His characters are restless inquisitors, asking endless questions of life, undertaking journeys across the vastness of America, often in solitude, in pursuit of ends which even they themselves are unaware; and if these characters are not travelling outwards, then there is always the journey within." 1
Auster's narratives are elliptical, abstract and metaphysical. The comparison with Beckett is not extraneous because like Beckett, who in the least words and even lesser actions created an overwhelmingly powerful literary impression of post-war Europe, Auster has done it for America, except that unlike Beckett, Auster does not always refer to defining political moments but literary ones. For example, he has turned the detective story on its head in his path breaking New York Trilogy, of which Ghosts is the middle one. Similarly his search for that elusive American experience has found fruition in the True Tales of American Life, a broadcast project that sought to present real life stories from all over the States.
In his discussion of The Locked Room the third and by consensus the most powerful part of the New York Trilogy, Stephen Bernstein says "In The Locked Room, as in the other novels of Paul Auster's New York Trilogy, the path the reader follows diverges considerably from what might be expected in conventional detective fiction. This is due to what are, by this stage in the trilogy, predictable recourses to narratorial unreliability, epistemological uncertainty, and existential contingency."2 The same can be inferred for Ghosts, where a private detective called Blue is investigating a man named Black for a client named White. Auster is of course playing on our apriori notions of the three colours. The client being White the fugitive being Black is obviously a satire on the exiting framework of references that a detective novel throws up. Almost as an apriori knowledge we seem to let ourselves be carried away by the innocence of the man who has approached the detective and the criminal intent of the man being chased. In that sense white and black is what we have already assigned to the characters without Auster have to name them for us. But Auster, being what he is, starts from there and tries to dismember our notions that we have deeply held close from Poe, to Chandler via Conan Doyle. Like its compatriots in the Trilogy, City of Glass and The Locked Room, Ghosts is a play on identities and self fashioning and to what extent we can refigure and reconstitute ourselves and our ability to do so.
In Ghosts, Black and White turns out to be the same person. And that too a writer. In fact all three protagonists in all three novels of the Trilogy is a writer and ostensibly all of them are Auster or part of Auster. But we neither know clearly the other Auster, or the other half of the character who is partly like Auster. While in this confusion the reader find out that in Ghosts Black/White, the man who is both the client and the fugitive criminal and who has assigned Blue with an investigation is watching Blue watching himself. And