Just arrived from Australia through BM. Man has not one and the same life. He has many lives,placed end to end, and that is the cause of his misery.by ChateaubriandOpening Lines:Everyone thought he was dead. When my book about his films was published in 1988, Hector Mann had not been heard from in almost sixty years.After a terrible family tragedy, Professor David Zimmer starts a huge translation project, namely Chateaubriand's Memoires D'outre Tombe, a book of 2,000 pages.In the meantime, he becomes obsessed by a silent comedian Hector Mann who was living in a retired small village in New Mexico.When he finally meets Hector, his life will change forever.Alin G.
[Review in Romanian]Paul Auster îşi bazează Cartea Iluziilor pe o întrebare filozofică: dacă un om trăieşte o viaţă plină de însemnătate, însă pe care nimeni nu o cunoaşte, atunci am putea atesta asupra faptului ca acesta a trăit cu adevărat? Este o poveste mai apropiată de adevăr atunci când este văzută şi povestită ori se transformă într-o iluzie a percepţiei ascultătorului?Punctul de vedere al personajului narator al Cărţii Iluziilor este însă unul pragmatic: “If I never saw the moon, then the moon was never there.” Poate acest lucru face din această carte una dintre cele mai realiste lucrări ale lui Auster. Personajele sunt palpabile datorită faptului ca sunt influenţate de propriul punct de vedere asupra lucrurilor şi, în mod paradoxal, pentru că sunt văzute undeva la limita dintre realitate şi iluzie.Romanul se deschide cu o propoziţie cu dublu înţeles: “Everyone thought he was dead.” Aceasta se referă în primă instanţă la Hector Mann, actor şi regizor de filme mute, care a dispărut fără sens şi fără urma cândva în 1929 şi considerat a fi mort, însă pe măsură ce naraţiunea progresează, aceeaşi propoziţie devine valabilă şi pentru protagonistul Cărţii Iluziilor – David Zimmer. Viaţa lui Zimmer ca profesor universitar şi ca om ia sfârşit în clipa morţii tragice a familiei sale, soţia şi cei doi copii, într-un accident de avion. Rămas doar cu depresia şi cu gândul nehotărât de a-şi lua viaţa (dar fără a reuşi să îl pună vreodata în aplicare), David găseşte o urmă de viaţă într-un film mut, şi constată că un actor dintr-un film foarte vechi l-a făcut să râdă fără să-şi dea seama.Astfel David găseşte un scop, o modalitate de a-şi ocupa gândurile cu filmele lui Hector Mann prin a scrie o carte despre cele 12 filme pe care le făcuse înaintea dispariţii sale din lume. În acest fel, Zimmer ajunge un expert în filmografia lui Mann, reuşind să lege în cartea sa simbolurile din filme cu experienţele personale din viaţa tânărului actor, însă fără a încerca să afle misterul dispariţiei sale.Scrierea acestei cărţi îl ajută pe David să uite pentru moment tragedia suferită, iar odată cu publicarea ei, să revină treptat în lume, dedicându-se traducerii memoriilor lui Chateaubriand. Scriitorul francez dorise ca memoriile sale să fie publicate abia după moartea sa, însă situaţia financiară precară îl obligase să îşi vândă cartea pentru publicare. Simbolismul acestei alegeri pentru Zimmer începe să se contureze în momentul în care David primeşte o scrisoare din partea unei anume Frieda Spelling, care spune că este soţia lui Mann şi că Hector îşi doreşte foarte mult să îl cunoască.Abia aici putem spune că începe povestea lui Hector, cea spusă prin ochii lui David, în timp ce acesta îşi dezvoltă propria poveste. Cartea trece printr-o serie întreagă de simboluri – de la tema iluziei sau cum percepem ceva ca realitate până la temele izolării şi a salvării de sine prin scris – o temă esenţială aici pentru că se implică direct şi indirect în vieţile a trei dintre personaje. Este un roman care trece prin diferite vieţi, morţi şi renaşteri, toate dominate de conceptul iniţial: acestea au avut loc cu adevărat dacă nu le-a văzut nimeni?Apoi vine iluzia marelui ecran: toate imaginile unui film sunt iluzii care prezintă un adevăr, precum o fac şi cuvintele lui Auster. Vedem cum Hector prinde viaţă prin filmele sale în timp ce sunt văzute prin ochii lui David – ideile filmelor şi cum se raportează la viaţă acestuia din acel moment precum şi simbolurile puternice cu care sunt încărcate. Descrierile lui Auster trimit cititorul dincolo de o simplă analiză de film – te fac să îl vezi pe Hector Mann acolo sus pe marele ecran astfel încât ajungi să te întrebi dacă a fost la fel de real ca şi Charlie Chaplin, Cary Grant, Bogart sau Jimmy Stewart.Cartea Iluziilor urmăreşte tiparul stilului austerian în care povestea în sine domină asupra mesajului, însă aici cititorul rămâne cu gândul la întrebările cu care autorul îşi creează romanul. Eu unul am rămas cu o dorinţă şi mai mare de a vedea un film cu unul dintre actorii menţionaţi anterior.Doug
I just recommended this book to someone stranded in the Minneapolis airport. I had forgotten how much I liked it until I saw it sitting there quietly on the shelf, minding it's own business.This is why real books are so much more awesome than ebooks--they come back to tickle your mind. That, and when you spill wine on them (like I did on my copy of The Book of Illusions) they don't give up the ghost in an electric funeral.Anyhow. Take that, Minneapolis.Krenzel
*WARNING FOR SPOILERS*If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound or not? This famous question is closely examined in "The Book of Illusions," by author Paul Auster, as he tells the story of literature professor David Zimmer, who copes with the death of his wife and two sons by shutting out the real world so that he can inhabit the "silent world of Hector Mann," an obscure actor from the 1920s. After leaving a dozen movies behind that nobody seems to know about, Hector disappeared in 1929, presumed dead. However, it turns out he is actually alive in New Mexico, paying penance for the role he played in the accidental death of his girlfriend – vowing never to make another movie and eventually only agreeing to make movies if they will be destroyed immediately upon his death and never be seen by an audience. According to Hector’s rationale, if he makes a movie and nobody sees it, then his movie does not exist. But is this true? Does an idea have to be shared – and experienced by others – to exist and take on meaning? Although he provides confusing answers throughout the work, first suggesting that Hector’s greatness can be achieved on his own, ultimately Auster seems to conclude that Hector’s works only become important when they are shared and experienced by others.At first, Auster suggests Hector can attain greatness on his own, even without an audience. When Hector Mann disappears, his film career is pretty much over due to the invention of sound in movies and his heavy accent. His last major film, "Mr. Nobody," is a response to the frustration he feels about his career, as, in the film, his character takes a magic potion that makes him invisible. Eventually, he is reborn as a new person, and, facing himself in the mirror, he confronts the fact of his own annihilation with an exuberant smile – the last image of Hector Mann that will be seen by audiences, seemingly content with the idea he is "no longer the Hector Mann who has amused us and entertained us." Similarly, in his own life, Hector is forced to disappear after his girlfriend is killed, and, to disguise himself, he loses his trademark mustache, so that he is "the spitting image of Mr. Nothing himself." In his new life, Hector no longer makes movies, but instead works odd jobs and focuses on reading, writing, learning English, and planting trees. In his journals, Hector writes, "I talk only to the dead now. They are the only ones I trust, the only ones who understand me." Hector no longer shares himself with an audience – Hector Mann has been annihilated – but, according to his biographer and friend Alma, he is closer to greatness than ever before: "[T]he further he traveled from his point of origin, she said, the closer he came to achieving greatness. [. . . ]Even now, he still talks about the trees as his greatest accomplishment. Better than his films, she says, better than anything else he’s ever done." In this reading of Hector’s life, based on the interpretation of "Mr. Nobody," Hector is the only voice that matters; even without an audience, he can still attain greatness.However, a later film, "The Inner Life of Martin Frost," questions this notion that artists can attain greatness without sharing their work with others. In this movie, which Hector made after his disappearance with the promise it would never be released to an audience, is different from his earlier work: it is serious, not a comedy, and Hector does not act in it. In the movie, Martin Frost, a writer, must destroy his work to save the life of his girlfriend Claire. After she is brought back to life and realizes what has happened, she erupts in tears, asking Martin if he realizes what’s he done and desperately wondering what they are going to do now. The movie ends ambiguously with her questions and no answers from Martin. Similarly, after Hector’s death, his wife Frieda destroys everything – his movies, his journals, and even the manuscript of a biography his friend Alma had been working on for seven years – in a "precise reenactment of the final scene of Martin Frost." Pondering Frieda’s actions, David thinks about Hector’s sacrifice of "the one thing that would have given his work meaning – the pleasure of sharing it with others," but then realizes that, in Frieda’s mind, "It was about making something in order to destroy it. That was the work, and until all evidence of the work had been destroyed, the work would not exist. It would come into being only at the moment of its annihilation." In Frieda’s interpretation, work was not created for others; in fact, sharing Hector’s work with others would cause it to lose its meaning. However, ultimately, both of Auster’s protagonists – David Zimmer and Hector Mann – seem to repudiate Frieda and believe that Hector’s work does not lose meaning if it is shared with others. When Alma had first told David about her biography of Hector, he was initially skeptical: "It’s one thing to unburden himself to you, but a book is for the world, and as soon as he tells his story to the world, his life becomes meaningless." In other words, a book exists not for the author or subject but for readers, and by sharing himself with them, Hector could lose himself. He would exist as they saw him, and not as he really was – their illusions of him would become reality. When David questions Hector about why he would want to give himself away like that, Hector answers, "Why should it bother me to turn myself into an example for others? [. . . .] You laughed, Zimmer. Perhaps others will begin to laugh with you." These words – the last Hector speaks in the book – show his realization of the positive impact his work can have on others, as he comes to the conclusion that his earlier films, if they made David laugh, were "perhaps the greatest good" he had done. David ultimately seems to embrace Hector’s viewpoint, hoping that others will laugh with him, as he takes pleasure when Hector’s silent comedies are put out on video and becomes an honorary member of a fan club, the International Brotherhood of Hector Manniacs. Most of all, he hopes that someday the lost films of Hector Mann – the ones that Frieda destroyed – will be found somehow so others can enjoy them like he did, "and the story will start all over again. I live with that hope." In order to have meaning, Hector’s films must be shared with others. Unlike Frieda, David believes that Hector’s films should be shared with the world. Although he provides confusing answers throughout "The Book of Illusions," first suggesting that Hector’s greatness can be achieved on his own, ultimately Auster seems to conclude that Hector’s works only become important when they are shared and experienced by others. Like the confusing answers to the question of the movie that nobody sees, "The Book of Illusions" is full of other confusing themes and contradictions. For example, one major theme of the book is the effect of chance and how small circumstances can have a significant impact on our lives. However, while there are some small circumstances which impact the action in the book, for the most part, the major events are more like contrived and implausible plot devices – an ex-girlfriend killed by a current girlfriend, a wife and two sons lost in a plane crash, David held at gunpoint so that he will watch a movie, a tough fall resulting in another death, a suicide, a possible murder. Are these really "small circumstances" of chance? Moreover, while this issue of fate is explored in depth like the meaning of one’s work, the two themes are never tied together. In Auster’s telling, both Hector and David cope with loss by turning to art but they are not reborn again except through accidents of fate, so that the one seemingly resolved idea in the book – the issue of the movie nobody hears – becomes irrelevant compared to the greater themes of fate and rebirth. The interplay between the various themes is never explored, and it is easy to get confused as all of these ideas are presented, but are often contradicted and never fully resolved, leading a reader to ponder the 2001 Atlantic Monthly article’s criticism of Paul Auster: "[He] knows the prime rule of pseudo-intellectual writing: the harder it is to be pinned down on any idea, the easier it is to conceal that one has no ideas at all." In light of the questions asked in "The Book of Illusions," it is easy to wonder: if an author throws out a lot of different ideas but never resolves them, so that readers can’t understand what those ideas are, do the ideas actually exist?Matias
Magnífica. Después de un comienzo un tanto irregular (para mi gusto) la historia de David Zimmer me ha conquistado. Se trata de una novela que da la impresión de tener infinito trabajo detrás, de una complejidad técnica con la que la mayoría de escritores no pueden ni soñar; y que Paul Auster ofrece estructuralmente impecable y escrita en primera persona. Insisto en que sobretodo me ha impresionado el dominio del autor, la extensísima exhibición de recursos literarios, es la obra de un experto.Por otro lado, en cuanto a esencia, al valor artístico de la obra; no es sobresaliente. Me ha parecido que, como la mayoría de escritores así de prolíficos, cautiva a chispazos (de genialidad) pero que el conjunto de la obra aún dista de serlo. La cita:Nunca más perdido que ahora, nunca tan solo y tan inquieto; pero nunca tan vivo. Ahora sólo hablo con los muertos. Sólo en ellos confío, son los únicos que me comprenden. Como ellos, vivo sin futuro.Paul Frandano
Commentary on books is inevitably personal, inevitably an opinion, inevitably a matter of personal taste. Consequently, we must translate, with fixed conviction, commentary that includes phrases like "a must read" or "burn this book" to mean "if you're an absolute duplicate of me, you must read this book, because you will surely be mightily entertained." I say this because, when I love an individual novel (or movie or painting or poem or work of non-fiction, etc.), I'm generally curious about the views of those who are affected in precisely the opposite direction, who hate the work at hand. I don't want my comments here to fall into the "review of reviews" category, but I generally feel compelled to give an account of the kinds of things I generally like, or at least somehow convey a glimpse of my own personal tastes, simply for context. (This admittedly winds up expending too much effort to create an essentially mnemonic document: who really reads these things on goodreads? I like having some small record of what I read and how I felt about it at the time.)In any event, since first reading City of Glass in 1986 - I remember the precise moment at which a friend and colleague handed me the book, at work, around midnight, commenting "You'll like this" - I've been in the tank for Paul Auster. I lost continuity near the end of the millennium but I've read 11 of his 15 novels and am now in the process of reading the remainder. And what The Book of Illusions reminded me of was all the things I love about an Auster novel (and what, I'm surprised to learn, lapsed Auster devotees seem to detest as his deadening "sameness"): above all, the steady focus on chance and coincidence - which, far more than merely favored literary device, seem (in reality, not just fiction) to rule all human life (call it "path dependence" filtered through "risk assessment" or "randomness" or "complexity") - but also the embedded wisps of philosophic systems, the Rashomon-like unreliability of sense impressions and memory, the management of disappointment, the nesting of stories within stories in a variety of narrative schemes that quietly point, despite chance and coincidence, to "everything is connected" without making that fact an occasion for robust bellowings of "Kumbaya," central characters who seem very like the author (perhaps a disorder of Newark novelists) and whose very (fictional) existence panders to the hyperliterate. And so much more. For me, this is simply writing for grownups who have read other grownup books and who won't be very much troubled by literary affectation, particularly of the unostentatious variety.Above all, however, Paul Auster writes beautifully, with a command of his native language but with resonances of Romance languages that you'd expect from a master translator. The Auster voice is absolutely unique. I remember thinking as I read City of Glass that "even the prose is crystalline." Precisely wrought, beautifully shaped sentences that bear down on the whole. A painterly eye and brush-stroke by brush-stroke descriptions, sometimes down to exquisitely fine granularity, a brush of a single hair. Unconventional narrative structures that nevertheless fit the pieces together nicely. Characters that interest me, that are thought through in detail, who often think "aloud" and tip me, sometimes accurately, sometimes misleadingly. And very often - and in this novel, throughout, in my view - a sense of narrative as diaphanous, floating dream, like film frames projected on a screen, creations wholly of light and hence ephemeral. Part of this Auster does in variations on the Berkeleyan tree falling in a forest devoid of human presence - "does it make a sound?" (Earlier in his writing career, Auster might simply have tried to puzzle the reader with incongruities: The New York Trilogy was filled with now-you-see-it/now-you-don't forms of ambiguity that are treated in The Book of Illusions are treated more straightforwardly and, for the reader, less disjunctively.) Even most of those erstwhile Austerites whose interest flagged after the first 60 or so pages were admittedly hooked by the power of the opening. For me, the central narrative elements - the grieving, thoughtful, nearly self-destructive lit professor coincidentally "saved" by late-night TV and a brief mention, with movie clip, of Hector Mann, an obscure silent film comedian who, it was said, might have ranked with Chaplin, Keaton, and Lloyd but for the the coming of sound and his abrupt disappearance, without a trace - are both pure Auster and purely pleasure, the slow squeeze exerted by an intriguing, naturally gripping yarn. Then the surprising letter, the appearance of Alma, the filling in of backstories, subtexts, etc., and on to the delayed payoffs, perfectly prepared, partly easily, but surely not wholly, anticipatable (crediting the reader for her perceptiveness), and on to a final paragraph of narrative significance and not a mere peroration.Consequently, I put myself squarely in the camp of those who viewed The Book of Illusions as the finest example yet of Paul Auster's art. I'm looking forward to the rest.Jill
By reading this book I have become a die-hard Auster fan. The man is amazing. So clever, so imaginitive, so poetic and almost profound. This book rambles, and in doing so touches on so many intertwined narratives that one almost gives up on what was assumed to be the original plot and assumes the opening catch phrase was just another Paul Auster smoke screen story line. But this one, even in creating such an intricatedly woven network of a character experiences, never looses sight of its ultimate goal - to explain how the supposed disapearance of a silent film actor affected the life of a professor and widower from Detroit. The world created in this book is done with such care and is so full of unexpected and tangential details that I found myself wondering if I wasn't perhaps reading a work of historical fiction rather than just a plain old novel. It's an amazingly well crafted narrative, heartwrenching and hopeful at the same time. A man's life is an illusion to all except those who share in it.Patrick Karamazov
I swear to God, if I have to read another book about a writer. Or a book about a professor. Or a book about a writing professor who also writes books. Goddamn. I know you have to write what you know. But most of these damn writers went to college, became professors, and apparantally became writers. And so all these damn books are about developing writers who are going to college, or established writers who teach at a college, or former professors who quit their jobs to write a book. Can you bastards be any more transparent?Fuck me if the history of Western literature is just a history of college professors and their whiny ass lives.I mean, I know that regardless of the actual material of novel, if it's really a great novel the underlying and overarching themes will transcend the actual subject matter. Like, I don't know. Sophie's Choice. There's a good book that happens to be by a writer and his main protagonist also just happens to be a developing writer. Lolita. There's another one by a writer/professor who happens to make his main protagonist a writer/professor. And that's a classic book.The Book of Illusions is not a classic novel. It's just a dumb book by a writer/professor and his main protagonist is actually a writer/professor too.Ricardo Alfonso
Were it not for the erudite hand of Paul Auster, an author who I generally admire, this book probably would have received one star. However, by pure virtue of being Paul Auster and therefore writing in the style of Paul Auster, this book is spared my total derision and instead promoted to measured satisfaction.It is hard to say what this book is about, as even the self-referencing title suggests. It's about a man named David Zimmer, whose entire family died in a plane accident. It's about a man named Hector Mann, a silent movie star who mysteriously disappeared. It's about a woman named Alma Grund, who serves as the mediator between the previous two individuals. It's seemingly a book about people and their many different identities. The autobiography of Chateaubriand within the narrative serves as an interesting parallel to the overarching themes of the story. While it's certainly interesting to witness all these different people bend and morph as they attempt to adapt to their environments, the totality of the idea is never fully realized. I can't say much without spoiling key parts of the novel, but I could never truly get a handle on the characters' psychology. To put it a certain way, once I thought I understood Zimmer, the Nietzschean universe throws a fastball and Zimmer transmogrifies into a new human being without any logical change of progression. Ice melting into water, I can understand, but ice immediately sublimating into vapor? That requires a serious explanation that is never received. Don't even get me started on the absurdist paradox that is Frieda Spelling.All this would be infinitely more bearable if there were a unified narrative to comprehend it in. Instead, we are given a story within a story within a story within a story. The only thread that remains intact throughout the entire novel is that of the story of Hector Mann. The others are merely interspersed in random intervals so that they can say their thing and quickly evaporate. For example, the first chapter is devoted to David Zimmer's family tragedy and his subsequent coping mechanisms. After that chapter, though, we never hear of this again. At least, not directly. While I sense that this is a purposeful direction on Auster's part, seeing as how the book itself resembles a sole entity with multiple different "lives," it is still rather daunting to keep up with.The only other real complaint I have is the pacing. The first half of the novel drags on for far too long, while the second half of the novel seems to rush through events without rest, though that could mostly be due to the juxtaposition with the first half. It's actually safe to say that the actual story doesn't really begin until page 150 or so. The last chapter, especially, is very head-scratching in its unpalatable excuse for a resolution.The positives are all due to Auster's style. He is above all an excellent writer, and when he sits down to meditate on the fragility of self or the "Death of the Author," it's all very poignant and refreshing. His decision to remove quotation marks from all dialogue, a choice I found jarring at first, slowly grew on me until I found myself rather enjoying it. His ability to engross me in the minutiae of the novel are all to his credit, and what little I do learn from this novel doesn't go unappreciated.If you've read a lot of Paul Auster novels, or if you crave a literary experience to share with those around you, you won't be experiencing anything new with this one. However, if you care more for the art of the craft rather than the functionality, this one is definitely worth checking out.Carl
A few of my favorite things: smart men, secret lives, cinema, facial scars, multi-layered mystery, artistic masterpieces unveiled, itchy sexual tension...I can't love this book any more. One of my favorite books ever.John
I've given this four stars as it's closer to that than three.This book put me in mind of the last Auster novel I read, Leviathan - parts of it are wonderful but sometimes whole sections really detract from the overall effect. The parts of the story detailing the 'star' of the book, a long-forgotten silent film star - are brilliant - less so the overly dramatic (but oddly unemotional) build-up to the narrator's trip out to meet the man himself. Auster's narrative voice is very unusual - the quietest, stillest voice I've ever read of any writer, and when it works, it really is special. But on occasion the characters are univolving and huge dumps of info concerning characters sometimes feel like they exist in lieu of plot. For all this though, Auster's an utterly fascinating writer (how the Blue Stone Ranch got it's name in the book is so ridiculous it should never work - instead, it works beautifully) and most - if not all - of the time you end up marveling at how he does what he does.Michael
Paul Auster needs to stop. Now. In the beginning (starting with The New York Trilogy) his work was an interesting theoretical experiment. As of late he's become a caricature of himself. I'm tempted to accuse him of plagiarizing the Paul Auster of 20 years ago. The transcription of that court case would be like a general survey of his career and what he still insists on doing in his literature. The prosecution (Paul Auster) would convince the jury that the defense (Paul Austen, probably under a pseudonym) has committed some innate crime against human nature dealing with identity and structuralism. The judge (Paul Auster) would find everyone equally guilty and sentence them to a contrived, irrational suicide.Auster has taken an interesting device for writing a single novel, and made it into his theory of literature.An almost ridiculously funny book.David
This one was a weird one for me, precisely for how unweird it was. The only other fiction I'd read for Auster was "The New York Trilogy," and one thing I didn't expect after that was pretty straight realism. It's really well done. The story is very creative and entertaining, the characters are strong, and the emotion is tangible. It just felt so odd because I expected it to get odd at any moment, and it was never going to and had never said it would.Gustavo
Como en algunas otras de sus novelas, Auster nos ofrece un personaje cuya vida da un giro inesperado. En este caso, luego de que el protagonista, David Zimmer, escribe la biografía de un oscuro actor de los años 20, recibe la visita de una mujer que lo obliga a viajar con ella. En ese viaje nos adentraremos en su propia vida y en la de Hector Mann, el actor de cine mudo. Auster es un hábil narrador, capaz de crear fábulas sobre la existencia, con un estilo que mezcla al novelista clásico con el novelista contemporáneo.Erik
Paul Auster, you bastard!The man writes such depressing stuff. As with the other Auster I've read (I know I've only read 2 Austers, I am such a failure at being pretentious), I finished this and I was like... what, why did I read this?To explain myself I should say that I follow the Roger Ebert school of criticism. Roger Ebert cares more about how a movie makes him feel than on its technical merits. Granted, this is rather less valid in the medium of words on a page than the sound and fury of film, but I still stick to it. I have no problem trashing Plath's Bell-jar, regardless of its supposed literary merit or historical significance, because it bored and annoyed me.But getting to the point of this book, let me break it down for you literary thugs: there is a man whose family dies in an accident. He is depressed, but then he sees a silent comedy on TV and laughs for the first time in long while. He then decides to write about the star of this silent comedy, a man named Hector Mann. In the course of this, he finds out that Hector Mann disappeared, but he may actually still be alive!!! Stuff ensues, there are some themes brought up, there's some angst, there's some sex, you know the drill. And don't worry none of that's spoiler material, all on the first page basically.Worth reading for a few pieces of stellar writing. I was particularly impressed by how Auster writes about a film that doesn't actually exist. I bought into it, I was convinced. It's a story within a story (within a story within a story ad nauseam), and it's true that the inner stories are better told than the outer ones. I'm cool with that.In summary, though: "Paul Auster, you bastard!" is my review. If you likewise enjoy calling famous authors bastards, then I recommend this book to you highly.As a side note, a result of this novel, I had to add a new shelf called "bepretentious." Just read some of the other, actually useful reviews and you'll see what I mean.