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The Book of Illusions: A Novel

3.89 of 5 stars 3.89  ·  rating details  ·  13,411 ratings  ·  733 reviews
A man's obsession with a silent-film star sends him on a journey into a shadow world of lies, illusions, and unexpected love

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 los
ebook, 336 pages
Published October 27th 2009 by Henry Holt and Co. (first published 2002)
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Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
Rating: one furious, disgusted star of however many stars there are in a galaxy

I've never been fond of pompous writing, the kind that checks its look in the mirror of acclaim and piles on the self-satisfied smirking smugness that makes me want to torch all the MFA schools I can reach.

My review, which I've moved to my blog, says that and more. Apparently the hoi polloi slithering in from the Internet's more sanctimonious quarters don't agree with me, therefore I must be wrong.
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 fi
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 ultimat ...more

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, Hecto
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 He ...more
May 28, 2007 Doug rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: someone who's stranded in an airport for 24 hours
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.
Vienna X
Feb 14, 2008 Vienna X rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Grief-striken wordsmiths and lovers of silent film trying to piece their lives back together
A surprising book that is riveting through to the final words. I say "surprising" because at first it's not clear as to what kind of book this is going to be. As with some of Auster's other work, the novel is told through a first-person narrator who happens to be a writer. We get long accounts of the book he is writing (about a silent filmmaker who went missing some years prior) and almost forget that there is a narrator involved, that we aren't reading a third-person account of this filmmaker's ...more
Oh Mr. Auster, what are we to do with you? This might have been the last book I end up reading by Paul Auster. It's been a nice ride, but I think he's run his course in my literary life. He's not doing anything great with language, though that's not really his "thing" anyway...he's more about playing with narrative and building pseudo-complex plots whose ideas aren't fully realized.

There was a lot in this novel that I found almost laughably cliche, but the bath tub sex scene towards the end sta
George Georgiadis
Μου θύμισε εκείνη τη φράση που ειπώθηκε δια στόματος Μάθιου Μακόναχι στην πρώτη σεζόν του True Detective: "To realize that all your life, all your love, all your hate, all your memories, all your pain, it was all the same thing. It was all the same dream, a dream that you had inside a locked room, a dream about being a person". Μεγάλος Auster και πάλι.
Feb 03, 2009 Michael rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Paul Auster
Recommended to Michael by: The library dollar bin
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 p ...more
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.
I LOVED this book! This is a story within a story within a story. It's no wonder why it's called "The Book of Illusions." What I like most out of it is that you can choose what is real and what is fantasy. Even if all the stories told within these pages are real (fictional real, I mean), it is still takes you on an amazing metaphysical journey. It is about a supposed "missing" silent film star, Hector Mann, who is presumed dead after so many years after his disappearance. We learn about him thro ...more
Professor David Zimmer's life is destroyed when his wife and two young sons are killed in a plane crash. He goes on a destructive binge of drinking and taking pills until he happens to see a documentary in which he is drawn to silent film comedian Hector Mann, who vanished around 1929 after a brief but promising film career. Zimmer begins to investigate the work of Hector Mann, an interest which becomes an obsession which takes him on a quest to see the 12 films which were mailed, anonymously, t ...more
I'm a bit torn about this book, which may be the last Auster I read after a year-long affair. It suffers from many flaws:

It generally reads, as someone writes below, like a self-parody. (You can't fault Paul Auster for trying to explore too many themes, too many kinds of characters, too many stages of life.)

It drags a lot in the middle. (Ross and I were taking turns reading this aloud to each other from his Nook and we just stopped at some point months ago. I finally picked it up on my own to
Mónica Mar
David Zimmer es un hombre sin familia. Su esposa y sus dos hijos murieron en un accidente de avión, y sus muertes han sumergido a David en un maremágnum de alcohol y desesperanza. Aislado en la cáscara de su hogar y rodeado de fantasmas, a David se le ha escapado el sentido de la vida. Pasa sus noches echado en un sofá frente al televisor, y es una de estas noches que, a través de un sopor etílico de rutina, ve la escena de una película muda de los años veinte. Del pecho de David sale el rumor d ...more
A strong 4.5, highly recommended, and an excellent borrow from my housemate. Clearly I should nick her stuff more often.
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 pass ...more
Chris Dietzel
While the quality of writing is typical Auster, the quality of story-telling is the weakest of his books that I've read. Parts of this were great and would have made for a terrific full-length book. Other parts left me disinterested and wishing the story would move along. Therein laid the problem: Auster never settled in to one story and, unlike his other books which are very linear, it felt like not even the author knew where this one was headed at times. Still an interesting read, but I would ...more
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 Chateaubriand

Opening 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 b
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 com
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.
I think I first became interested in this because I lovelovelove books where a character is obsessed with a filmmaker (see Flicker and Night Film - for any authors reading this, more like these pleaseandthankyou) and while this wasn't quite the same as those great books, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

David Zimmer is a man who has lost everything - his wife, his sons, his interest in a career and his interest in life. He randomly comes across a silent film by forgotten star Hector Mann and he feels som
An elegant book of Austerian (obviously) mystery and coincidence, penetrated by the ghostly aura of film, the ecstasy of encountering art, and the very real spectre of mortality. I read most of it the way Zimmer, in the book, encounters Mann's work, enraptured. In the last fifty pages or so, the book unfortunately starts to feel a bit clumsy, a bit hastily put-together, but the very end is as strong as the first two-thirds.

I'm not sure where I predict this will rank when Auster's complete oeuvr
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 quiet
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 bast ...more
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.

I'm fighting myself between giving this a 3 1/2 or a 4 star rating.
I had never heard of Paul Auster before when I happened to run across this book in my local book store. I was intrigued by the title and the synopsis on the back of the book seemed curious. It sat on my shelf for a little while and was always something I looked forward to reading out of curiosity. I decided to read it because it isn't a very thick book, I thought I was in for a quick read and I was looking for a little mystery.
I picked up this book because it was on the 1001 books list from 2006. I found this book both interesting and peculiar. It’s not one I would recommend. Honestly, I understand why it was dropped from said list in 2008.

There are moments of brilliance in the novel, and certainly, Auster knows how to turn a good phrase, but it was not enough. I thought some parts of the story were affectedly startling. (“Shock me, shock me, shock me, with that deviant behavior!”) So much so, that it really took away
Carl Brush
What a run. I was wondering a couple of months ago if I’d be able to get together a decent top ten for ’08, now I’ve got the wonderful task of maybe naming a top twelve or so and still counting.
The Latest wonder is Paul Auster’s Book of Illusions. Its action and storytelling is linear and straightforward; however, Illusions is nonetheless artful and complex. Oh, and by the way, I suddenly find myself with still another definition to add to my list of descriptions for Postmodernism. “Auster,” s
Juliette Straub
The Book of Illusions
Paul Auster
Dark Fiction

The 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 co
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The Book of Illusions by Paul Auster 15 59 Aug 01, 2014 01:19PM  
Boxall's 1001 Bo...: September {2008} Discussion -- THE BOOK OF ILLUSIONS by Paul Auster 25 219 Jun 11, 2009 08:40PM  
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Paul Auster is the bestselling author of Report from the Interior, Winter Journal, Sunset Park, Invisible, The Book of Illusions, and The New York Trilogy, among many other works. He has been awarded the Prince of Asturias Prize for Literature, the Prix Médicis Étranger, the Independent Spirit Award, and the Premio Napoli. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the American Ac ...more
More about Paul Auster...
The New York Trilogy The Brooklyn Follies Moon Palace Invisible Leviathan

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“We all want to believe in impossible things, I suppose, to persuade ourselves that miracles can happen.” 95 likes
“What matters is not how well you can avoid trouble, but how you cope with trouble when it comes.” 16 likes
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