The Book of Illusions Hardcover – 7 Oct 2002
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' In short, The Book of Illusions is a stunning feat of imagination and likely the best book that Auster has written.' -- Financial Times
' The Book of Illusions is a masterpiece of storytelling - an astounding portrait of grief, as well as a convincing treatise on the redemptive power of art and laughter.' -- Time Out
'An elegant and enthralling new summit in Paul Auster's art.' -- Jonathan Lethem
'It is the kind of dexterity that has been delighting Auster's readership since his acclaimed 1987 debut The New York Trilogy...' -- Guardian
'This brilliant novel is compulsively told, by a narrator one imagines typing at night with a glass of bourbon to hand . . .' -- Spectator
'Through all its dark and delightful twists and turns, The Book of Illusions is suffused with warmth and illuminated by its narrator's hard-won wisdom.' -- Peter Carey
(Auster's) novels are worldy, finely tuned, elegant, knowingly self-referential. -- Observer, 28 September 2002
A stunning feat of imagination and likely the best book that Auster has written. -- Financial Times, 28 September 2002
This brilliant novel is compulsively told, spilled out, almost, by a narrator one imagines typing at night with a glass of bourbon to hand. -- Spectator, 3 October 2002
a masterpiece of storytelling - an astounding portrait of grief, as well as a convincing treatise on the redemptive power of art and laughter. -- Time Out, 25 September 2002
The Book of Illusions is one of Paul Auster's greatest novels, now in a stunning new look. --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.See all Product description
Top customer reviews
Yes, he has spare style (the beginning in exquisite cod-documentary neutralese), characterisation lite (which I prefer), plot like gleaming steel - if this Patrick Caulfield-like cartoony clarity is what people go for, there are certainly worse things. It's when he essays profundity we hit trouble; this is melodrama ('Life had been too good to him, and now the fates had taught him a lesson') laced with pretension ('"It is no accident that you have spent years on the question of Rimbaud"'; 'I couldn't resist the urge to run my hands over a couple of pages, to touch some of the words that .. had read in the quiet of this room'). Then there's that would-be profound film synopsis, embarrassing in a different way, from the 'almost poignant' banality of, guess what, filmed sex (my, my, what will they think of next?) to the frankly cheesy ('.. was like no other woman. She was stronger than everyone else, wilder than everyone else, smarter than everyone else' - this after a matter of a few days' acquaintance; in mondo romantico nothing - ever - changes!)
And he can write so well too. Even the names are good* - Dabney Strayhorn, Frank C Klebald, Allan Dwan, the Comstock Barrel Company, assistant manager Goines, Pressler's Haberdashery, Ester Ging's manicure salon - echt to a man. (It's not easy.) Knute Rockne, on the other hand, and Sandusky, 'where Knute Rockne invented the forward pass', are genuine. It's the best line and the only moment of poetry in the book, apart from 'Two cars, one jet plane, six glasses of tequila'. I have no intention of burdening you with a plot summary, but there's no getting away from that hateful trope mise en abyme - frame story, if you will - which concerns a translator from the French, of all unlikely conceits. (Auster has been known to dabble himself.) It's that back story, strangely, that makes the whole thing - I was going to say watchable; it is a bit like that - bearable
I wonder where this stands in the Austere opus - a meditation on evanescence ('until all evidence of the work had been destroyed, the work would not exist') or sheer hokum? A conjuring trick? An illusion? Should Paul perhaps have practised what Paul preached? Or is this literature for Generations X and Y, the children of David Lynch? I'm of the Hitchcock generation myself; without him Lynch could not exist. Shallowness passing for profundity? Pass
* His film titles, now, are not so convincing as revealing; Paul, dear Paul is less the vaguely Borgesian Travels in the Scriptorium than B-movie-ish Ambush at Standing Rock ('I am almost certain that .. did not die a natural death'. Oh dear!)
It tells the story of David Zimmer, stuck in depression after the death of his family in a plane crash, slowly drinking himself to death. It is the description of mourning and the avoidance of painful memories which is the first touching highlight.
Zimmer is saved from himself by a glimpse of a film made by an obscure silent comedian, Hector Munro. Intrigued by the fact that his apparently lost movies have been sent to museums round the world from a mysterious source, Zimmer writes an account of Munro's films. The description of the movies is wonderful, feeling utterly authentic.
Thereafter the story becomes increasingly complex, as Zimmer is invited to meet the aging film star and his wife. Initially sceptical, no one has seen Munro since the 30s, he is eventually and memorably persuaded by the entrance of the strange and beautiful Alma.
Gradually, as Zimmer is sucked into their strange world we learn the full and shocking facts of Munro's life.
There are definite echoes of the style of the New York trilogy as elements of Hector's life resonanate and correspond with Zimmer's situation.
It is a novel about loss and mourning, about the nature of artistic muse, about sin and redemption and about the endurance of work after the death of the creator.
Finally the end is deeply tragic, but also not without a touch of hope.
So, in summary, intelligent, stimulating, moving and beautifully written. Very highly recommended.
The premise is interesting, the characters are well drawn and during some sections (notably the story of Hector Mann's disappearing act) I sped through it fast. Ultimatley, however, I didn't really feel Auster was offering me anything new here. Perhaps the scope was not large enough, perhaps the themes were a little too familiar, or maybe having read some of his other novels my expectations have become a little high. Of course (and I hate to admit it) maybe I just missed something!
Make no mistake, this is a good novel, and very well written, but compared to some of his others I found myself strangley uninvolved. I would recommend Leviathan or Moon Palace over this.
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