The Book of Illusions

The Book of Illusions

The Book of IllusionsI’ve read a few books by Auster, and honestly can’t say whether or not I liked them. His stories tend to leave you cold. His themes tend to be filled with loneliness, loss and general obsessive misery. He has a very straightforward narrative and writing style which is neither flowery or showy. In some ways, his style is similar to Raymond Chandler, but not quite as stark and creepy. That said, there are very few highs and lows in his storyline–nothing that makes you want to get right back to reading where you left off. There is Auster’s normal sense of mystery as our main character, David Zimmer, researches the life of a long-disappeared silent movie comedian named Hector Mann. Actually, he researches Mann’s film, and not so much his life. This is after Zimmer’s entire family dies in a plane crash, and, as a professor, he is looking for (or falls into) the distraction of writing a book on Mann’s films. We find out Mann disappeared back in the 1920’s after making films for only one year. After the publication of his book, Zimmer moves on to another project and has all but forgotten about Mann, until one day a mysterious letter shows up at his door asking if he’d like to meet with Mann. Ah, mystery established. I’m not sure what kind of magic I was expecting with this whole thing, but the interesting premise of a mysterious man coming back from the dead is mostly ignored for the more normal redemptive tragedy, post-modern thing. The story behind Mann’s disappearance, which we learn through the telling of Zimmer’s eventual love interest, is part typical film noir plot device and part soap opera silliness–as is the demise of said love interest. Coincidental and accidental deaths always seem like cop-outs to me. Ooops, I didn’t mean to alter the narrative and the course of another character’s life (and coincidently push the story forward) by slipping on that wet floor and banging my head! I kept reading, expecting to eventually get to the twist–the thing that, in fact, made this “book of illusions.” What I discovered was a somewhat interesting story about a broken man who finds love and motivation, only to lose it because somebody’s balance wasn’t so hot.

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