Paul Auster, prolific Brooklyn writer and filmmaker, dies at 77

He was best known for his postmodern "New York Trilogy" of novels, as well as films like "Smoke" and "Lulu on the Bridge."

Paul Auster, the prolific Brooklyn-based writer and filmmaker, has died, his agent Carol Mann confirmed to Entertainment Weekly. Auster was 77.

While the Carol Mann Agency did not provide additional details, Auster was diagnosed with cancer in 2022.

Born on Feb. 3, 1947, in Newark, N.J., Auster fell in love with both books and baseball at an early age. He invented his own baseball card game before his writing career began to take off with the 1982 publication of his memoir The Invention of Solitude, about his chilly relationship with his late father.

Auster found further literary success with three novels — City of Glass (1985), Ghosts (1986), and The Locked Room (1986) — that were later packaged together as The New York Trilogy. Using the archetypes of postwar noir detective fiction as a starting point for a metafictive exploration of postmodernist and existentialist ideas, these novels set the tone for his subsequent work.

<p>Simone Padovani/Awakening/Getty Images</p> Paul Auster

Simone Padovani/Awakening/Getty Images

Paul Auster

Auster moved to Brooklyn's Park Slope neighborhood in 1980 and helped define the area's literary scene in the decades before it became a go-to residence for novelists. He was a remarkably prolific writer, publishing a new novel every few years for decades in addition to essays, poems, and nonfiction.

”I like the rough and tumble atmosphere of the streets, this kind of wise-guy swagger in Brooklyn,” Auster told EW in 2006 about his adopted home. ”I like the tremendous diversity. I like listening to people talk. I like watching them argue. I like the amazing, funny things people say.”

Starting in the mid-'90s, Auster also moved into filmmaking. He wrote the screenplay for director Wayne Wang's 1995 comedy Smoke, which starred William Hurt and Harvey Keitel in a story about a Park Slope tobacco shop and the colorful characters who gather there, inspired by Auster's own life in the neighborhood.

A star-studded follow-up, Blue in the Face, came just a few months later. Auster made his own directorial debut with 1997's Lulu on the Bridge, which again starred Keitel as a jazz saxophone player whose life changes after being shot by a stray bullet. A decade later, he wrote and directed 2007's The Inner Life of Martin Frost, which starred David Thewlis as an author who seeks solitude at a friend's country house but becomes entranced by a beautiful young woman (Irène Jacob) who he meets there.

Auster's first wife Lydia Davis, with whom he had a son (Daniel Auster), died of a drug overdose in 2022. Auster is survived by his second wife, fellow novelist Siri Hustvedt, Last year, Hustvedt posted on Instagram about Auster's struggle with cancer.

"Watching Paul I have understood what grace under pressure looks like," Hustvedt wrote last August. "Stalwart and uncomplaining, humor intact, he has made this time of his sickness, which has now lasted almost a year, beautiful, not ugly."

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