In 1986 verscheen Ghosts, het vervolg op City of Glass (1985; zie hier voor een fragment), het tweede deel van wat later The New York Trilogy zou gaan heten. The locked room, het slotstuk, volgde ook in 1986. Ghosts is een verhaal waarin de essayist Auster zich los probeert te schrijven en een beweging naar de ‘pure fictie’ maakt. Jammer, eigenlijk, want net die mengvorm ging hem goed af. Net als in City of Glass gaat het hier weer over kijken en bekeken worden, over vastleggen, over schijn en over wezen; over de vraag waarom je moet schrijven, want zo leuk is dat niet. Je offert er een leven voor op en krijgt er, net als de hoofdpersoon Black uit dit boek, niet meteen alles voor terug. Een fragment, of eigenlijk: de slotalinea’s:
Blue stands up, his suit all in tatters, and begins collecting the pages of Black’s manuscript from the desk. This takes several minutes. When he has all of them, he turns off the lamp in the corner and leaves the room, not even bothering to give Black a last look.
It’s past midnight when Blue gets back to his room across the street. He puts the manuscript down on the table, goes into the bathroom, and washes the blood off his hands. Then he changes his clothes, pours himself a glass of scotch, and sits down at the table with Black’s book. Time is short. They’ll be coming before he knows it, and then there will be hell to pay. Still, he does not let this interfere with the business at hand.
He reads the story right through, every word of it from beginning to end. By the time he finishes, dawn has come, and the room has begun to brighten. He hears a bird sing, he hears footsteps going down the street, he hears a car driving across the Brooklyn Bridge. Black was right, he says to himself. I knew it all by heart.
But the story is not yet over. There is still the final moment, and that will not come until Blue leaves the room. Such is the way of the world: not one moment more, not one moment less. When Blue stands up from his chair, puts on his hat, and walks through the door, that will be the end of it.
Where he goes after that is not important. For we must remember that all this took place more than thirty years ago, back in the days of our earliest childhood. Anything is possible, therefore. I myself prefer to think that he went far away, boarding a train that morning and going out West to start a new life. It is even possible that America was not the end of it. In my secret dreams, I like to think of Blue booking passage on some ship and sailing to China. Let it be China, then, and we’ll leave it at that. For now is the moment that Blue stands up from his chair, puts on his hat, and walks through the door. And from this moment on, we know nothing.