This evening I finished Paul Auster’s most recent novel, Sunset Park. It’s another Blue Jay Way, I’m afraid (see this earlier post). In January this year, at the Brussels Fine Arts and Antiques Fair, a gallery-owning friend told me he had a Spillaerts ‘within striking distance’. He showed me the picture. Sure enough; there was Spillaerts’ signature. It was brilliantly executed technically. But half of the picture was white space and the image was a faithful and entirely pedestrian representation, not of dark and windy Ostende streets, but of a rectangular, red-roofed church. This, my friend explained, was because Spillaerts had earned money by doing some publicity posters for an architect (the blank space was for the architect’s publicity blurb). In other words, it was by Spillaerts, but it wasn’t a Spillaerts (hence the ‘striking distance’). Well, in the same way I would argue that Sunset Park is by Auster, but it’s not an Auster. His omniscient narrator never shows but always tells, and he writes always in the first tense in order to emphasise what is apparently the main theme of the novel; live in the moment rather than for the future, but you will still mourn the moment’s passing. There’s the usual technical ease but also a lot of irritating space fillers: baseball trivia en masse; a treatise about the Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Liu Xiabo; and a lengthy analysis, plus quotations, of the classic film, The Best Years of Our Lives. If the acknowledgements are to be believed, he has even borrowed passages from his daughter’s sixth grade paper on To Kill a Mocking Bird. As for the story, everything is connected expertly but it ends up feeling like light entertainment – an affectionate look at the vestiges of Brooklyn’s bohemians in post-2008 crash America. Come on, Paul!