Auster is great at openings. Brooklyn Follies, for example, begins with a man stating that Brooklyn is a good place to die. Sunset Park’s first few pages finds our protagonist in a job that involves cleaning up the houses people have abandoned to foreclosure or other necessity. The accounts of what people leave behind and what the “trashers,” as the cleanup folks are called, do with it pulls you right in. So does the opening love affair and the complications with the love interest’s family. Then he moves with his friends into an abandoned house in Brooklyn. After that, paradoxically, my enthusiasm began to flag. Two main problems.
First, there’s way too much tell and not enough show. Most of the action happens offstage, is related by the author, and there are too few on-stage scenes to keep the narrative lively.
Second, I got distracted by the number of POV shifts. It was hard to get involved with someone whom 1) You seldom met in an actual dramatic situation; and 2) You stay with for only a chapter or two; and 3) You haven’t visited in person for fifty pages or so.
Finally, I found the ending quite unsatisfying. Miles’ reaction is far out of proportion to his circumstances. And even though he’s psychologically prone to that tendency, never to this extent, and it’s unconvincing.
So, my two words for Sunset Park–uninvolving and unconvincing. A pretty much total “UN.”