NOTICE: (Updated March 5, 2010)

Beginning December 19, 2009, Books 'N Border Collies will be posting but only intermittently while I pursue personal goals. I plan to share some reading I'm doing, but there will be no reviews. I will, however, be sharing my exploration of vegetarian cooking and the cookbooks and websites I use to educate myself. I hope you enjoy it!


Tuesday, August 18, 2009


by Paul Auster

"Six months after losing his wife and two young sons in an airplane crash, Vermont professor David Zimmer spends his waking hours mired in a blur of alcoholic grief and self-pity. Then, watching television one night, he stumbles upon a clip from a lost film by silent comedian Hector Mann. Zimmer's interest is piqued, and he soon finds himself embarking on a journey around the world to research a book on this mysterious figure, who vanished from sight in 1929 and has been presumed dead for sixty years.

When the book is published the following year, a letter turns up in Zimmer's mailbox bearing a return address from a small town in New Mexico inviting him to meet Hector. Torn between doubt and belief, Zimmer hesitates, until one night a strange woman appears on his doorstep and makes the decision for him, changing his life forever
." (From the back of the Picador edition.)

People may say what they will about the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list, but if it weren't for that list I may never have discovered Paul Auster and that would have been a shame. No matter his topic or how odd his presentation, he engages me so deeply that I inevitably get to the end and either yearn for more, or, as in the case of Timbuktu, I'm so emotionally wrung out that I couldn't take anymore even if it was offered.

By the end of The Book of Illusions, I was all set to find some DVDs of Hector Mann's films until I remembered he's not real. I wanted to experience for myself the magic of the works described so vividly in the book and to suddenly realize that wasn't possible was almost like a slap in the face. The book deeply explores the many people we are inside, the person we choose to present to the world at different times and who those personae belong to, so the need to come to terms with the fiction of all the creations in their entirety was an odd sensation. I could have sworn I knew them for real! Which, I believe, was part of the point. Who, including ourselves, do we know for real? And do we need to really know someone for that particular relationship to be meaningful to us or to be a force that shapes our lives?

I said when I read Auster's Travels In The Scriptorium that it made me want to go back and read his older work because many previous characters found their way into that novel. The Book of Illusions has only further encouraged me because I believe I recognize a couple of characters and the title of Travels In The Scriptorium is mentioned specifically. I still feel like Auster is playing games with me. And I like it!

Other reviews:

Books Please


Jenny said...

Hi, I followed you over here from the mr linky on the bbaw page. Great review! I love when you get so involved in a book that you want to know and learn more (even if it means you have to be sad when you realize it's not real).

I also like the 1001 list even though I have no plans to ever read many of those books... some I may never have realized were so great until I saw them there and thought to read them!

Paperback Reader said...

I have a review copy of this book and you've convinced me to read it sooner rather than later! I've been wanting to but my TBR pile is so huge.
I haven't read any other Auster but have always meant to read The New York Trilogy at some point.

bermudaonion said...

Wow, it sounds like Hector Mann is a fabulous character, if he seemed that real to you.

Lezlie said...

Hi, Jenny! I'm so glad you stopped by! The 1001 List is a great resource, even if you never plan to read them all. Lists like that are completely subjective, but I love having all those reading suggestions at my fingertips! I have grandiose plans to read the whole list, but we'll just have to see what happens . . . :-) I hope to see you here again soon!

Paperback Reader ~ I have The New York Trilogy sitting here, too. It's supposed to be fabulous, and I have no reason to doubt it. I can't wait to see what you think of Auster when you finally get to one of his books!

Bermudaonion ~ He really is! He's the actor in the book, but he makes you see we're all actors in our own way. I loved the narrator, David Zimmer, also. Very realistic.


Andi said...

Ahhh! I love Auster's game playing! I haven't read this one yet, but I have it on my shelves (with all his other books). lol Story of my life. Anyway, he never fails to amaze me.

Lezlie said...

Andi ~ He is something else, isn't he? He's racing up my list of favorite authors, that's for sure.


joanna said...

I've never read anything by Paul Auster and this book has always intrigued me, now it intrigues me even more!

Lezlie said...

Joanna ~ I highly recommend Paul Auster. I think I've read four by him now, and I've liked them all a lot!


BooksPlease said...

I enjoyed this one too - my post is here.

Lezlie said...

Books Please ~ Thank you for the link! I'll add it to my post.


Anonymous said...

This is one of Auster's best. I love his work for it's deceptively simple writing style, he has a great style in which you think it'd be easy to emulate. It's not. It takes a lot of skill to write with that amount of precision. His prose just slides off the page.

I think a lot of his works deal with the notion of grief, or the process that a person goes through to overcome it. I see a lot of his books, including this one, as being partly an act of catharsis. That is, the narrator is speaking about past events and we get the feeling that by the act of doing so, the narrator is putting something to rest.

Lezlie said...

Damned Conjuror ~ I've only read three or four of his books, but I see what you're saying. Have you read Timbuktu? I think that one might be my favorite so far.


Anonymous said...

I've read all of them apart from In the Country of Last Things. I enjoyed Timbuktu, I wrote a review on it (not my greatest review but hey). Incidentally, I think the cover features one of the cutest dogs ever. But that's just me.

If I was going to be Auster's books in order of preference, it might go something like this (bear in mind this is quickly ordered in two seconds (in descending order, worst to best)):

11. Travels in the Scriptorium
10. Oracle Night
9. Leviathan
8. Man in the Dark
7. Timbuktu
6. The New York Trilogy
5. The Music of Chance
4. Moon Palace
3. The Brooklyn Follies
2. The Book of Illusions
1. Mr. Vertigo

Lezlie said...

Damned Conjuror ~ It is a great cover! The only way that dog could be any cuter is if he was a Border Collie, but that's just me being obnoxiously biased. :-)

Thank you for the list!! Of the four I've read, most of them lay in the bottom half of your ranking, so it looks like I have a lot of good reading ahead of me.