Posted by

Allen Adams Allen Adams
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

edge staff writer


Parallel lives – ‘4321’

Rate this item
(1 Vote)

Novel explores possibilities of diverging paths

The path we travel to become who we are is a unique one. The choices we make (and don’t make) – as well as those that are made (or not made) for us – steer us into a specific life.

Paul Auster has chosen to show us not one but four such paths in his latest novel “4321” (Henry Holt & Co; $32.50). In this wildly ambitious and meticulously conceived book, Auster plays out the early life of one New Jersey boy named Archibald “Archie” Ferguson in four different acts, each devoted to relating the voyage into adulthood through a tumultuous time in alternate and ever-diverging ways.

Archibald Isaac Ferguson is born in Newark in March of 1947 to Stanley and Rose (nee Adler) Ferguson. Such is our introduction to the young man whose life we will see play out in four parallel and very different ways.

One Archie might grow up in a stable, loving household, while another might have to deal with youthful tragedy. This Archie might excel in the classroom, while that one might dominate the playing field and still another might do both. Different scholastic experiences, different personal ones; different paths toward self-awareness and sexuality.

All will love and lose. All will have an inescapable connection to the passionate and enigmatic Amy Schneiderman. All will find themselves drawn to the chaos inherent to the country in the 1960s, the protests and the riots and the general societal upheaval. All will have a massive and enduring love for mother Rose.

Each Archie is fully realized, traveling the complicated path toward adulthood as best he can. The circumstances that surround him in each narrative drift away from one another – sometimes gradually, sometimes slowly, but constantly. The person that Archie Ferguson becomes also fragments from that singular beginning. His personality, his beliefs, his entire identity – it all differs from Archie to Archie. From adolescence to college and into adulthood, each journey is its own.

“4321” is an absolutely remarkable book. While one might consider the multiple timelines to be something of a gimmick, one would be wrong; in the hands of a masterful writer like Auster, it becomes something magnificent. It is not one beautiful, delicate, compelling story – it is four.

We watch as Archie travels a certain distance down each path, and as he reaches a particularly important crossroads, Auster takes us to the next narrative and shows us the same distance traveled on another Archie’s lifeline. The clarity of distinction that this creates allows all four lives to unfold at a similar pace and ultimately allows for the interconnectedness between lives that erases the separation even as it highlights it.

This book is something of a revelatory reading experience. Auster has created a deeply personal book – no surprise considering the nature of his oeuvre – that allows him as an artist to look back at what might have been. His own youth is reflected heavily in the book, with one Archie Ferguson living a life that bears marked similarities to Auster’s own. But through questioning the circumstances of his early situation, he is able to build to wildly different conclusions than his own.

The notion of language’s inherent power permeates the book, with every incarnation of Archie finding a connection to words, albeit in some fairly disparate ways. Language is how each Archie interacts with the world around him, how he connects. Love’s many forms are explored thoroughly, from the familial to the carnal and everything in between.

All of this takes place against the burning backdrop of the 1960s, the bubbling cauldron of Vietnam and civil rights and the sexual revolution all igniting with flames reflected in the eyes of Archie Ferguson. Auster’s evocation of that place and time is sensual and brutally visceral, conjuring forth a five-sensory understanding of a world at large that is generally unchanged by the individual divergences of one young man.

In “4321,” Auster has created a symphony in four movements, one life that becomes four. It sprawls, yet manages to feel lean; despite its considerable length, it never once feels the least bit overwritten. This is a book that tells the story it wants to tell in precisely the manner in which it wants to tell that story. Filled with beauty and ugliness, with love and fear, with humor and hubris and history, “4321” is unforgettable. 


  • Comment Link StephenPAF Monday, 19 February 2018 21:07 posted by StephenPAF

    microsoft world
    microsoft windows
    microsoft company store
    [url=]office online[/url]
    microsoft office for students

  • Comment Link Matthewfulky Thursday, 08 February 2018 02:16 posted by Matthewfulky

    is buying viagra online dangerous
    viagra without a doctor prescription
    viagra online france
    [url=]viagra coupons[/url]
    how do i get viagra over the counter
    viagra prices
    watch viagra falls psych online
    [url=]viagra without a doctor prescription usa[/url]
    how long does 25mg of viagra last

  • Comment Link Jamesinede Wednesday, 07 February 2018 18:30 posted by Jamesinede

    top ten best online casinos
    roulette online
    online casino nj list
    [url=]п»їonline roulette[/url]
    casinos online usa
    online casino games
    online gambling in south america
    [url=]online casino[/url]
    online casinos rtg
    slim slots
    online casino gambling bonuses
    [url=]casino slots[/url]
    play blackjack online 6 decks

  • Comment Link TylerRic Monday, 05 February 2018 19:40 posted by TylerRic

    drugstore online
    northwest pharmacy canada
    Online Pharmacies
    [url=]online pharmacies[/url]
    canadian pharmacy
    approved canadian online pharmacies
    lloyds pharmacy online uk
    [url=]canada pharmacies online prescriptions[/url]
    canadian pharmacy online

  • Comment Link Nancygoche Sunday, 04 February 2018 04:45 posted by Nancygoche

    best supplements for weight loss
    [url=]prescription weight loss pills[/url]
    top diet pills
    diet supplements

  • Comment Link MichaelErags Saturday, 03 February 2018 19:03 posted by MichaelErags

    caverta cheap cialis generic viagra
    tadalafil generic
    where to buy real viagra cialis online
    [url=]cialis generic[/url]
    buy cialis without rx
    cialis generico online
    cheap cialis pills online
    [url=]cialis cialis prices[/url]
    cialis pills india

  • Comment Link RichardLoyat Saturday, 03 February 2018 05:57 posted by RichardLoyat

    cialis forum where to buy
    cialis cialis prices
    can you buy cialis online
    [url=]cialis generico online[/url]
    where to buy cialis online in canada
    cialis generic
    cheap authentic cialis
    [url=]generic cialis[/url]
    cheap generic cialis no prescription

  • Comment Link Ashleekar Thursday, 01 February 2018 03:19 posted by Ashleekar

    slot online
    [url=]best online casino games free[/url]
    best online casino
    slot game

  • Comment Link TyroneFunty Wednesday, 31 January 2018 17:20 posted by TyroneFunty

    viagra online auf rechnung
    viagra without prescription
    is generic viagra as good as brand name
    [url=]viagra without doctor[/url]
    buy viagra johor
    generic viagra 100mg
    buy viagra amazon
    [url=]buy generic viagra[/url]
    cheap herbal viagra online

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter the (*) required information where indicated.
Basic HTML code is allowed.


Website CMS and Development by Links Online Marketing, LLC, Bangor Maine