Culture Rover

#3 - Film Novel, Novel Film

Paul Auster, The Book of Illusions

This 2002 novel moves over timeworn Auster terrain: the cluttered, concentrated urban intensity of New York; then, the romanticized, wide open spaces of the Western United States (with a bit of leafy New England thrown in this time); the injured, depressed male protagonist; the mysterious paternal figure with a secret past; the strong woman; the appearance of obscure literary texts.

We are in Moon Palace again, but this time the story is better -- full of feats of novelistic virtuosity. Most of all, the novel seems to incorporate Auster's work in the movies (Smoke, Blue In the Face, etc.) with his older archetypical storyline.

David Zimmer, a New England literature professor whose wife and two boys have perished in an airplane crash, turns to researching and writing a study of an obscure silent film comedian, Hector Mann, in an attempt to still the pain of his loss. Auster not only tells us Zimmer's story, and delves into Hector Mann's mysterious past and even stranger present, but he describes the old films of Hector Mann in rich detail. Auster creates comic shorts that could be long lost reels of Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton -- full not only of gags, but of all the brilliant warmth of those old comic masters.

Someone not only could make a great movie out of The Book of Illusions, they could make great films out of the shorts of Hector Mann.

30 May 2004

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