  The author asks what would have happened if something different happened to his main character (and the people surrounding him).  So we get four possible trajectories, and each of the four story lines traces a different trajectory.  It can be confusing figuring out which Ferguson is which, but the author gives many reminder-type cues which help sort things out.  Such a long book as this gives the author chances to muse on things of interest to him: for example, there is a lengthy description of a game-saving play by New York Giant Willie Mays in the 1954 World Series game against the Indians; I guarantee that even if you don’t like baseball you will feel the excitement, just as young Ferguson does as he watches his first baseball game.  The game has the same outcome in other story lines, but bets on the game by Ferguson’s older relatives don’t come out the same.

Another lengthy riff by the author is a description of Laurel and Hardy movies that one of the young Fergusons discovers on TV.  If you’ve seen Laurel and Hardy you will relive their silly comedy.  In the author interview that played at the end of the audiobook version, Auster says that he was told by a participant that his (lengthy and compelling) description of the 1968 Columbia University protests were the “definitive history” of those events.  Ferguson reported on the protests as a staff member of the student newspaper.  This sprawling and monumental book was fun to read and thoroughly accessible and I regretted that it eventually ended.     Elaine 9/8/2017

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