About a year ago, a friend gave me a copy of Paul Auster’s The Book Of Illusions to read. It may sound terrible but it can take me this long to get to a book that has been given to me. Between my writing and the research material fiction books like this get pushed back a bit on the schedule.
I had been wanting to read something of Paul Auster’s for a while. I had heard of him and knew he had made a mark for himself but had never had the opportunity to dive into one of his works before now. So I was really glad my friend gave me the book.
The story started off interesting enough. It centers around a writer who through tragedy becomes an expert on an obscure silent movie star who disappeared under mysterious circumstances. At its heart is a mystery.
The writing style is pleasant enough even if it rambles a bit. Auster has a nice flow to his style. One thing I noticed immediately was the lack of quotation marks. He doesn’t use them and maybe it is just because I am use to them but it takes some adjusting to their not being there.
Characters in this story are interesting. By themselves their circumstances are believable and have just enough of the ordinary and the unusual to capture your attention. The premise is a good one. Auster though undermines himself with two big flaws.
The first is the rambling which I already alluded too previously. I don’t know how many times when I was turning pages that I wished he would let the characters reveal themselves by acting out rather than telling me what happened. Maybe this is the writer in me. Most writers (apparently not Auster) have a rule: Show me don’t tell me.
Motivation was the other major flaw. There were pivotal moments in the story when characters seemed to do things only to move the plot along. These moments didn’t seem to fit their character and there was no motivation indicated to explain why they acted the way they did.
There were numerous incidents of this occurring. The main character ran away only to want to try and kill himself. Why didn’t he just kill himself to begin with? Going to another city just to do that (no one knew him to begin with) made no sense. Then going from not being able to kill yourself to essentially selling your body at night when you were supposedly worried about doing the right thing. It lacked logic.
I suppose the most blatant example of this is when one character – and I am not naming names so as to lessen any spoilers here – flew across country to make a personal plea for a guy to come with her on an urgent mission. She has no history of violence yet brings a gun which is whipped out at the last moment to force him to do this mission of mercy. The gun never comes into play again. That scene was like a bad ‘B’ movie.
Overall, Auster’s reading style can be enjoyable but his characters and plot need a lot more fleshing out. I know he has a big following and some will think I am nuts for saying that but it seemed to me if he had taken a couple more months on this he could’ve produced one fantastic tale rather than the average work he sent to the printers.