hits counter 4 3 2 1 - Ebook PDF Online
Hot Best Seller

4 3 2 1

Availability: Ready to download

Astonishing, a masterpiece, Paul Auster’s greatest, most satisfying, most vivid and heartbreaking novel -- a sweeping and surprising story of inheritance, family, love and life itself. Nearly two weeks early, on March 3, 1947, in the maternity ward of Beth Israel Hospital in Newark, New Jersey, Archibald Isaac Ferguson, the one and only child of Rose and Stanley Ferguson, i Astonishing, a masterpiece, Paul Auster’s greatest, most satisfying, most vivid and heartbreaking novel -- a sweeping and surprising story of inheritance, family, love and life itself. Nearly two weeks early, on March 3, 1947, in the maternity ward of Beth Israel Hospital in Newark, New Jersey, Archibald Isaac Ferguson, the one and only child of Rose and Stanley Ferguson, is born. From that single beginning, Ferguson’s life will take four simultaneous and independent fictional paths. Four identical Fergusons made of the same DNA, four boys who are the same boy, go on to lead four parallel and entirely different lives. Family fortunes diverge. Athletic skills and sex lives and friendships and intellectual passions contrast. Each Ferguson falls under the spell of the magnificent Amy Schneiderman, yet each Amy and each Ferguson have a relationship like no other. Meanwhile, readers will take in each Ferguson’s pleasures and ache from each Ferguson’s pains, as the mortal plot of each Ferguson’s life rushes on. As inventive and dexterously constructed as anything Paul Auster has ever written, yet with a passion for realism and a great tenderness and fierce attachment to history and to life itself that readers have never seen from Auster before. 4 3 2 1 is a marvelous and unforgettably affecting tour de force.


Compare

Astonishing, a masterpiece, Paul Auster’s greatest, most satisfying, most vivid and heartbreaking novel -- a sweeping and surprising story of inheritance, family, love and life itself. Nearly two weeks early, on March 3, 1947, in the maternity ward of Beth Israel Hospital in Newark, New Jersey, Archibald Isaac Ferguson, the one and only child of Rose and Stanley Ferguson, i Astonishing, a masterpiece, Paul Auster’s greatest, most satisfying, most vivid and heartbreaking novel -- a sweeping and surprising story of inheritance, family, love and life itself. Nearly two weeks early, on March 3, 1947, in the maternity ward of Beth Israel Hospital in Newark, New Jersey, Archibald Isaac Ferguson, the one and only child of Rose and Stanley Ferguson, is born. From that single beginning, Ferguson’s life will take four simultaneous and independent fictional paths. Four identical Fergusons made of the same DNA, four boys who are the same boy, go on to lead four parallel and entirely different lives. Family fortunes diverge. Athletic skills and sex lives and friendships and intellectual passions contrast. Each Ferguson falls under the spell of the magnificent Amy Schneiderman, yet each Amy and each Ferguson have a relationship like no other. Meanwhile, readers will take in each Ferguson’s pleasures and ache from each Ferguson’s pains, as the mortal plot of each Ferguson’s life rushes on. As inventive and dexterously constructed as anything Paul Auster has ever written, yet with a passion for realism and a great tenderness and fierce attachment to history and to life itself that readers have never seen from Auster before. 4 3 2 1 is a marvelous and unforgettably affecting tour de force.

30 review for 4 3 2 1

  1. 5 out of 5

    Susanne Strong

    3 stars. I think that I'm in the minority here. I didn't love this novel as most everyone else seemed to. I like the idea of this but I think that the concept v. the execution fell short. I found this to be the most exhausting book I have ever read and was completely spent after I was done reading it. I had to force myself to finish the last few hundred pages just so that I could find out what happened. For me, the concept of this book is absolutely brilliant. 4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster is an auspici 3 stars. I think that I'm in the minority here. I didn't love this novel as most everyone else seemed to. I like the idea of this but I think that the concept v. the execution fell short. I found this to be the most exhausting book I have ever read and was completely spent after I was done reading it. I had to force myself to finish the last few hundred pages just so that I could find out what happened. For me, the concept of this book is absolutely brilliant. 4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster is an auspicious undertaking. However the actual execution of the book itself- was not as remarkable. I felt that a lot was lost in the actual writing of it. 4 3 2 1 is the story of Archie Ferguson. However, it is not the story of just one Archie Ferguson. Imagine a boy named Archie living four parallel lives, this is that story. I think the first third of the book is the strongest and that the author did an incredible job providing a backstory for Archie, his parents lives, their relationship and Archie’s beginning. I will say that I was really impressed with how Paul Auster set out each different version of Archie – each personality was very distinguishable, even though they were inherently the same person. For me, however, after the first third of the book, my interest was lost. The incoherent rambling sentences of each version of this young man drove me insane. At first I thought Paul Auster was trying to convey that that was how a young teenager speaks, but as each version of Archie grew older, he continued to speak in the same manner rambling on about nothing and it made me crazy. I would think that certain versions of him, the writer; the journalist, would speak in shorter, more concise sentences and fully formed thoughts and that did not happen. I personally think the novel would have been better served if it had been cut by several hundred pages. Why did I even bother finishing it you ask? Simply because I wanted to find out what happened to each different version of Archie. And even though much of the book made me crazy, I'm glad I did.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Paromjit

    This is a wonderful and intelligent in depth look at the 4 different lives of the jewish Ferguson born in March 1947 to Stanley and Rose. Set in New York and New Jersey, it is a novel full of details, it begins with giving us the disparate backgrounds and families of store owner Stanley and photographer Rose. It charts the relationship between Stanley and Rose and their heartbreaking attempts to have a child. Once Ferguson is born, we are given a non linear but simultaneous life trajectory struc This is a wonderful and intelligent in depth look at the 4 different lives of the jewish Ferguson born in March 1947 to Stanley and Rose. Set in New York and New Jersey, it is a novel full of details, it begins with giving us the disparate backgrounds and families of store owner Stanley and photographer Rose. It charts the relationship between Stanley and Rose and their heartbreaking attempts to have a child. Once Ferguson is born, we are given a non linear but simultaneous life trajectory structured in distinct episodes for each Ferguson. It made me laugh when the first young Ferguson has every intention of marrying his mother! What Auster does is bring home how each different decision and event changes the life of Ferguson through an intense and tumultuous period of American social and political history of the 1960s up until the early 1970s. So we get the awareness of the fate of the Rosenbergs, the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, and the protests in which Ferguson takes part. I found it difficult to remember which Ferguson is which at times, partly my fault but partly because whilst Ferguson has different lives, he is essentially the same person. He is a writer in every version of his life, his politics are progressive, and Amy is the girl he gets involved with albeit with differing results. He dwells on the nature of money and whether it should necessarily dictate that the family should therefore move into a bigger house just because they could. Auster captures the raw energy, vitality and intensity with which the young live their lives and the central role of and obsession with sex. I loved the cultural references such as the books and movies that marked the period. Different events in the family mark each Ferguson, such as the death of his father in a arson attack on the store. One Ferguson experiences an early death as a result of a lightning storm. This is a very long and ambitious novel which might not be to everyone's taste and there are some extremely long sentences in it. I loved it, although it is not perfect and there are parts which tended to ramble a little too much. The prose is beautiful and I found the narrative a gripping read most of the time. Near the end, Auster informs us why the novel was structured as it is. Elements of the novel have been informed by the autobiographical details of the author's life. Characters from his previous novels make an appearance in this book. Auster is connecting his life's work and life brilliantly in this novel. This is essentially the story of the life and times of Paul Auster. A highly recommended read. Many thanks to Faber and Faber for an ARC.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    1 2 3 4....... .....Archibald Isaac Ferguson.....( 900 pages about this guy) .....Archi....(nope, 900 pages about THIS guy) .....Ferguson....(no, THIS guy) .....Archi Ferguson.....(I lied... this story is about THIS guy)!!!! 4 3 2 1 .......BLAST OFF!!! This novel comes with 'surgeon general warnings': Its risky business being 'under-the-influence' of "4 3 2 1". It's possible to get an unbearable headache, have insomnia, muscles might ache, and a reader might begin to feel fatigue AFTER the first 22 h 1 2 3 4....... .....Archibald Isaac Ferguson.....( 900 pages about this guy) .....Archi....(nope, 900 pages about THIS guy) .....Ferguson....(no, THIS guy) .....Archi Ferguson.....(I lied... this story is about THIS guy)!!!! 4 3 2 1 .......BLAST OFF!!! This novel comes with 'surgeon general warnings': Its risky business being 'under-the-influence' of "4 3 2 1". It's possible to get an unbearable headache, have insomnia, muscles might ache, and a reader might begin to feel fatigue AFTER the first 22 hours of listening to Paul Auster....( as steamy awesome as Paul Auster is!!!!). Our brain begins to comedown from the euphoric excitement as the readers-drug-stimulant begins to wane. Even though the 'Excitement-High', is an escapable part of the reading journey ... 4 3 2 1 is a phenomenal an unforgettable TRIP!!! Overall: A WONDERFUL AUDIOBOOK experience!!! TRUE CONFESSIONS FROM a 4 3 2 1 'devotee'....'junkie'....'fanatic'..... I feel like I've been married to two men with the name 'Paul' for the past few weeks. My husband, Paul, started to get a little annoyed at Paul #2. He was ready for 'the guest' to go home!! I have no idea why MY PAUL turned off Paul Auster when he was telling us about Archie writing about Baseball for his High School paper in New Jersey. Why wasn't MY PAUL jumping up and down with excitement? Had 'my Paul' been in the room listening to a scene when Archie was at Camp Paradise, believe me, he would not have turned off the audiobook! THIRTY NINE PLUS hours of listening to an audiobook- no matter how sexy - charming - and AWESOME my new -audio-husband was.... and no matter how ENGAGING it was to follow the life of Ferguson- his family- his passions - his relationships - his hygiene and eating habits - his sex life - and his love for Amy Schneiderman-- 39 hours is a LOT OF TIME OUT OF A PERSON'S life!!! My original plans were to spend hours listening while hiking the trails. However -- unexpectedly mother-nature played a trick on California. It's only stopped raining for about 2-3 hours 'total' in the past month. I had no idea I would become a house- prisoner audiobook listener. So, I re-adjusted my plans. So... what do I think is so wonderful about 4 3 2 1? Honestly .... spending as much time as I did with this book- almost 40 hours - feels like a love affair. Ferguson was born in March, 1947. The family richness engages us at the beginning..... ......The writing IS gorgeous. Paul Auster reads gorgeously!!! ......This book has EVERYTHING.....I see a mini series..... a terrific television drama!!! ......I have a few 'golden/box' favorite parts. Some of the stories are soooo darn good that it's that drug-effect again.....a satisfying high... ......So that when other parts of this book were good -- but not earthshaking--I noticed I was waiting for another RUSH. I was 'hooked' on the desserts hidden in this novel. .....The BEST advantage for investing long hours to the audiobook: I spent an enormous amount of my OFF time 'thinking' about the characters and the relationships in this story. I enjoyed this process too. .......Much to love .....in no particular order: The history of this entire book - Furguson's mind, his intelligence, his independent thinking where it mattered, ( trusting himself over a teacher and adults more than half his age). Lots of passion about books, writing, poetry, art, music, movies .... ( the entire experience of sitting in the balcony eating hot dogs and popcorn with his mom for hours), photography, ( a special photograph of Ferguson), accidents, sickness, death, affairs, divorce, re-marriages, camp, school, sports, college, the war, drinking, drugs, schools, politics, Jews, foods, Jewish foods, Rose and Stanley ( Archie's parents), civil rights movement, New York Riots, the Kennedy assignation, Columbia University, journalism, race:,(black & white relationships equally), justice, bullying, lots of sex, friends of Archi really stand out - like Noah from his childhood and many others, Aunt Mildred was an interesting character... loved the grandparents, cousins and extended families. 1965..... ( the year life got interesting and was changing), The humor was great and not forced, the sadness was real, the warmth was real, The first trip that Archi and Amy take to Paris is wonderful, Lots of academic appreciation and literature, This book gave me some nostalgia for trees. I LOVED the-"shoe-orgy" story, and "The elevator story. Archie's first book... ( an accomplishment with the deepest fulfillment ), Sunday mornings eggs, bagels, and the newspaper - good times!! , Saturday's with Amy were days I would enjoy. I also thought about Ferguson being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I thought about a few times in my own life where I felt the same thing..... A split second can change the direction of your life. The interview at the end of the audiobook with Paul Auster is heartwarming and interesting. An ambitious novel -- one that is best to read when - not - feeling rushed. Or why bother! There is much to enjoy in the same way we enjoy slow cooking. Savor the meal!!! Enjoy the get-a-way. It can feel every bit like a vacation - with HIGH moments - and quiet moments. 4.99 stars!!!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Violet wells

    I was excited about this to begin with but it soon began to feel like a vehicle without an engine that Auster was pushing ever uphill. If we live only a small part of our inner life externally, what happens to the rest? Unfortunately Auster doesn’t address this intriguing question in any kind of stimulating way though you’d think a novel about a character living four parallel lives would. How much of fate comes from within and how much comes from without? Unfortunately Auster doesn’t address this I was excited about this to begin with but it soon began to feel like a vehicle without an engine that Auster was pushing ever uphill. If we live only a small part of our inner life externally, what happens to the rest? Unfortunately Auster doesn’t address this intriguing question in any kind of stimulating way though you’d think a novel about a character living four parallel lives would. How much of fate comes from within and how much comes from without? Unfortunately Auster doesn’t address this intriguing question in any kind of stimulating way either though you’d think a novel about a character living four parallel lives would. I’ve got a lot of time for Paul Auster but I’m afraid I found this a self-indulgent and ultimately pointless novel. I wasn’t a great fan of Life after Life but Atkinson’s novel on a similar theme is much more fluid and interesting structurally than this. It’s also immeasurably more outlandishly playful. Atkinson’s heroine becomes a downtrodden bullied wife in one version; assassinates Hitler in another. Auster’s hero, by contrast, goes to Princeton in one version; Colombia in another. Maybe that’s truer to life but it hardly makes for gripping dramatic tension. And yet Auster is quite happy to employ melodrama as a deciding factor in creating crossroad moments – a murdered father, a car crash resulting in the loss of thumb and first finger - except his melodrama leads to banal distinctions. Atkinson, like the film Sliding Doors, identified the crossroad moments when a fate might change course; Auster doesn’t – he uses accidents rather than choices to define the fate of his character. Things happen off-screen and differently from one life to another for no apparent reason: an uncle makes a bizarre decision, the father makes completely different life choices for no apparent reason with far reaching repercussions in one life which he doesn’t make in another. In this regard, Ferguson is like a puppet operated by his male family members. Auster’s hero is perhaps the biggest problem. I was never convinced he was sufficiently intriguing as a character for a 200 pg novel, let alone an almost 900 pg one. The sixties should be fascinating but Ferguson is like some throwback to the 1950s. Though this novel is waterlogged with the minutiae of 60s news items and memorabilia there’s no mention of LSD, of rock music, of hippy culture. Ferguson loves baseball, basketball, Bach and beer. He’s not a child of his time. Therefore the decade begins to become irrelevant and it’s a bit baffling why so much energy is spent in trying to recreate it. I assumed at least one version would send him to Vietnam or prison to provide some real dramatic contrast. Nope. Instead the cliffhanger is whether Ferguson will become a novelist or a translator of poetry. Gripping stuff! At the heart of this novel is a colossal failure of imagination on Auster’s part – he can’t imagine himself as anything but a writer. That said, I agree with Auster and not with Atkinson – that if we had four cracks at life they wouldn’t be significantly different – but for that very reason this all becomes a very pointless and long winded exercise. The other problem is you also get three or four lives in a computer game and after a while this began to become as predictable and repetitive as a computer game. Whatever happens isn’t sufficiently consequential to sustain interest. There’s not much at stake when you get four rolls of the dice. So what if he dies in one version? It’s actually a relief because it was hard work trying to remember the thin distinctions between one life and another. At least, we now had one less nuanced account of his love life and literary aspirations to retain in memory. (This novel would be a good test for evaluating how prone you might be to dementia.) And to be honest I didn’t understand why things turned out differently in the various versions. Because his father dies he becomes gay? That seemed to me a crass piece of reasoning. In one version his cousin Amy finds him irresistible; in another she’s sexually indifferent. I never had a clue why. My feeling was Auster didn’t either. That his main motivation for writing this was to lavishly indulge in nostalgia for his lost youth. Then why not just write a memoir? To add insult to injury he deploys an utterly lame post-modernist trick at the end, trying to cajole us into believing the whole thing has been the height of cleverness. After this, Jane Smiley’s dreadful Some Luck and Murakami’s rambling dead end 1Q84 I’m now going to think very hard before reading any novel over 700 pages.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Smith

    I’ve read quite a bit of Auster’s work over the years, mainly his novels but also some of his non-fiction output too. I’ve imbibed quite a bit of biographical detail in this time from books such as Hand to Mouth: A Chronicle of Early Failure and The Red Notebook: True Stories and consequently I can see that a good deal of the content herein is based on the author’s own passions and experiences. A quick list would throw up his love of novels, poetry, films and baseball, his college education at I’ve read quite a bit of Auster’s work over the years, mainly his novels but also some of his non-fiction output too. I’ve imbibed quite a bit of biographical detail in this time from books such as Hand to Mouth: A Chronicle of Early Failure and The Red Notebook: True Stories and consequently I can see that a good deal of the content herein is based on the author’s own passions and experiences. A quick list would throw up his love of novels, poetry, films and baseball, his college education at Columbia and his time spent in Paris where he lived in a top floor maids room. But there are other elements too, such as a real life incident he’s talked about a good deal in which, at the age of fourteen, a young boy next to him was struck by lightening and killed. So is this book just a big biographical tome? No, its much, much more than that. The novel tells the story of four parallel lives of Archibald ‘Archie’ Ferguson, born of Russian-Jewish descent in New Jersey in 1947. Given the same start point for each of the four lives it follows that the paths diverge as a result of random events which lead each Archie to follow a different route. All the Archies are interested in films, sport, politics and above all books – in fact they all aspire to become writers. There are actually many similarities with regard to the lives lived, such as some of the people they meet and a number of events that impact all of their lives, but the relationships between characters is different and Archie’s involvement in the common events and their impact on him deviate significantly. The result is we have four different stories, each using the same timeline, broadly the same geography and many of the same characters. Some of the routes Archie takes are down to blind luck - good or bad - but at other times it’s subtler: often the path is influenced by the brilliantly observed interactions with and behaviours of people who surround him. Each tale is told in alternating chapters, so we get to see four versions of a small section of his life before repeating the process. If this sounds like there could be repetition, then that’s because there is – of some key events. But remember that we see these events through different eyes, each with an altered involvement in the given occurrence. At some points it does feel like the chosen structure slows progress to a crawl, but any reservations I have about this are more than offset by the pure enjoyment I got from the author’s prose. This man can certainly write! If, like me, you think you’ve missed out on many of the literary works that you you feel - or have been told - you should have read then there is a veritable crib sheet of titles here. In fact, one of the Furguson’s has a list of one hundred books he must read drafted for him. I’m not sure I’ll get to many (if any) of these but curiosity may drive me to seek out at least one or two. The fact is that Auster’s love of the written word leaps off the page. This is a book for lovers of books. It a huge book, at nearly nine hundred pages, and therefore it’s a significant enterprise for any reader to take on. However, it’s written in a straightforward style and as long as readers can keep track of the four storylines (I kept notes) then I feel there’s nothing off-putting here. Ok, there are some very long sentences, with quite a few words I’d never come across before, but I really did feel that the narrative flow was well controlled. The inventiveness and imagination demonstrated by Auster will come as no surprise to seasoned readers of his books and there are some brilliant thoughts and insights on all sorts of issues, literary works and on life in general. And above all, I became so invested in the lives of Ferguson that I became truly emotional when each tale had run its course. A good read? No, it's more than that – a masterpiece as far as I’m concerned. My thanks to Faber and Faber and NetGalley for providing an early copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  6. 4 out of 5

    BlackOxford

    Glazed Over I had a personal interest in this book. I was born just three weeks before it's protagonist, Archie Ferguson, and nine days after his author, Paul Auster. I grew up in a similar suburb of New York City, and in similar economic and educational circumstances. So, to the extent that Ferguson was shaped by the cultural context of the day, perhaps I could detect unrecognised influences in my own life. Or, even more exciting, given that 4 3 2 1 is about alternative universes, I could explor Glazed Over I had a personal interest in this book. I was born just three weeks before it's protagonist, Archie Ferguson, and nine days after his author, Paul Auster. I grew up in a similar suburb of New York City, and in similar economic and educational circumstances. So, to the extent that Ferguson was shaped by the cultural context of the day, perhaps I could detect unrecognised influences in my own life. Or, even more exciting, given that 4 3 2 1 is about alternative universes, I could explore the paths not taken in my own life. Not the most noble of motives, but certainly not the worst.   But there are certain literary problems with the premise of alternative lives that I don't think Auster has worked through thoroughly, at least not for my purposes. By now most educated readers know of Chaos Theory, the idea that even the smallest changes in initial conditions can generate immense consequences. This, one supposes, applies as much to relationships as to particle interactions. Therefore, who we meet, indeed who our parents or friends or their parents or friends have ever met, obviously have untold ramifications for any individual life.  So, which relationships should the author choose to modify in alternative life-stories? Mother-father? Mother-aunt? Father-uncles? Among the in-laws? The possibilities are obviously endless, with no inherent rationality no matter which are selected. If there is any significance to the relationships Auster has chosen to use as narrative fulcra, they have escaped me. This annoys my aesthetic sensibilities; I have no way to relate to the method and therefore the characters are abstractions and unrelated to my life even though the frequent environmental references - Kennedy, Vietnam, New York City - are familiar. The randomness of life also includes one's own genetic make-up, which may or may not be translated into any number of behaviours. Does watching a world-series game at age four create a seed of interest in playing baseball or merely following baseball? Does a loving auntie's fondness for literature create a capacity for literary taste or a distaste for oppressive direction in reading? Will a fascination for journalistic writing at a young age forestall development of athletic talent?  Clearly the possibilities are uncountable and complex, a problem which doesn't arise if the story is a unitary narrative. But how does an author create four such stories with any cohesion? The bumps and nudges Auster introduces in each of Ferguson's lives are like random variables in a gigantic mathematical equation. But the equation, if it exists, is hidden throughout the text. I admit to an inability to solve the mathematical problem. In any case I don't see myself anywhere in it. And, of course, life-paths bifurcate constantly. So, influential events and choices compound deviations. How can an author maintain control over the cascading possibilities in a way that still has some sort of narrative sense? How does the reader, for that matter, keep track of the partially congruent lives and the not-quite-the-same protagonists as they float through an interweaved existence?  4 3 2 1 is a long book structured episodically. By the time of the protagonist's adolescence, it is unlikely anyone who isn't a member of Mensa would be able to remember which teenager descends from which toddler, whose father was the thrusting entrepreneur and whose the local shopkeeper, which girlfriend called Amy is in love (or not) with which version of Ferguson, and whose aunt lives in California and whose in Brooklyn. I failed the associative test, having to retreat to my bed with a migraine. An inadequate as well as unsympathetic reader therefore. The continuities among the four lives are more interesting: Suburban, Jewish, Intellectual, Liberal. These are the axes around with everything else in 4 3 2 1 mutates and rotates. They are the sort of Kantian categories which shape the universe from which alternatives are selected. These, of course, are as arbitrary as the scenarios that Auster creates within them. But perhaps they are the only things that really matter. In other words, it may be the continuities not the variations that constitute Auster's point. That, for example, the possibilities available within the universe bounded by these categories are not infinite. Or if they are, they are at least countable. And in a sense, they converge in a kind of fatalistic unity. This would constitute a rather sophisticated literary game. To say more risks giving the game away.  I have real questions whether this game is worth playing though. Or, at least, that I have the talent to play it. I ended up like one of Auster's characters, with "the glazed-over look of a man unable to see anything but the thoughts inside his own head." Just where I started, I suppose.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Hannah Greendale

    Click here to watch a video review of this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend. An expansive study of a young man's life - diverging on four separate paths - that captivates with intimate writing and playfully explores the existential quandary of destiny versus the unexpected. Click here to watch a video review of this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend. An expansive study of a young man's life - diverging on four separate paths - that captivates with intimate writing and playfully explores the existential quandary of destiny versus the unexpected.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jaline

    First of all, thank you to GoodReads friend, Andrew, for the terrific review that he wrote of this book and for his encouragement to give it a try. Also, thank you to all the GoodReads friends who pressed the “like” button, and/or added reinforcement comments as I updated my reading status day by day. All the support helped so much to bolster my journey with this 880-page book. And, of course, thank you to Paul Auster for writing with the bravery and the talent to create something completely dif First of all, thank you to GoodReads friend, Andrew, for the terrific review that he wrote of this book and for his encouragement to give it a try. Also, thank you to all the GoodReads friends who pressed the “like” button, and/or added reinforcement comments as I updated my reading status day by day. All the support helped so much to bolster my journey with this 880-page book. And, of course, thank you to Paul Auster for writing with the bravery and the talent to create something completely different in a way that is accessible and eminently readable for everyone. 4 3 2 1 is a very different book; I have never read anything remotely like it in my reading life. Four alternate lives, the longest sentences in the world (2 or 3 pages long in a few instances) and consequently, some of the longest paragraphs as well. Some or all of these factors may be intimidating or overwhelming for some people. They were for me at first, but the writing is so rich and flowing that these aspects are not detrimental at all and actually became part of the story's charm. Archie Ferguson is endearing in all his parallel lives, from his babyhood to young boyhood and through each lifespan. When he is older, all of his parallel selves write - some of them from young adolescence on through college years and beyond. He is a journalism writer of immediate events – sports, movie and book reviews, and politics (and/or anti-politics); he is also a writer of poetry. He is a writer of books – memoir style in one book, and in another, juxtaposing the influence of movies on children, the impact of movies on child actors, and the dreams of young people (even Anne Frank) to be in movies themselves. In another parallel existence, he writes very strange books, but ones that made me think about the possibilities and how someone would go about writing such a book. There are many stories within this story and each one is fascinating, related, and relevant. The story lines run parallel, yet with subtle differences. I did not find the different stories difficult to follow at all. The author kindly leaves tiny bread crumbs at the start of each chapter so it was easy to re-connect with which lifeline I was reading. There are tragedies within these stories, and there are triumphs, too. Archie experiences some damaging (physically and/or mentally and/or emotionally) circumstances in his lives and with help, or sheer determination, manages to move through them using these experiences as a learning tool for growth. There are losses in Archie’s lives that are heartbreaking. There are family challenges to deal with, education choices to make, and plenty of teenage and young adult romantic and sexual frustrations and confusions. There are books and authors and movies and music and more books and travel and politics and sports and more books and rebellions and striving to do the right thing. There are multiple charged situations and radical pursuits of change from the 1960’s and 1970’s included throughout the stories. There is much to think about in this book; so many partially-recalled events that were courageously brought to life in these stories. Some of the events made me feel the situations so deeply I had tears in my eyes. All that was ghastly and horrific and monstrous from those decades was explored and brought to the fore. I thought of those times (the 1960’s and early 1970’s) as ones that were swept under the rug and/or buried under heaps of jasmine-scented manure. No-one who wasn’t there can even comprehend the full impact (because the reality and the facts were completely distorted and aborted by the press, government agencies, and university administrations), but it is all here, and it is undiluted. But why do it in this particular way? Why not write four separate books instead of four parallel books in one? Maybe Auster could have been writing about himself when he wrote Archie’s thoughts: Why attempt to do such a thing? Why not simply invent another story and tell it as any other writer would? Because Ferguson wanted to do something different. Because Ferguson was no longer interested in telling mere stories. Because Ferguson wanted to test himself against the unknown and see if he could survive the struggle. I think it is obvious that Mr. Auster did test himself against the unknown with this book, and he survived this particular struggle with wit, grace, humour, and exceptionally splendid writing. Now we, as readers, are invited to enjoy the fruits of those labours. And, to be honest, there was too much overlap, too many incidents, and too much information in this book for individual stories. This book simply had to be written the way it was, and I am impressed with the results and marvel at the talent and skill that brought this creation into being. At about the 90% mark I felt sad because I only had a few hours of reading left. 4 3 2 1 is on the longlist for the 2017 Booker prize. It deserves to win. I recommend this book to anyone who is open to the challenge of reading a book that is different, a book that is long, that challenges and expands our thoughts and feelings throughout, and to anyone who is willing to suspend judgement in favor of discernment. If you can do this, you will be rewarded with a fabulously good read.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    4321 narrates four versions of one young man’s life, how it might have differed given small altered circumstances. This wore me down. Instead of becoming more engaged I was exasperated by it at about pg 700. I kept thinking I could have read three novels in the time it took me to wade through this. Essentially it struck me as four different drafts of the same half-finished novel. I kept waiting for the Eureka moment when the four narratives would suddenly shed light on each other and blaze into 4321 narrates four versions of one young man’s life, how it might have differed given small altered circumstances. This wore me down. Instead of becoming more engaged I was exasperated by it at about pg 700. I kept thinking I could have read three novels in the time it took me to wade through this. Essentially it struck me as four different drafts of the same half-finished novel. I kept waiting for the Eureka moment when the four narratives would suddenly shed light on each other and blaze into a brilliant whole but it never happened. It remained for me four different drafts of a half-finished and not very enthralling novel. In fact, I can’t really say I understood what the purpose of the novel was. It’s a very American novel and as such will probably appeal more if you live on the other side of the Atlantic. And even more so if you grew up in the 1960s as it’s liberally strewn with news items from American life in that decade. For me, the bottom line was I wasn’t enthralled by any of the narratives which were all very predictable portraits of the young artist. We get his home life, his college life, his political convictions, his love life but with a sense of having heard it all before. Its saving grace was the high quality of the prose. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    What a wonderful and thought provoking book. It is proving nearly impossible for me to write a coherent review of a book this large (both in page count and in scope), so I am going to concentrate on a few things that I kept thinking about since finishing it. This is Archie Fergusen's story, told in four alternating timelines. Auster uses this premise for a thoughtful meditation on what makes us us and how little changes lead to different paths. I adored the way Auster lets this play out and shows What a wonderful and thought provoking book. It is proving nearly impossible for me to write a coherent review of a book this large (both in page count and in scope), so I am going to concentrate on a few things that I kept thinking about since finishing it. This is Archie Fergusen's story, told in four alternating timelines. Auster uses this premise for a thoughtful meditation on what makes us us and how little changes lead to different paths. I adored the way Auster lets this play out and shows how different versions of people are possible, if key events turn out differently. While I think Fergusen is the weak point when it comes to characters (he can be a bit insufferable at times), I absolutely loved his wonderful mother. No matter what time line, no matter what happens, she is unwavering in her love and devotion to her son. Some of the other supporting characters are brilliant as well; his father while difficult is a great and fully fleshed out character, Amy Schneidermann is an enigma and female character that is allowed to be flawed and human, and Fergusen's grandfather was also wonderfully imagined. They are all allowed to make mistakes, to grow from those mistakes and to be complete people - even if they are not the focus of this grand work. While the book is very long, it never felt indulgent in its wordiness - the story Auster wants to tell can only be told in this grand a scope, even the in-depth analyses of baseball games were necessary. This is a rare achievement in a genre where I often prefer tighter works to Dickensian ones. It is really interesting to see what developments Auster sees as inevitable and which parts of Fergusen's life change depending on the time line. In all four versions, Fergusen is at the core a writer. The genre he writes or the way he ends up as a writer vary, but nevertheless he is always a man of words. While this is fixed, the people he meets and the relationships he forges with them are varied and change immensely depending on how his life turns out. Given how close the biographical cornerstones are to Auster's own biography this can be seen a profound insight into what he considers most important. Which is why, at the core, this beautiful work of art is above everything else a wonderfully believable and moving love letter to the Arts (be it literature, music, theatre, poetry, photography or fine arts) and their power. This is for me the great achievement of this book and the reason why it kept me engaged while reading and thinking about it when I had to put the book away. ____ I received an arc curtesy of NetGalley and Faber and Faber in exchange for an honest review. Thanks for that!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jaidee

    2 "self-indulgent, myopic, masturbatory" stars !!! Most(est) Disappointing Read of 2018 Award Over the years, my dudes, have been encouraging me to read Auster. He has been much admired and read over the years by male friends of all sexual orientations. One boi told me...Jaidee you are much more likely to listen to your gal pals (this is true but not by much ). So when this book appeared on the scene, it mucho intrigued me !! Like Sliding Doors without Gwyneth Paltrow.....but wait we want and n 2 "self-indulgent, myopic, masturbatory" stars !!! Most(est) Disappointing Read of 2018 Award Over the years, my dudes, have been encouraging me to read Auster. He has been much admired and read over the years by male friends of all sexual orientations. One boi told me...Jaidee you are much more likely to listen to your gal pals (this is true but not by much ). So when this book appeared on the scene, it mucho intrigued me !! Like Sliding Doors without Gwyneth Paltrow.....but wait we want and need Gwyneth in Sliding Doors but not at a dinner party !! Well for the last four months, I read and read and read, I decided to treat it like exercise, stoic but not enjoyed, keep going Jaidee, this is good for you, don't pick up another YA or piece of erotica or mindless mystery !! I plodded on but then would avoid and read other books that I much rather, only to return to this tome and keep wondering why is it so godamm long....just why....just why !! I started to resent my guy friends and their praise of Auster....but I continued on for a number of reasons....the primary one is that I liked good ol Archie...I liked all four versions of him and despite my resentment and disappointment was rooting for him and actually felt bad for him for being written up in this way !! What I liked: -Archie 1. Archie 2. Archie 3 and Archie 4 - the consistency of keeping the stories straight What I disliked: -all the bloody telling rather than showing of Archie's world both exterior and interior -all that bloody length...no reason for it....making the Goldfinch feel like a novella....lol -all that bloody liberal preaching of historical events Repeat ....the bloody telling, the bloody length, the bloody preaching I did this for you Archie and for nobody else. I may pick up another Auster as several bois have told me that I started with the wrong one and I will give Auster another chance but again .....the bloody telling .....the bloody length .....the bloody preaching Hey Gwyneth what do you think ?

  12. 5 out of 5

    Hugh

    I had been reluctant to read this extraordinary book because of its sheer length and my lukewarm reaction to previous Auster novels, particularly The Music of Chance. Once it was Booker shortlisted, I decided I had to read it, and I can see why the decision was made, and in many less competitive years I would have supported it wholeheartedly, but I would still prefer the prize to go to Ali Smith. I have just read it over an intensive six days, and read over a third (almost 400 pages) yesterday t I had been reluctant to read this extraordinary book because of its sheer length and my lukewarm reaction to previous Auster novels, particularly The Music of Chance. Once it was Booker shortlisted, I decided I had to read it, and I can see why the decision was made, and in many less competitive years I would have supported it wholeheartedly, but I would still prefer the prize to go to Ali Smith. I have just read it over an intensive six days, and read over a third (almost 400 pages) yesterday to finish it. I will not spend too long on the basic premise, four life-stories that are alternative versions of the life story of a young writer who shares many biographical details with Auster himself (I didn't realise just how many until I read his Wikipedia biography), but it is impossible to write a fair review without spoilers. (view spoiler)[ In the last few pages, Auster explains that the first three were inventions of the fourth, who is purported to have written the book in the mid 70s, and was always intending to kill them off one by one - in each of these cases the deaths are mentioned in passing before they occur. For me this conceit was superfluous, but it saved Auster the inconvenience of writing a happy ending for the crucial Ferguson-4. One point that intrigues me about this is that it seems at least plausible that Auster may actually have started the book in this period - it would be fascinating to know! (hide spoiler)] . The book starts with an old Jewish joke about Ellis Island, his grandfather is encouraged to give a false name such as Rockefeller that will convey the right resonances but by the time he has reached the clerk, "the weary immigrant blurted out in Yiddish, Ikh hob fargessen (I've forgotten)! And so it was that Isaac Reznikoff began his new life in America as Ichabod Ferguson." The first chapter (1.0) tells his parents' early stories and concludes with his birth, after which the alternating chapters start (1.1 to 7.4). The book is mostly set in the 50s and 60s, though the narratives of different Fergusons move at different paces (view spoiler)[, we lose one as a teenager and another in the penultimate round and the remaining chapters for these incarnations are blank pages (hide spoiler)] . The chapters tend to get longer and more detailed the longer the book goes on. This ought to be a problem, but some of the most powerful writing is in the second half with a visceral account of the Columbia University protests of 1968 and their wider place in the rise and fall of radical left-wing student politics that grew out of the opposition to the Vietnam war and the civil rights movement. (view spoiler)[ The final page acknowledges this failure, choosing the unelected appointment of the increasingly brutalised New York governor Rockefeller as Ford's vice president as its final irony (hide spoiler)] . In some ways it seems a little sad that a writer of Auster's age would choose to devote such a major project to reexamining his youth, and devotes so much of it to the various Fergusons' searches for sex and their sporting obsessions, but the passage of time probably allows it to be more reflective and distanced, and the 60s was undoubtedly a time when much more seemed to be achievable. There is no way the political content can be seen as a reaction to the Trump presidency as most of the book must have been written before that seemed plausible, but many of the political issues retain a vitality in a more modern context. As to just how good the book is, I probably need more time to reflect, but I am reluctant to award the full five stars to a book that is so tediously self-indulgent in places, even if the best parts are very strong and many of the ideas are fascinating. The book is full of references to the other writers and artists that influenced the young Auster - I envy the intellectual depth of his education. I will say that it is the strongest of the three Auster novels I have read.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Paul Fulcher

    The bombardment of all these words, that ceaseless yammering which failed to make any distinction between important things and unimportant things, talk that could impress you with its intelligence and perspicacity or else half bore you to death with its utter meaninglessness. Update 1: Inexplicably shortlisted for the Booker. I'm lost for words. If only Auster had been..... Update 2: Awarded my worst completed book of 2017 (albeit The Nix may have been a contender had I got past page 70) The bombardment of all these words, that ceaseless yammering which failed to make any distinction between important things and unimportant things, talk that could impress you with its intelligence and perspicacity or else half bore you to death with its utter meaninglessness. Update 1: Inexplicably shortlisted for the Booker. I'm lost for words. If only Auster had been..... Update 2: Awarded my worst completed book of 2017 (albeit The Nix may have been a contender had I got past page 70) The above quote sums it up well - except for the intelligence and perspicacity part, as there was little of that on show. There are two distinct elements to 4 3 2 1 - a (painfully) detailed account of someone growing up to be a writer; and a Sliding Doors style approach where different moments cause a life to go down different paths, set against a backdrop of a turbulent period of history (here 1960s America). "As far as I know, no one has ever written a novel with this form,” Auster said in the Guardian. Except of course they have - and they have not only done it first, they have done it much much better. Kate Atkinson's Life after Life / A God in Ruins and Jenny Erpenbeck's Alle Tage Abend (beautifully translated by Susan Bernofsky as The End of Days) managed the bifurcation of lives much more effectively, and gave far more insight into history that Auster's trotting out of events. And Knausgård has written such a definitive account of a writer's life from birth onwards, that anything else becomes a lightweight imitation. If Auster's historical insights were uninspiring, I'm sure Auster does have many intelligent insights into the literature that he mentions throughout the story, but he seldom shares them with us here, often simply resorting to lists of books and authors. To be fair (assuming Auster isn't ignorant of these works) putting the two elements together is new - but the result is a tedious 200-250 page novel largely repeated four times. And Auster clearly sides on the nature side of the nature vs. nurture debate, as despite various traumas Ferguson emerges as the same highly unpleasant character in each life version (his creepy forward-planned relationship with Celia, the 12yo sister of a recently killed friend, a particular lowpoint), and with the same oddly narrow worldview and ambition despite all the momentous events around him. For books as elsewhere in life, length itself isn't an issue, its girth that matters. Some of the greatest novels of the 2000s weigh in much longer than this: 2666 (1126 pp), 1q84 (992pp), Your Face Tomorrow (1287pp), My Struggle (2818pp with the 1000+ volume 6 yet to come) and of course Ferrante's magnificent Neopolitan Quartet (1700 pp), but they each have depth, unique qualities, and, crucially, reading them each was pure pleasure. [Although as an aside, many of the authors choose - for their own and the reader's sanity, or in Bolano's case to maximise sales revenue - to publish them in instalments.] Here the length is just padding. At one point we're told: The three students who shared the apartment with them, for example fellow students named Melanie, Fred and Stu in the first year, Alice, Alex and Fred the second year, had no role to play in the story. which rather begs the question of why mention them. Ferguson.4, himself an author, notes at the end 'he was turning out roughly four pages for every one he kept - if only Auster had followed Ferguson.4's approach and kept only one Ferguson the novel may not have been improved, but at least it would have been mercifully shorter. And I would certainly recommend anyone still determined to read the book to pick one life (Ferguson.1 I would suggest) and read it through, skipping the other parts: if you like it then you can read the others. Some other favourite quotes I noted while reading which really spoke to me: Either you give in to your despair and wait for it to pass, or you burn your scarlet notebook and forget you ever had it. Unfortunately the library might have objected if I followed the latter course, so I had to grin and bear it. on some days he felt the book was trying to kill him. Every sentence was a struggle. every day in fact. Amy let out a prolonged groan and then tore in to him for wasting his time on trivial, asinine, college-boy humour. I know how she felt.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sam

    I was conflicted about reviewing 4 3 2 1: on the one hand, Paul Auster shows incredible talent and engaging storytelling, fully immersing us into the broad strokes of the four different lives of Archibald Ferguson, and the intricate, fascinating details that form each version of Ferguson's life, touching on art, film, language, translation, Ivy league educations, baseball, basketball, the siren call of Paris, having money, not having money, the Woman (Amy Schneiderman), other women and men to lo I was conflicted about reviewing 4 3 2 1: on the one hand, Paul Auster shows incredible talent and engaging storytelling, fully immersing us into the broad strokes of the four different lives of Archibald Ferguson, and the intricate, fascinating details that form each version of Ferguson's life, touching on art, film, language, translation, Ivy league educations, baseball, basketball, the siren call of Paris, having money, not having money, the Woman (Amy Schneiderman), other women and men to love, and the varying versions of the Ferguson clan and especially his parents Stanley and Rose. When the novel is good, it is great: witty, funny, charming, hitting character and plot points macro and micro with ease and precision, and always invoking an accurate but also engaging sense of time and place as we watch Ferguson grow up in the 40s, 50s and 60s in New Jersey and New York (depending on the version) and struggle with his identity, the Vietnam War, Antisemitism, the Civil Rights Movement, racism, the Kennedy election and assassination, white flight, and the hope and disillusionment and fracturing of society during the 60s especially. All of Fergusons' family and friends are well drawn, though I most loved his mother Rose Adler (in every version of Ferguson) and his wisecracking, brilliant cousin Noah Marx (in version 4). There was much to admire, and much to love for the majority of the novel. On the other hand, the book threw me for fits with its pacing. It took me a bit to work through the first 100 or so pages of set up, the backdrops of the Ferguson and Adler lineages detailed but not flowing or clicking for me. But then, sunk into little Ferguson's various childhoods, I was off and devouring each saga up through Ferguson's graduation and moving on (in many versions) to college. Then, around page 600, Ferguson 1 gets derailed in a major student protest at Columbia University in the late 1960s, and the momentum I'd had was lost. The book recovered, as we moved on to see what the other versions of Ferguson got into, but that chapter for Ferguson 1 was long, unwieldy, and worse yet uninteresting. And overall, I don't know that I love the writing of Paul Auster. The brilliance can't be denied, but he's also prone to writing extremely long, run-on sentences, that meander and turn to the point that I would occasionally lose the major focus of the thought. It sometimes read like stream of consciousness inserted into these epics of the Fergusons, which (view spoiler)[makes sense considering the predictable yet still satisfying conclusion that the whole novel was a work by Ferguson 4 (hide spoiler)] . I felt that there was definitely some extra, less meaningful content that could have been removed entirely to keep the pacing tighter, and in general appreciate an author who is a bit more choosy with word choice and sentence structure in literary fiction: some of the writing felt unintentional, versus say how I felt about the writing of Michael Chabon's Moonglow or Kate Atkinson's Life After Life, the hybrid of which could be 4 3 2 1. I don't think this is a read for everyone, and indeed while it delighted me and I enjoyed reading it on the whole and was engaged with Auster's talent, it also irritated me, occasionally bored me and really forced me to work to finish major parts. But again, when it is good, it is great, and for that, I'd award it 4 stars.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Neil

    For the first approximately 500 pages of this (very long) book, I was in reading heaven. It’s not a secret (it’s in the blurb) that it tells the story of four lives that are the same life (a bit, I guess like the movie Sliding Doors or the book Life After Life). It tells these stories by cycling round them in instalments and a large part of the pleasure of reading, apart from the brilliance of the writing, is the fun of comparing the developing stories to see where they diverge and where they ov For the first approximately 500 pages of this (very long) book, I was in reading heaven. It’s not a secret (it’s in the blurb) that it tells the story of four lives that are the same life (a bit, I guess like the movie Sliding Doors or the book Life After Life). It tells these stories by cycling round them in instalments and a large part of the pleasure of reading, apart from the brilliance of the writing, is the fun of comparing the developing stories to see where they diverge and where they overlap. I really loved the writing. For example: "…the city remained a fundamental part of her life, dear, dirty, devouring New York, the capital of human faces, the horizontal Babel of human tongues." Or: "…and the only literary man known as Archibald anywhere in the world was Ferguson’s least favorite American poet, Archibald MacLeish, who won every prize and was considered to be a national treasure but was in fact a boring, no-talent dud." (Don’t beat about the bush, Paul, tell us what you really think!). And one more: "The best thing about being fifteen is that you don’t have to be fifteen for more than a year." So, for a long time (it takes a long time to read 500 pages), I was very happy and sailing a course towards a comfortable 5 star rating. But then things started to change. At about 500 pages in, I remember having a conversation with my wife about the book and telling her about an ending I was dreading might be coming. No spoilers here, but that is exactly the ending we get. However, when we got to it, I found I didn’t actually mind that much. I was thinking I would hate it ending like that, but it was actually OK, mainly because of way it was written. The real problem for me was the 300 or so pages between heaven and the end where the book seems to become far too obsessed with student politics and the painful process of writing a book. For me, these pages dragged a bit: if they had been 100 pages, it would have been fine, but it was three times that and took some getting through. The book feels very autobiographical, although Auster has said it isn’t: "It's really not me at all, even though the interest of the Fergusons seemed to overlap with mine. I think of this book as sharing my geography and sharing my chronology, but it's really not at all my story. These Fergusons are so much more precocious than I was. They seem able to do things at astonishingly young ages that I was not capable of doing, for example." I have to say, I’m not convinced he is being entirely truthful. I’ve seen criticisms of this book that complain about the time period it is set in and that suggest that if you are going to write four life stories then why not make them more different from one another. In my view, those criticisms are missing the point. I think Auster wants to review the times he has grown up in and some the conclusions he draws and especially the very, very end of the book are actually very relevant to today. In the same interview as I’ve quoted above, Auster says: "So here was history continuing to happen as I was writing a book about 50 years ago, and the parallels were eerie, I have to say. And so many of the things that were dividing us 50 years ago are dividing us again today. What we didn't learn in the '60s was that while we thought the left was in the ascendance, it was actually the right. And now, again, the right is again taking over the country in ways that eight years ago, when Obama came into office, we wouldn't have imagined could happen." Also, I think one of the things Auster is perhaps trying to say is that some things have to happen and, if your life is destined to take you to certain points, you will get to those points in one form or another regardless of the route you take. The book is far more interesting because the life stories are similar but different and I think making them radically different would hugely spoil the book. It’s a significant investment of time to read this book. For American readers, the effort required may be less because they may not have the repeated need I had to check on the facts that are reported in the book. I kept stopping to check which people and events were fictional and which were actual people and events. But, overall, despite the problem I had with the middle section, I would say the time and effort are well rewarded. It’s 3.5 stars from me, but rounded up because I so enjoyed reading the first 500 pages. UPDATE: And then rounded down a few weeks later because I keep thinking about the dreary 250 pages in the middle!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Vit Babenco

    On beginning to read 4 3 2 1 I was surprised that the story went at first as if it had been written by Theodore Dreiser so it made me wonder where was all the expected postmodernistic quirkiness. But to my great delight I was capable to find the trick soon enough. “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both…” These first lines of The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost are literally the key to the book… Paul Auster simultaneously travels four forking roads so the novel is a s On beginning to read 4 3 2 1 I was surprised that the story went at first as if it had been written by Theodore Dreiser so it made me wonder where was all the expected postmodernistic quirkiness. But to my great delight I was capable to find the trick soon enough. “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both…” These first lines of The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost are literally the key to the book… Paul Auster simultaneously travels four forking roads so the novel is a set of variations on the theme of the American Dream, a study of existential probabilities: the quickly aborted life of the do-it-yourself newspaper whizz kid; the Hollywood-style-kitsch life of the bohemian cineaste; the mournfully crippled life of the failed poet and disillusioned journalist; and the thoroughly unhappy life of the inchoate experimental writer. “…he had accumulated enough memories to know that the world around him was continually being shaped by the world within him, just as everyone else’s experience of the world was shaped by his own memories, and while all people were bound together by the common space they shared, their journeys through time were all different, which meant that each person lived in a slightly different world from everyone else.” And by painting four imaginary lives Paul Auster vividly paints the panorama of the dramatically hot sixties. “Ferguson and his friends understood that they were living in an irrational world, a country that murdered its presidents and legislated against its citizens and sent its young men off to die in senseless wars, which meant that they were more fully attuned to the realities of the present than their elders were.” Not to turn into a scribbler a true writer must always do his own thing otherwise there will be nothing but oblivion…

  17. 4 out of 5

    Chris_P

    One of those books that don’t simply keep you good company but, for the time it takes to read them, they’re as close to you as your very thoughts. Just as one can’t get rid of one’s thoughts, one can’t help but feel the warmth emanating from its pages. Simply put, I didn’t want it to end. I dreaded the moment when I’d turn the last page and the inevitable fate of every book in the world would compel me to put it on the shelf. It’s not just that it had gripped me, although it certainly had. It’s One of those books that don’t simply keep you good company but, for the time it takes to read them, they’re as close to you as your very thoughts. Just as one can’t get rid of one’s thoughts, one can’t help but feel the warmth emanating from its pages. Simply put, I didn’t want it to end. I dreaded the moment when I’d turn the last page and the inevitable fate of every book in the world would compel me to put it on the shelf. It’s not just that it had gripped me, although it certainly had. It’s also those little completely personal things, completely out of the author’s control or knowledge, that surround a book and give it a whole new kind of power over you. Things such as certain events that take place in your life and which seem to lend it their flavor, or the place where you read It and seems to irrevocably absorb its flavor, or, even more so, the manner in which it ended up in your hands. Situations and even persons forever marked by a story and the other way around. I don’t know if it’s indeed a masterpiece or if in 50 years’ time it will be considered a classic but it sure is one hell of a piece of literature. Auster shows his magnificent talent in storytelling by crafting such a complex story without ever letting the reader lose grip or feel confused. Story-wise, as much as I was enjoying it, I didn’t actually know how brilliant it really was until I reached the final pages and the prefix meta was given a whole new meaning. Four lives of a single person passed before my eyes along with all that usually comes with a life and what an impact it had on me as I witnessed the course each one of them took as a result of choices and coincidence. So well-made, so devoid of cheap pretensions and so painfully true and beautiful. No choice but to be affected, no choice but to experience it with all my senses and, ultimately, no choice but to love it.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lori

    A Portrait of the American Artist as a Young Man So, he takes up enough space for four people the way that I see people do in fast food joints. Four diverging versions of the same precocious young writer, or five if you count Auster.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    I received this huge, 866 page Advance Reading Copy a few weeks ago but decided to save it for my end of the year vacation (stay-cation). And I'm so glad I did because once I started it, I wanted, needed, to stay immersed in it. The novel is the coming of age story of Archie Ferguson and starts off with 4 different versions of his life. Set mostly in New York and New Jersey, It is also about the political and cultural and social climate of the 1950s and 1960s. I had 4 or 3 or 2 or 1 running stor I received this huge, 866 page Advance Reading Copy a few weeks ago but decided to save it for my end of the year vacation (stay-cation). And I'm so glad I did because once I started it, I wanted, needed, to stay immersed in it. The novel is the coming of age story of Archie Ferguson and starts off with 4 different versions of his life. Set mostly in New York and New Jersey, It is also about the political and cultural and social climate of the 1950s and 1960s. I had 4 or 3 or 2 or 1 running stories of Archie in my head for ten days and was deeply involved in all of them. It is fascinating the way the different Archies sometimes merged in my mind. Because really - although different events changed him in different ways, all of the Archies were essentially the same person. The idea of a novel following more than one possible life path isn't new -I can think of two that I've read - "Aquamarine" by Carol Anshaw and "The Post-Birthday World" by Lionel Shriver - but Auster's 4-3-2-1 structure is more interesting and added a level of tension and foreboding. I enjoy reading doorstoppers during my winter vacation. Last year I read, "A Little Life," and the year before, "The Goldfinch." Although "4-3-2-1" is not a page-turner like those novels, it is very, very compelling. The narrative pace is necessarily slowed down because of the way Auster writes. His novel is a discourse about ideas and literature and film and art. A few times it got bogged down by lectures, i.e. about the history of Columbia's student protests, but I am willing to be patient with Auster. And it was worth it. A great book.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lucy Banks

    I received a copy of this book from Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review. A breathtaking, weighty epic of delicious 'What Ifs'... I'm a big fan of Paul Auster, so was expecting massive things from this book... and I'm delighted to report, I was not disappointed. It's a weighty tome (all 860 pages of it) and not the easiest of reads, but is so incredibly satisfying, not to mention thoroughly addictive once you get started, that it deserves nothing less than a full five star rating. What's it I received a copy of this book from Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review. A breathtaking, weighty epic of delicious 'What Ifs'... I'm a big fan of Paul Auster, so was expecting massive things from this book... and I'm delighted to report, I was not disappointed. It's a weighty tome (all 860 pages of it) and not the easiest of reads, but is so incredibly satisfying, not to mention thoroughly addictive once you get started, that it deserves nothing less than a full five star rating. What's it about? Initially, the book seems like a straightforward narrative about a Jewish family arriving in New York. However, it swiftly becomes apparent that there's way more going on here. The book follows Archie Ferguson, who starts as a young lad and ends up as a fully grown man, but throughout the story, we're not just introduced to one Ferguson, but four possible versions of him. It's a similar concept to Sliding Doors, but there's so much more to it than the proverbial 'What If' question. It's an exploration of character, of wondering how much of who we are is determined by what happens to us throughout our lives. It's also somewhat mind-bending, especially the end (which I won't spoil for you). You can see my full review - here. Overall, a spectacular achievement, and definitely a modern classic.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Stephen P(who no longer can participate due to illness)

    Auster has arrived at the witch’s brew point of honing himself down into the essence of Austerian writing. A celluloid grappling with the life of the mind as something in and of itself asserting high value, the inspiring commitment to creativity (writing), the battle for identity then to garner the courage to live and express it, and the occurrence of chance; Dante’s forked path, but in this book it is three pronged. The immersion of how the smallest of events can lead our lives in different tra Auster has arrived at the witch’s brew point of honing himself down into the essence of Austerian writing. A celluloid grappling with the life of the mind as something in and of itself asserting high value, the inspiring commitment to creativity (writing), the battle for identity then to garner the courage to live and express it, and the occurrence of chance; Dante’s forked path, but in this book it is three pronged. The immersion of how the smallest of events can lead our lives in different trajectories. Each of us can look back and see how if we didn’t go here one night we would not have met so and so and…and…and… But, and I am making this up as I go along, those chance encounters are shaped by the slow tick of our identities emerging as well as shaping them? So, 4321 is a distillation of Auster’s ongoing existential battle refusing a final answer but anxious to gather arms and confront the marching conflict(s). Oh no. Something else. I don’t even have to be reading him and my mind swirls. Yes, this book is about writing, the process. Each word inked leads to the next, line to paragraph, to pages, ideas emerging unexpected. Their chance occurrence leading to the work’s insistence on traveling its own path. A lengthy book that I enjoyed to the end and was disappointed it stopped. Yet, I don’t know if I can recommend it. Auster opened the sap-glued hinges of the gate of literature for me. On vacation I found no book in my suitcase. I picked out The New York Trilogy at a nearby bookstore on a whim based on its cover. Back at our hotel room I opened it up and threw it against the wall. Just the kind of crap I couldn’t stand. A waste of time. I remember peeking into DFW’s, Infinite Jest, a month before after hearing how great it was and thinking I would never want to read such a thing and wondered how and why others enjoyed it. My wife asleep, there I was in our small hotel room with nothing to read. I don’t know if it has ever been recorded, a person able to go to sleep without reading first but I am not one. I sat on a chair and fretted watching the various ways my fingers could twine. Then pacing up and down, back and forth, until the tread of my bare feet were worn into the brown carpet. Finally, I went to where the book laid splayed and un-threw it, tossing it toward the chair. I sat and looked at it on the carpet by an engraved heel mark, watching it out of the corner of one eye. It was going to be a long night anyway so I lifted it off the carpet and opened it. As bad as I thought. Maybe worse. What happened to the linear world? I searched the room for a plot. How about powering myself through it or trying Gideon’s Bible in the bedside table drawer. It proved laborious until I was diverted by this loud click sound. I checked that it didn’t wake my wife up. Returning to the book it was different, completely different. Turning it upside down, dangling it at different positions, the words remained the same. I checked the cover, identical. The door remained locked and latched. Sitting and looking at the page again I…apprehended it differently. Bewildered I continued my appreciation of this new apprehension. I woke my wife to tell her. She asked if I could apprehend in another room in the hotel. Letting her sleep I went back to the chair and wide eyed reveled in this new world which has only widened and deepened in time with my ongoing conversation with GR. As I am on a daily basis throwing out eternal thanks to Auster for being my guide, how can I judge his work objectively? Maybe somewhat since there has been books of his I didn’t like, even parts of the The New York Trilogy on rereading, due to growth spurts induced and maintained by the wiles of GR and my brilliant Friends. Here it is, 5/5. Take it any way you want.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Arah-Lynda

    I have a feeling that this novel is going to be a fabulous success. It is about a Jewish family living in New Jersey or more specifically about their son Ferguson. The reader is given insight into four different versions of Ferguson's life. Each decision made by his parents or himself results in a different outcome, hence a different life path or portrayal of Ferguson's life. That is the bare bones of the nature of this novel. It is a huge tome of a book, weighing in at almost 900 pages. I confe I have a feeling that this novel is going to be a fabulous success. It is about a Jewish family living in New Jersey or more specifically about their son Ferguson. The reader is given insight into four different versions of Ferguson's life. Each decision made by his parents or himself results in a different outcome, hence a different life path or portrayal of Ferguson's life. That is the bare bones of the nature of this novel. It is a huge tome of a book, weighing in at almost 900 pages. I confess the story, as well written as it is, never really grabbed me. Still I persevered and made it to the 20% mark before I abandoned the effort altogether. I suspect this is a case of right book/ wrong reader. My sincere thanks to Faber & Faber, Paul Auster and netgalley for an opportunity to read an advance copy of this novel.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sam Quixote

    That’s enough - I can’t read this shit anymore! When a book starts to feel like a weight around the neck, like it’s work, when you look at the number of pages left and groan - yeah, that’s the time to walk away from it. So I’m calling it at page 480 out of 870 or so - no more. No more 4321, no more Paul Auster in fact. I used to be a huge fan but not anymore. 4321 has convinced me that former me was plain wrong about him or he used to be good and he’s just deteriorated shockingly in his old age. That’s enough - I can’t read this shit anymore! When a book starts to feel like a weight around the neck, like it’s work, when you look at the number of pages left and groan - yeah, that’s the time to walk away from it. So I’m calling it at page 480 out of 870 or so - no more. No more 4321, no more Paul Auster in fact. I used to be a huge fan but not anymore. 4321 has convinced me that former me was plain wrong about him or he used to be good and he’s just deteriorated shockingly in his old age. 4321 is the same story told four slightly different ways. So, yes, it’s repetitive but kinda interesting in the slight changes that happen in each that leads to completely different trajectories. And then the repetitions became too much for me. These are the stories of Archie Ferguson (basically Paul Auster - like nearly all his books, he’s the protagonist) and his family. Born in the 1940s, he comes of age in the early ‘60s, the time of JFK etc. and the book actually wasn’t bad at first - there’s a reason I made it past the halfway point. The stories of Archie’s father and his scheming brothers were alright. Where things got unbearable is where I gave up - Archie as a teenager and Auster seems to have completely stalled in this time zone where it seems like I’ve been reading about the Archies masturbating, fucking their cousins, fucking their schoolmates, fucking prostitutes, dreaming about fucking all of the above, for forever and a fucking day! To say the least: this shit isn’t interesting, Paul Auster. That’s the main complaint - I just can’t read another irritating page about Archie pining for whoever and then rubbing one out or going to the brothel or whatever. I get it, teenagers = horny lil bastards! The second and only other one thing I’ll mention? The obnoxiously lengthy sentences. I contemplated copying out an example here so you’d get an idea of just what I’m talking about but I cannot be bothered - just take my word for it that the sentences are literally page-long, and sometimes multi-pages long. Honestly. It’s so unnecessary. FFS, put a full stop in there instead of endless commas! And so much of the shit Auster writes is utterly irrelevant tripe - details that add absolutely nothing to the already glacial narrative! It’s not so bad that you can’t follow what he’s saying but, my word, the sentences don’t need to be this long - punctuation exists for a good reason. This novel didn’t need to be 870-ish pages long. The narratives aren’t so different that there needed to be four different versions. They’re not even compelling enough to warrant one narrative! 4321 is Auster’s longest novel to date but I think this book shows why he’s so much more effective in shorter novels - unedited, he is an utter bore, rambling on tediously to no end or goal about his youth to no-one’s edification or entertainment. Don’t trouble yourself with this ponderous garbage.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    A steady fuck is good for you This is a great reading by one of my favorite American authors. The physical book (Henry Hold and Company, 2017, 1st edition hardcover) has about the same volume and almost the same weight as an ordinary brick – but the book is much smarter than its stony counterpart. When it arrived on my doorstep on March 3 I was quite impressed by the book’s appearance, and also delighted to discover that it comes with deckle edge which some people consider a flaw of the product. A steady fuck is good for you This is a great reading by one of my favorite American authors. The physical book (Henry Hold and Company, 2017, 1st edition hardcover) has about the same volume and almost the same weight as an ordinary brick – but the book is much smarter than its stony counterpart. When it arrived on my doorstep on March 3 I was quite impressed by the book’s appearance, and also delighted to discover that it comes with deckle edge which some people consider a flaw of the product. But I quite like it, and I think the untrimmed, uneven, and rough paper add something special to a book. In this case it also fits the content somewhat, of which I’ll tell more in a minute. I first met Paul Auster (through his prose) by chance when I read all 50 volumes of the so called SZ-Bilbliothek of 20th century literature, a nice and colorful addition to any bookshelf. I actually made a panoramic photo of the spines and put it on my blog. If I recall correctly, I received two books per month, and Paul Auster’s City of Glass (German: Stadt aus Glas) was volume 6 in this collection. This one is rather light and pretty small, compared to the others in the series, and also compared to a brick. But I was mesmerized by the combination of a detective story and meta-fiction in which the author himself appears as a character. I know this is considered bad style by some, and my experiences with books have broadened considerably since then, and perhaps I find this story now not as engaging as I did when I first read it. But somehow, I doubt it. In any case, Paul Auster left his mark on me with his City of Glass, and of the novels and non-fiction books I read by him in the years that followed none was in any way disappointing. 4 3 2 1 is, up to now, his biggest book, the one that contains the most pages and the most words, and I read each and every one of them, and that includes any item of the so called front matter, like the colophon, copyright page, edition notes and stuff like that. I encourage you to do the same. You’ll be surprised what you might find. In this case the front matter also includes the “Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data”, which resembles the box score of a baseball match in a way. By reading a book’s “box score” you sometimes get an idea of what the book is about. Let’s see what we got here. Under “Subjects” we find the following list: 1) Man-woman relationships No doubt; there are man-woman relationships in this book; dozens of them, maybe a hundred or more (I totally lost count). But there are also quite a few man-man relationships, and a couple of woman-woman relationships as well. And the people involved are playing different roles in their respective relationships in different chapters of the book. For instance it’s possible that man-A is the lover of women-B in chapter X, whereas the two of them are step-siblings in the next chapter, or that a man-C loves other men in even chapters, and doesn’t in odd ones. This sounds pretty confusing, and it actually does get confusing sometimes, and you have to pay close attention which chapter of the novel you’re currently reading. Unless you’re blessed with a cast-iron memory (unlilke me), I suggest you keep pen and paper ready to jot down notes, and be prepared to draw some slightly convoluted family trees. Why is it all so complicated? – I hear you cry. It’s because there are four different biographies of the same person in this book and the name of this person is Archibald Isaac Ferguson. He was born on March 3, 1947 and from that date onward the lives of Ferguson-1, Ferguson-2, Ferguson-3, and Ferguson-4 develops in similar (at first), but slightly different directions. I just realized I received the book on Ferguson’s 70th birthday. This is quite a coincidence. Another fluke, for me personally, is the fact that my own birthday is explicitly mentioned at one point in 4 3 2 1. This was a first for me. Before I’ll tell you more about the four Fergusons, let’s have a brief look at the other subjects… 2) Jewish families That surely is a valid subject. The Fergusons were indeed a Jewish family. Grandfather Ferguson came to America on January 1, 1900 from the city of Minsk (Russia). His name was not Ferguson, however, but Reznikoff. Since such a name wasn’t considered to be any good in his new country, a friend suggested the name Rockefeller instead. The reason why he ended up as Ferguson lies in a linguistic-yiddish-english joke that I won’t reveal here. Anyway, the Fergusons were Jewish but their religion doesn’t play a big role in their own lives (but it does somewhat for others). 3) Literary Yes. What else? Actually there is a whole lot of literature mentioned in the book. The different Fergusons all liked to read, and quite often mention their favorite books and poems they read at a certain age. It’s an interesting choice of books actually. Without revealing too much I have to say that some Fergusons also enter the world of words themselves professionally, and parts of their own written stories get quoted extensively, like the one of Hank and Frank, two shoes endowed with reason that I found hilarious. The story is called Sole Mates[sic]. What the “Cataloging-in-Publication Data” miss here are the films.-Beside being book enthusiasts the four Fergusons are also busy moviegoers. Alas, I knew only very few of the films mentioned in the book, so these parts were a little lost on me. What I do know, however, are Laurel & Hardy, and these two jesters turn out to be quite important for one of the Fergusons. Another reoccurring subject in the book is sports. Mostly baseball and basketball, but also football, and some tennis. Unlike Paul Auster I’m not actually a big fan of baseball, although I quite like the game, and I’m glad I know some of the lingo (and the rules, I hope) and was therefore able to follow the respective sections in the book. 4) Sagas Now that’s a spot on single word description of the book’s content. You’ll get four sagas for the price of one. What was the quote again about the many lives a reader lives, compared to the single one of a non-reader? I think it was R.R.Martin who wrote something along those lines in one of his Game of Thrones books. Here you’ll get four lives of the same person. 5) Family Life Considering the second subject this one seems a little redundant. But maybe they added it, because there are other families beside the Ferguson family, and members of all these families (the Adlers, the Schneidermans, the Marxs, and Ferdermans to name but a few) blend in quite well in the course of the stories. Of course there are children and parents, siblings, aunts and uncles. But death and divorce also often lead ex-wives and ex-husbands, to step-parents and step-siblings. There’s even an ex-step-uncle. Like I said, you better keep record of the four family trees. That’s it. These are the subjects listed for the Library of Congress. And although I think all of these subjects are important for the book, I also have to say that there are at least three more which are missing and these are: Sex Sexual relationships are not the most important thing in this book, but they have not a small impact on Ferguson’s live, and since we are dealing with four Fergusons, the frequency of sexual encounters naturally increases. The description of these activities is sometimes quite explicit, but far from being called “dirty” or even pornographic. War I put the word war here as a placeholder. In reality there are all kinds of historical events the protagonists have to witness, or are even directly involved in. The story is set in the time 1947 to 1970 and the Vietnam War was a culmination point and triggered many other events during that time which are described here in some great detail. Just to mention two examples: The 1967 Newark riots (the town where one of the Ferguson family lives), and the Columbia University protests of 1968 (where one of the Fergusons studied) out of which the notorious Weathermen developed. I quite like the image that one of the Fergusons uses to describe his condition in early 1968:Ferguson saw the situation as a series of concentric circles. The outer circle was the war and all that went with it: American soldiers in Vietnam, enemy combatants from the North and the South [...], U.S. foreign policy since the end of World War II, body counts, napalm, burning villages, hearts and minds, escalation, pacification, peace with honor. The second circle represented America, the two hundred million on the home front: the press (newspapers, magazines, radio, television), the anti-war movement, the pro-war movement, the Black Power movement, the counterculture movement [...] The third circle was New York, which was almost identical to the second circle but more immediate, more vivid: a laboratory filled with examples of the aforementioned social currents that Ferguson could perceive directly with his own eyes [...] The fourth circle was Columbia, Ferguson’s temporary abode, the close-to-hand little world that surrounded him and his fellow students, the encompassing ground of an institution no longer walled off from the big world outside it [...] The fifth circle was the individual, each individual person in any one of the four other circles, but in Ferguson’s case the individuals who counted most were the ones he knew personally, above all the friends he shared his life with at Columbia, and above all those others, of course, the individual of individuals, the dot at the center of the smallest of the five circles, the person who was himself. Five realms, five separate realities, but each one was connected to the others, which meant that when something happened in the outer circle (the war), its effects could be felt throughout America, New York, Columbia, and every last dot in the inner circle of private, individual lives. New York New York can be considered to be a main character of the book. Large parts of the story are set in this juggernaut of a city. But there’s also smaller cities that play important parts, like Newark and other towns from New Jersey and the state of New York, Vermont and, last but not least, Paris (France). The place you’re living in molds you just as well as the people that you meet. I guess, that’s the message to be received. □  □  □ There’s another topic worth mentioning, which is not a subject, but more like a theme and which frequently occurs in other Paul Auster books, and that’s chance. The chances and choices we are confronted with and we make during our lifetime basically shapes the way we spend our lives. I’m not necessarily speaking of the big changes, like the blows of fate, the tipping points. There’s many relatively small choices which, in retrospect, would had make our lives different if we had chose differently. The lives of all four Fergusons are riddled with happenstances which are of more or less great ramifications to their respective lives. Although they start their lives at the same time, the same place, and with the exact same genetic material, they end up very differently. It is the butterfly effect in literary prose. I recognize that this review has gotten a bit long, but the book is not short either. There’s not much more to be said on my part anyway. It was a coincidence that I fell sick (nothing serious) the day after I started the book, and I’ve been on sick leave the whole week and was therefore able to read the book in just seven days, which might have taken me a month otherwise. I would like to read it again sometime, for 4 3 2 1 certainly belongs to the books, which are worth reading several times. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Helene Jeppesen

    3.5/5 stars. On many levels, this is a really great story which plays with plot and destinies and gives you some insightful anecdotes on life and growing up. The only problem I had with it, though, was quite a big one: "4321" is too long and too dragging and you can't help but lose interest towards the end. I'm a big fan of Paul Auster's, and while this wasn't my favourite book of his, I still think that it highly deserves the praise and anticipation that has been built up over the past 7 years. 3.5/5 stars. On many levels, this is a really great story which plays with plot and destinies and gives you some insightful anecdotes on life and growing up. The only problem I had with it, though, was quite a big one: "4321" is too long and too dragging and you can't help but lose interest towards the end. I'm a big fan of Paul Auster's, and while this wasn't my favourite book of his, I still think that it highly deserves the praise and anticipation that has been built up over the past 7 years. "4321" is the story of Ferguson who grows up in 1960s America. But it's about different versions of Ferguson and his life. It took me an embarrassingly long time to realize this - most probably because I listened to this story on audiobook which is still a new reading experience to me. This was a great concept, and it shines through that Paul Auster is a magnificent and captivating author! I liked "4321" a lot - I just wished it had been a bit more to the point and not as long (and somewhat confusing) as it ended up being.

  26. 4 out of 5

    И~N

    In my very humble opinion and literary experience, I think this is the best piece of contemporary prose that ever happen to come across my path of a reader. Auster begins this epic journey, following the very natural time-line of boy's growing up and his entering adulthood. The narration is vivid, author's language is friendly and non-obstructive, the story flows naturally and the episodes follow without any additional complications, chasms and jump-arounds. It is not here that Auster experiments In my very humble opinion and literary experience, I think this is the best piece of contemporary prose that ever happen to come across my path of a reader. Auster begins this epic journey, following the very natural time-line of boy's growing up and his entering adulthood. The narration is vivid, author's language is friendly and non-obstructive, the story flows naturally and the episodes follow without any additional complications, chasms and jump-arounds. It is not here that Auster experiments or challenges the borders of the so called new American realism. One of the features that makes a work of fiction great literature is always the harmony of micro-level introspections and observations on a higher ground. Here the reader is both drowned in the inner world of the main character, where the author reflects two of the main topics in contemporary American literature - dysfunctional families and building up an identity. Along the way the reader faces another hot-spots of all modern bestsellers - minorities and their place of nowadays' recent prehistory. On a larger scale, Auster manages to encompass some of the major events in American contemporaneity - the riots of the 60s, the Vietnam war and the social atmosphere of these years. The main story lines are masterfully positioned in the background of these event, making the novel an exemplary Zeitgeist piece of literature. ...and that the world as it was could never be more than a fraction of the world, for the real world also consisted of what could have happened but didn't, that one road was not better or worse than any other road, but the torment of being alive in a single body was that at any given moment you had to be on one road, even though you could have been on another, travelling toward an altogether different place. Another feature of a masterpiece is challenging the norm while accepting it. Auster perfectly creates a dense atmosphere, often compared with that of Dickens' works. At the same time he experiments with classical realism, splitting the natural time-line of boy's life in four parallel flows, based on the presumption that one cannot compare their path not knowing what would have been the results, had a tiny detail in their life changed. We have already observed this Milan Kundera's works, but still, not in the way Auster handles it, nor positioned in a such large social background. We have four potentially experienceable lives of one and the same character and at the same time four quite different main characters. The end is classically post-modern and meta-literary, leaving the readers on the their tips, gasping for air. Speaking more personally, I enjoyed reading the book also because of its steady pace of narrations and chaptering. After nearly a month of reading block, it was 4 3 2 1 that gave a start of a series of strong, hit-readings in the beginning of this year. And what better definition of a good literature if not the one that urges you to read more? *** and the charm of lifelong bachelorhood died a quick and permanent death. ========== To be a journalist meant you could never be the person who tossed the brick through the window that started the revolution. You could watch the man toss the brick, you could try to understand why he had tossed the brick, you could explain to others what significance the brick had in starting the revolution, but you yourself could never toss the brick or even stand in the mob that was urging the man to throw it. Temperamentally, Ferguson was not someone inclined to throw bricks. He was, he hoped, a more or less reasonable person, but the agitations of the times were such that the reasons for not throwing bricks were beginning to look less and less reasonable, and when the moment finally came to throw the first one, Ferguson’s sympathies would be with the brick and not the window. ========== and all through that summer of 1966, the nineteen-year-old Ferguson walked around with the uncanny sensation that he had entered a world in which it was no longer necessary to ask the world for anything more than it had already given him. An unprecedented moment of equipoise and inner fulfillment. ========== “The world is teeming: anything can happen.” ========== “We can’t seem to find a common ground. Each one of us carries around his own world, which seldom overlaps with anyone else’s world. By reducing the size of our bodies, we hope to diminish the spaces that lie between us. Remarkably enough, it is a proven fact that amputees are more inclined to participate in the lives of others than most four-limbed Flomians. Some have even been able to marry. Perhaps when we shrink down to almost nothing, we will at last find one another. ========== Another boy from the Jersey suburbs, I’m sorry to say. One of those self-anointed geniuses who has an answer for everything. ========== Empty. That was the word for it, he said to himself, as he sat down on the sofa and took his first sip of wine, the same empty space Vivian had talked about when describing how she had felt after finishing her own book. Not empty in the sense of standing alone in a room without furniture—but empty in the sense of feeling hollowed out. Yes, that was it, hollowed out in the way a woman was hollowed out after giving birth. But in this case to a stillborn child, an infant who would never change or grow or learn how to walk, for books lived inside you only as long as you were writing them, but once they came out of you, they were all used up and dead. ========== his soul was old and weary, and old and weary souls could be bitter at times, and angry at times, most especially against the souls of the ones who did not feel that same bitterness and anger.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Leo Robertson

    When writers get to Paul Auster's age, I guess it's common for them to want to take on their masters. Here, I imagine this is Auster doing Tolstoy. But is Tolstoy's lens the most relevant for our time? The prose is soulless, almost automatic in a sense. It has no focus, it does very little. It's the kind of novel I imagine computers writing, when they're able: there's nothing technically wrong with it, but it doesn't really seem to have a point. I'll give you an example: this is me planning a par When writers get to Paul Auster's age, I guess it's common for them to want to take on their masters. Here, I imagine this is Auster doing Tolstoy. But is Tolstoy's lens the most relevant for our time? The prose is soulless, almost automatic in a sense. It has no focus, it does very little. It's the kind of novel I imagine computers writing, when they're able: there's nothing technically wrong with it, but it doesn't really seem to have a point. I'll give you an example: this is me planning a paragraph in the same style: And so on the thirteenth of December, 1988, Leo Robertson came into the world, a screaming blue-eyed boy held up by a kindly-looking middle-aged nurse in [Wikipedia hospitals in Glasgow.] Outside the window, the [Google weather on that date.] Of course, [Google important historical events on or around this date.] Arriving home, Charlie and Teresa showed Leo's older brother and sister, Croy and Chloe, that Leo had brought them gifts, such was their strategy to ingratiate the young boy to his siblings, [Google toys and sweets popular in Glasgow in 1988.] Charlie thought of his father's father, who had worked in the shipyards across the Clyde, just [Google Maps distance from family home to the Clyde], where Grandpa Charlie spent his days putting rivets in the sheet metal of [look up the types of ships that were there at the time.] He'd taken Chloe and Croy to [Where was that museum where you could put the rivets in sheet metal in like a little booth thing, and you grabbed these clamp tool things through rubber gloves in the exhibit's booth? Look up the names of the tools.] On the TV that afternoon was [Important sports thing. If I'm Paul Auster, I really like sports, so, lots of sports.] So I'm not saying it's not hard work to make a book like this, even with the assistance of technology, as the above proves, but I do question how pleasurable or purposeful the experience of reading it is supposed to be, when the story has no apparent central focus and tries to earn most of its points through rambling fact-checking and fleshing out of a family, a village, a city of characters that serves no evident purpose beyond its attempt to impress. And there's no dialogue, no action, no place where all the stuff is supposed to happen: it's written a bit like a historical record. There are a few phrases I'll read in a blurb that generally make me put a book back down: "hysterical", "belly laughs", "funny", "laugh-out-loud", "lyrical", "quirky" and "follows three generations of a family." The reasons being that: other media do "funny" better than novels, "lyrical" means the author's trying to prove their MFA means something (to people who aren't you), and "follows three generations of a family" means "has no idea what this book is about, but wow did it take a long time to write." But what can I say? I got this in the airport when I was drunk because I thought the cover was pretty. And I was right about that. Also I just remembered that I was born in London ahaha.

  28. 5 out of 5

    John Anthony

    I feel bereft now! Having lived with Archie Ferguson in various situations, surroundings and guises for what seems like a lifetime, I now miss him and his world a lot. This is an enormous book which I read on kindle. That was not ideal: it would have been useful to flick back the pages to remind myself who some of the less familiar (to me) characters were. But the sheer girth and weight of the book made this impractical. It is a magnificent book in every way. It seemed the ultimate Good Read. Arch I feel bereft now! Having lived with Archie Ferguson in various situations, surroundings and guises for what seems like a lifetime, I now miss him and his world a lot. This is an enormous book which I read on kindle. That was not ideal: it would have been useful to flick back the pages to remind myself who some of the less familiar (to me) characters were. But the sheer girth and weight of the book made this impractical. It is a magnificent book in every way. It seemed the ultimate Good Read. Archie the young student, steeping himself in literature, films,art, sport and sex, essential fuel for his literary output at a very young age. The story(ies) are set mainly in the USA, particularly New York and in Paris. c. 1960-1970. We live/ re-live those years through Archie, an only child of Jewish parents: JFK, Vietnam, Race War, student unrest…The book gripped me continuously on all levels, some achievement, given its length, although I found the student riots at Columbia less easy to follow and I feel I need to understand these better. Paul Auster’s creation, 4321, is so clever. Surely autobiographical? We see the writers working up close. That is insightful in itself and we are rewarded with Paul/Archie’s finished products. Beautiful writing, characters well drawn. It is frequently sumptuously sexy. And what of that weird title? I’ll say nothing about it for fear of spoiling. Read to the end to find out for yourself. This would have been a very worthy winner of the Booker. Lincoln in the Bardo must be mighty fine indeed. I hope to find out soon. Expect my 4321 recommendation in your in tray well before that.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Meike

    Paul Auster, I am officially annoyed: This book could have been just great, but it is way, way too long, and by that I don't mean to say that I am generally opposed to long books, but that this story could have been told more effectively if a good editor had taken out at least 200 pages. The basic idea that Auster plays out over the course of 866 pages is that coincidence and the slightest change in circumstances can change our whole lives. He demonstrates this by telling the life story of Archi Paul Auster, I am officially annoyed: This book could have been just great, but it is way, way too long, and by that I don't mean to say that I am generally opposed to long books, but that this story could have been told more effectively if a good editor had taken out at least 200 pages. The basic idea that Auster plays out over the course of 866 pages is that coincidence and the slightest change in circumstances can change our whole lives. He demonstrates this by telling the life story of Archie Ferguson from infancy to early manhood in four different versions that diverge more and more over the course of time, as every Archie experiences different events and grows up in a slightly different social context. I did not feel that Auster's way of telling these stories in a linear, but parallel manner was particularly innovative, in fact it does not even have a postmodern feel to it (which is of course not necessarily a bad thing, the novel's structure just did not feel fresh or particularly exciting to me). On a positive note, I was very impressed with Auster's writing, which is accessible without ever being simplistic or shallow. I really enjoyed how he dives into the psychology of his characters, shedding light on their ambiguities, insecurities, and doubts while always preserving their dignity and, by that, evoking an enormous amount of empathy on the side of the reader. As I listened to the audiobook, I also want to mention that Auster has a beautiful voice and very engaging way of reading. Nevertheless, there was just too much detail, too many minor characters, and too many sidetracks that would not have been necessary to get the point across. I see that Auster wanted to paint a lively picture and highlight all the little things that have the power to affect us, but the reader gets that message very early on, and after some time, hammering home this point becomes rather tedious. I would not even limit this criticism to the extensive description of 60's campus politics at Columbia U (although I totally understood why some readers found the length of these passages outrageous), but I would extend that claim to many parts of the story. The excessive length takes away some of the power the novel undoubtedly has, a power that could be increased by crossing out a serious amount of material. At around page 500, there is a little vignette that works as a spoiler and gives away the ending, but I did not mind it that much - Auster really went for the most obvious choice to end his book, but it is also the most consequential alternative. Unfortunately, I felt a sense of triumph after I managed to finish the whole thing - which is a rather bad sign. This probably won't make my Booker shortlist.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    170525 introductory lecture: there is a useful mathematical technique known as 'chaos theory'- though this is a misnomer, for it is a way to characterize 'apparent chaos', to describe 'nonlinear dynamics', living systems where the slightest change in ‘initial conditions’ can lead to radically different final conditions, which of course is initial conditions again, can lead to radically... and so on... weather is the iconic example, the butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon causally connecte 170525 introductory lecture: there is a useful mathematical technique known as 'chaos theory'- though this is a misnomer, for it is a way to characterize 'apparent chaos', to describe 'nonlinear dynamics', living systems where the slightest change in ‘initial conditions’ can lead to radically different final conditions, which of course is initial conditions again, can lead to radically... and so on... weather is the iconic example, the butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon causally connected to a tornado in Kansas... living systems work this way, and because infinite precision is required now and ever and no variables are infinitely knowable, we can never predict the weather exactly... of course, there is a given range of probabilities, a 'butterfly' shape on any graph centred on zero time, where mathematical probabilities define the range of outcomes, and this is known as a 'strange attractor', in the sense a linear system is a spiral of conditions circling down to zero, a nonlinear system is shaped in loops around it. the strange attractor is, in weather again, not what we call 'weather' but what we call 'climate'. such that we may not predict exact weather tomorrow but we can be quite certain that in Kansas whether tornado or not, in July it will not be -40... the cumulative effect of all the initial conditions, all the strange attractors, combine to give this probability the force of certainty, though such calculations require very advanced math and massive, massive computer time.... first review ‘how this theory applies to 4321 by Paul Auster’: the ‘initial conditions’ are all the same, constant things happen, sometimes minor, sometimes dramatic, as the character grows up in the '60s, and these all have an effect on his somewhat passive observations. Auster has a fascination with coincidence, the road not taken, the forks of this action or that action, and here he has a long book, autobiographical postmodern, with four iterations of one character. this is about four or more times longer than most of any of his previous works. more plot, more detail, more individual in the modern panoramic world, all sorts of events that convulsed that turbulent decade. there is no doubt here the author's perspective, some of his fascination in how lives are lived, so... things happen but it is difficult to call them 'causes' because they generate so few 'effects'. this is a case where the strange attractor is nearly a linear spiral, and completely dominates the contingent. the strange attractor is something like the initial condition of being: intellectual reader, sometimes athletic, white, tall and handsome, psychologically untroubled, Jewish but not fervent, fortunate in most of the adults around him, never desperately poor, never much criminal, open to new experiences. basically some good places to start. then the things that happen are mostly of a sort: family prospers/family dissolves, father dies/father makes a lot of money/father becomes a clerk. mother becomes/fails to become a photographer of note. cousin passionately loves him/is completely indifferent. becomes straight/becomes gay. writes great book success/works as journalist/publishes in small press... yes a lot of things happen, as they all go from the same initial conditions... and then some of the diverging lives are sort of intellectual dreams enacted: go to Paris with a girlfriend in one life, live in Paris with mother's friend in another, live in Paris with lover in another, witness if not join in police riots at Columbia in NYC, have an admired friend at Princeton, another friend who makes the Majors in baseball, meet these occasional other Auster characters, great love affair or great sex affair here or there and straight or gay... but how can a book about four lives be so... lifeless? and this really only covers the '60s? his era of excitement? when he was in his ‘formative years’? this could be a melancholy tract on all the things Auster wished he had then done or seen or lived. four lives not as psychological realism in a postmodern way, but in trenchant dream recall. but then Auster had written about his early life already, see Hand to Mouth maybe he is bored with that. and then, of all the things that happen, people die, people leave, people protest, these people are all of the same place and sort, that is, liberal, educated, north eastern if not New York Americans of that baby boomer era, that exciting time i missed by a few decades. but despite the events in his 'lifeworld', the big changes no more than the little changes, he does not change much. he becomes a writer, a translator, an intellectual, a man who stumbles through his lovelife(s)... his final condition is never too different. and the way the narrative(s) unfold(s), we get entirely focused on his life, his thoughts, long sentences that are easy to read, yes: but to what purpose...? i like some of Auster's other work, even often with some subtext about the uselessness of art to communicate the ineffable, surprising, aspects of living. which always makes me want to say well, try at least. and at one point i wanted to give this book a three, when a certain sequence actually gave me an emotional moment. but then i decided i did not enjoy getting there, that at that point i had read hundreds of pages and at that point would probably read hundreds more. i am optimistic. and this made me think about the 'climate' of my own life. yes i have read a lot of books too, never had the good fortune of anyone telling me what to read- though much read has been science fiction, fantasy, crime, obscure literature, much in translations. none of which sound like all his literary reading, and of course i have also, somehow, read a lot of philosophy, a lot of art, some film, some architecture... so maybe i get his allusions, however i might disagree with his judgment... initial conditions. contingency. reflections. would i have read (at 18) Moby-Dick or, the Whale if it had not been an old hardback in the entry hall? or 1984 (at 15) if it had not been an old hardback downstairs? or... and what difference has this made in my life according to my basic strange attractor? if my mom had not been or my dad had not been who they are? if a certain young woman i loved had not died would i have read anything like the number of books i have? probably not if she had say. if i had married the young woman i had lived with, how would i have taken her death these many years later? not well. if certain major traumas in my life, maybe other than others dying, or myself nearly dying (coma), traumas which major effects i know every day when i stop to think of them, have changed me, what minor changes have led to major differences? maybe it is somewhat comforting to believe 'everything happens for a reason'. maybe we all want all events in our lives to make a difference, and at the same time remain recognizably the same person...? do i need read a book of 866 pages to come up with all these reflections? not in this life...

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...