I've heard great things about Paul Auster but didn't pick up one of his novels until earlier this week. It was another one of those instances when I wasn't sure what I wanted to read next so I began to read a page or two from books sitting on my TBR pile; 45 pages later I realized I had chosen Paul Auster's The Book of Illusions.
This book follows David Zimmer, a man coping with the recent loss of his wife and two sons. He is incredibly depressed and relying heavily on alcohol to numb his pain when late one night he sees a television show that details the history of the silent movie industry. One clip that is shown, written and directed by Hector Mann, makes David laugh. He realizes this is he first time he has laughed in nearly two years, and makes up his mind to find out more about Hector Mann. What follows is a story that becomes increasingly complex, a dark suspense full of intrigue, sex and corruption.
Auster writes in a way that is fluent and engrossing. From beginning to end I was fascinated with both the story and the way Auster's words worked to communicate that story. In addition, Paul Auster relates the power and point of silent films in a way that gives meaning to the medium that I had never considered:
Most silent comedies hardly even bothered to tell stories. They were like poems, like the renderings of dreams, like some intricate choreography of the spirit, and because they were dead, hey probably spoke more deeply to us now than they had to the audiences of their time. We watched them across great chasms of forgetfulness, and they very things that separated them from us were i fact what made them so arresting: their muteness, their absence of color, their fitful, speeded-up rhythms. They stood between us and the film, and therefore we no longer had to pretend that we were looking at the real world. The lat screen was the world, and it existed in two dimensions. The third dimension was in our head.In these ways, literature acts almost as silent films do, allowing the reader to add his or her own dimension with their imagination. These meditations, combined with Auster's incredible ability to understand the human mind at it's darkest moments, make this a book well worth reading. This is a novel about pain and mortality, sin and redemption, about art and the artistic muse, and explores the role of the artist capturing something that is greater than himself. I look forward to reading more Paul Auster.
Publisher: Picador, 2002