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Friday, December 8, 2006

The Book of Illusions

The Book of Illusions: A Novel by Paul Auster

5 of 13 people found the following review helpful:

June 1, 2003

The only illusion with "The Book of Illusions" is that it's a good book. The author's unfortunate decision to tell this story from the perspective of David Zimmer (novelist/professor/translator) and eleven years after the events of the book transpired put distance between the reader and the only interesting character, silent film comedian Hector Mann who disappeared after his fiancee accidentally killed the woman carrying his child. On a secluded ranch, Hector produced a series of movies no one has ever seen and 24 hours after his death will be destroyed.

The other characters of the book do almost nothing except worship Hector Mann. The only interesting thing about Zimmer is that his family died in a plane crash, which is what drives him to learn about Hector in the first place. The other main character, the daughter of Hector's old partner, Alma's only interesting feature is the birthmark on her face. For some reason I never understood, Zimmer and Alma fall madly in love and visit Hector in his last day. Long story short, the book focuses on a lot of issues about loss and redemption.

As I mentioned earlier, none of the characters besides Hector are very compelling. While I'm sorry for Zimmer's loss (even though I never see him interact with his wife and kids to KNOW how much he loves them), I don't want to read page after page of him moping around, grieving. I also don't want to read extended descriptions of movies. And so you see the major problem with this novel, it spends too much time focusing on a narrator who isn't interesting and overlong summaries of movies and their symbolic elements.

What Auster needed to do instead is focus this book on its only decent character. If he'd written the book from Hector's perspective in realtime, instead of so far in the present, it would be focused it in a more powerful way as Hector struggles with his problems and the moral would still be the same as he makes the decision to have his work destroyed upon his death and tell no one of it. In other words, it would make the Book of Illusions interesting to readers, which is the point of writing a book.

Unlike most other reviewers, I don't recommend this book at all. I am glad I read it, if only to illustrate how a writer's bad choices can destroy their work. I would suggest you skip this book of illusions and read a real novel instead.

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