Thursday, January 25, 2007

Illusionist: Character study (Paul Auster, Book of Illusions)


Paul Auster may be the absent author in your local bookstore. Auster, with his compelling prose, is a nonpareil with the kleptomaniacs. In a discussion between bookstore manager Tom Cushman and Paul Auster, Cushman notes that Auster’s books are frequently stolen:

“we had like 7 authors that we had the most popular stolen books, and out of the 7, Paul Auster was actually the only living author. He had the distinction of being the only living author who was most stolen.”


Auster’s novels have an urbane, worldly feel. Unfolding with the accelerated pace of everyday life, coincidences and diversions provide entertainment. Like in De Lillo’s works, Auster’s novels are suffused with engaging yet aloof prose. Caustic and intelligent characters create an intriguing fictional world.

The Book of Illusions is a fascinating study of grief and obsession. Tragedy, with its heavy permeation, weighs down on the protagonist. Carefully etched-out life plans are shattered; predictability a past attraction. Nine to Five. Annual Leave. House and Kids. These vestiges of normalcy are replaced by the unregimented expanse of free time.

Living-room mourning and day-time despair. The protagonist, hermit-like, vegetates on the couch, watching TV and old movie reruns. Unexpectedly, laughter is triggered. The protagonist’s interest is captured by a lesser-known comic, Hector Mann. The human element is reconnected, and he decides to pursue the comic’s works further. Spurned on by a desire to travel and write, the protagonist embarks upon a study of Mann’s films, penning his biography.

Considering I’m only a few chapters into The Book of Illusions, a comprehensive review is impossible. So turning it over to the reader- who captures your interest? If you were a writer, who would you like to conduct a character study of? It could be someone you know, a stranger, or the man who sells you fruit. If I could write, a fictional fleshing out of the eccentric E would be in order. A nervous wreck, she’s Croatian-Ukrainian with a gorgeous smile. She’s a writer who came back to civilization from “the forest”, a hideaway where she spent six months alone, trying to write her novel.

6 comments:

Eva said...

Glad you enjoyed the link! I also can't choose whether a library or bookstore is better.

I've looked through your blog, and I enjoy reading your reviews. I've added you to my bloglist. It seems as if you tend to read more foreign authors than me, so I might ask for some suggestions!

Cassie said...

Thanks for commenting on my blog.

There are so many people who have come in and out of my life that I think it would be interesting to do a character study on them. It's an interesting question to think about.

Bybee said...

Auster's books are magnets for kleptoes? Now that you've mentioned that, I've *got* to read him! Surprisingly, several of his titles are available at the nearest bookstore with English-Language books.

acquisitionist said...

Bybee, check Auster out. Having finished Book of Illusions I can say it's not one of my favourites. It meandered towards the end, to the extent I found myself getting quite bored. Moon Palace and Brooklyn Follies are faves. Let me know what you think. Yay for Auster being available in SK.

Bybee said...

OK great, those 2 books are there!

Bookfool said...

I adore Auster. I wouldn't have *expected* him to be among the most stolen authors, though. When I worked at a bookstore, the Bible was our high-theft item. Vertigo Man is probably my favorite, thus far, but I also enjoyed Moon Palace and I've got The Brooklyn Follies on my never-ending wish list. :)