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.Gabriela
Reaching the chapter about the fall of Napoleon in the twenty-third book (misteries and wonders are twins, they are born together)...Expect the unexpected they say, but once the unexpected happens, the last thing you expect is that it will happen again.It sat in the car with us like a secret, like something that belonged to the domain of small rooms and nocturnal thoughts and must not to be exposed to the light of the day.I wouldn't be allowed to have a future until I returned to the past.Other people carried their humanity inside them, but I wore mine on my face. That was the difference between me and everyone else.I wasn't allowed to hide who I was.Guilt can cause a man to act against his own best interests, but desire can do that as well, and when guilty and desire are mixed up equally in a man's heart, that man is apt to do strange things.Her letter concluded: Faith has brought us together, my darling, and wherever I am now, you will always be with me.If I mean to save my life, then I have to come within an inch of destroying it.Kevin
I ... ah ... I was really enjoying this book for, well, for the majority of it. The only other Auster I've read was The New York Trilogy and he's definitely following some of the same patterns here, making stories full of strange parallels. I enjoy the predictive aspect of the whole thing, thinking, "So is this character's old story basically the blueprint for this other character's ongoing life, and which events will become the future, or which ones will we find out have already happened?"and then Auster turned the corner, saw that the end of the book was close in sight, said"(view spoiler)[Alright then, kill everyone off and burn the bodies (and all the films as well). Let's wrap this up by making sure nothing but the protagonist himself is left intact. (hide spoiler)]"and then dusted his hands.I mean maybe I should have seen it coming but it left me totally flat. Such a strange story with surreal undertones and then ... FIN. GOODBYE. HOPE YOU HAD A FUN RIDE.On this flight with Auster Airlines the trip was definitely more important than the destination.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>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.Blair
David Zimmer is a teacher and writer whose wife and two young sons have been killed in an aeroplane crash. At his lowest ebb, suicidal and alcoholic, David sees a silent film on television and laughs for the first time since the tragedy. Thereafter, he develops a fascination with the actor featured in the old movie, Hector Mann - a minor star of silent comedies who vanished in 1929 and was never seen or heard of again. Travelling around the world in order to visit the film archives containing Hector's few movies, David channels his obsession into a book about the actor's work. However, the story really begins some time after this, when David receives a mysterious letter containing some startling news about Hector.The Book of Illusions displays many characteristics of Auster's typical style, most noticeably the constant presence of symbolism, the perceived significance of art and the line between reality and (as the title suggests) illusion. Here, rather than the emphasis being on language and writing, the focus is on Hector's films and their visual impact, though of course the power of storytelling is still key. When David discovers that Hector made some films that were never seen by anyone else, he questions whether art has any importance if it is not shared with and experienced by an audience. David's ruminations are mirrored in various ways throughout the narrative - David withdraws from life, shuts himself away and becomes invisible, so it seems ironic that he becomes obsessed with a silent movie star; Hector makes a film called 'Mr. Nobody' in which he literally becomes invisible, and then, in his real life, he disappears; another character, Alma, is made more visible by a large birthmark on her face, yet she feels this gives her the ability to instantly see others' true characters through their reactions to her appearance.There are elements of the story that are, from a distance, completely implausible. The manner of David and Alma's first meeting is really quite ridiculous, and certainly unbelievable, as is the speedy development of their relationship. But I think this is where the genius of Auster's writing really lies, in suspending the reader's disbelief and immersing you so deeply into the story that these strange events seem believable. I can imagine that the book won't work for everyone - some may find the lengthy descriptions of unseen, nonexistent films dull (I really enjoyed them), and there's a curious... quietness about it all - a very subdued feel. This is not a deeply thrilling novel, more of a restrained but haunting little tale. On balance I think I personally prefer Oracle Night, but there is plenty to recommend this story, especially for fans of the author. (If you're not already acquainted with Auster, I'd still recommend The New York Trilogy as a primer.)Matthew
"Everyone has to be someplace." As aphorisms go, it is not much. Perhaps the punchline of an old joke. But Auster takes that premise on a wild ride. Along the way we get to know Hector Mann, an unknown genius of silent film comedies, a mann of indeterminate past, present and future. A native of Sandusky, Ohio, Argentina or Stanislaw, outside of Lodz, Poland, a debonair ladies man with a deep Spanish accent, a secret Jew in early Hollywood, or a luckless everyman with sawdust on his trademark white suit, Mann is a cipher, a riddle behind a moustache, an enigma in life and like so much else, ultimately an enigma after death. What happened to him after the end of shooting on Mr. Nobody, his last feature film in which the protagonist swallows a chemical formula that makes him invisible? As Auster repeatedly makes clear, much of life is up to chance occurances and random coincidences. What if rather than being subject to all of life's whim and caprices, you viewed torment, tragedy, loss and love as colors on your pallet to be used as you see fit to paint the picture you want? What if you had the eye of a true artist and spent years in solitude perfecting your art? What if your medium was not the canvas but celluloid and silence? Silent film captures, like no other medium, the authenticity, the kinestheic art of humann (e)motion in in all its pathos and purity. What would you call the work of your entire life, rendered in film that no one will ever see but you? The Inner Life of Mr. Nobody, Memoirs of a Dead Mann, Stories from Beyond the Grave, Twice Told Tales, ... or simply, The Book of Illusions.Khaoula
This was a very interesting book. To see a man losing everything and going into a sort of trance, completely losing himself as well. And find it again (or at least some of it) and then lose it one more time.This is the first Paul Auster book that I've read, and I definitely feel like diving into more of his books. Throughout the whole book, you can't help but sympathise with David throughout his tragedy. And then the story takes an interesting turn where it reveals the past of Hector Mann, a comedian who disappeared a long time ago.It's a very good read. I highly recommend it.Isabel Maia
“Todos acreditavam que estava morto.”. Até David Zimmer, o personagem principal deste livro, achava que Hector Mann estava morto. Zimmer é um professor de Literatura Comparada numa Univerdade no Vermont, EUA. Com a morte da família num trágico acidente, o professor entra numa espiral de dor e depressão que este expia através da escrita de um livro sobre Hector Mann, um actor de segunda linha de filmes cómicos mudos. Terminado esse projecto, embrenha-se noutro numa tentativa de não pensar no passado ou até mesmo ficar dormente face à realidade. Essa dormência é quebrada por uma carta enviada por uma tal Frieda Spelling que o convidava a visitar o Blue Stone Ranch, no estado do Novo México, pois Hector Mann tinha lido o seu livro e gostaria muito de o conhecer. E é na vida de Hector que entramos, uma vida onde a fronteira entre o real e a ilusão, a verdade e a mentira, a comédia e a tragédia parece não existir. Uma vida que vai muito para além da magia do cinema.Julgo que a grande maioria dos meus leitores se vai identificar com a realidade que vou apresentar. Ler um determinado livro enquanto estudante e enquanto leitor recreativo é uma experiência completamente diferente. Na escola andamos à procura de figuras de estilo, de tipos de narrador, etc. e tal. O leitor recreativo lê o livro pelo enredo, pelo prazer em conhecer aquela história que o autor ali nos apresenta. Fazendo uso a uma referência a “Numa noite de Inverno um viajante” de Italo Calvino, é bem mais divertido ser-se Ludmilla a ser-se Lotária (para perceber a diferença, é ler o livro se faz favor). Mas deixo-me de divagações e passo ao cerne da questão, ou seja, este livro. Durante uma boa parte da leitura deste “Livros das Ilusões”, o leitor parece que está realmente sentado numa sala de cinema a ver filmes, tal é a minúcia na descrição das cenas dos filmes de Hector Mann. Aliás, todos os momentos descritivos são caracterizados por essa mesma minúcia. Mas ao contrário do que pode parecer, não é um livro maçador. Muito pelo contrário, salvo uma pequena excepção. É uma narrativa muito fluída e com um vocabulário acessível. A excepção de que falo prende-se com o capítulo onde se conta a vida pessoal de Hector Mann. Para mim é demasiado longo, são cerca de 70 páginas onde personagens e cidade aparecem em catadupa e aí sim, torna-se cansativo para o leitor. Se o autor tivesse introduzido uma pequena pausa que não perturbasse em demasia o ritmo narrativo, isso permitiria ao leitor um espaço de manobra para respirar. Mas isso é apenas uma pequena turbulência num voo tão aprazível por entre as suas páginas. Voo esse onde não é necessário recorrer a Xanax. Em suma, uma história bem contada que agradará a muitos.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.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.Laura
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.Juliette Straub
The Book of IllusionsPaul Auster321Dark Fiction9.0The Book of Illusions is about a man named David Zimmer. His wife and kids died in a plane crash recently and he is on a spiral downwards. He is on leave from work and uses all of his money on alcohol and bad movies. While on leave from work he gets a huge sum of money from the life insurance he had on his family. He decides to give a portion of it away and finds other ways to use the rest. During one of his many drunk couch potato sessions he comes upon a series of two-reel comedy sketches made by the mysteriously disappeared Hector Mann. David throws himself into discovering everything he can about Hector and decides to write a book about his films and what they show people. He uses another portion of his money to fly himself all over the US and to Paris, London and many other cities where a copy of the films (12 films in all) are kept. He spends months studying the films and then many more writing the book. About a year after it was written he receives a letter, from the wife of Hector Mann, saying Hector wishes to meet him.The conflicts of this book are mostly David’s inner conflicts such as being able to move on from his family’s death, finding new love, getting to a place where he can be stable etc. The more outward problems include getting to Hector before he dies, whether or not Hector is still alive, and whether or not being with Alma is okay. The climax of this book is when David decides he is going to go with Alma (a close friend of Hector’s family) and meet Hector. On their way to the airport and on the plane and on the way to Hector’s house David learns about Hector’s whole life. He learns about who he loved growing up, where he was born, what he did after he “disappeared”, why he chose to “disappear” and much more. He also learns that he has feelings for Alma, and that maybe he can be okay now that he has lost his family. The resolution is the final end of David’s circle but the start of a new one. Alma commits suicide after accidentally killing her mother when pushing her too hard. Hector’s sickness overtakes him and he passes away quietly. Leaving in his will that he wants every one of his films destroyed, so no one will discover anymore about him, he wishes to disappear from the world forever. I think that David is really similar to Holden. Though he doesn’t see himself as an inferior to others he is in the same pain. Both lost their family but handled it in different ways. Holden takes it out on everyone around him while David kept to himself and let himself get swallowed in his pain. Both lost their close family and it affects the choices they make in their day-to-day lives. For Holden and David it means pushing others away and masking their pain in (for David) alcohol and darkness (literally no light). For Holden it’s cynicism and closing himself off from the world. This shows that the human experience is really messed up when it comes to loosing people. People loose friends because of fights and school changes and what not every day, which leaves them a bit hurt, or distraught, but not much more and they eventually move on. Except when you loose a family member or a close friend to illness or an accident or something intentional you really fall apart. It leaves you with what J.K. Rowling calls a casual vacancy. It’s basically a hole left in every aspect of life. Figuratively in your heart, emotionally your every day life and literally in the fact that someone you cared for and was very dear to you is gone. I know that when my grandpa died it left a whole in my heart. I was sad for months knowing I would never get to see him again. It felt that he was disappearing in everything I did. Just like with David, he felt his family slipping away from him and couldn’t deal with feeling as though the loss he had already suffered through when they had died was doubling now that they were completely gone with what was left of them.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.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?