The archetype of the lonely midnight diner is a distinctly north American image, a romantic thought form tangled up in art and culture; from Hopper to hard boiled literature, making a distinct home for itself also in cinema. It’s a specific, if multi-faceted and fragmented, semiotic tied up in melancholy, insomnia and alienation – all hallmarks of the underbelly of the American dream. A place where people go to be alone with other people. It’s also a place of chance encounters.
In Paul Auster’s ‘new York trilogy’ it fills all these roles and in New York, “a city which never sleeps”, it’s presence and purpose is woven into the very fabric of its mythology – perhaps into that of America itself. The U.S. is such an expansive, wide open land that the idea of an atomised pseudo-social arena carries a dissonance and irony that speaks of submerged truths which go all the way to the bedrock of he nation’s psyche.