[(review date September/October 2002) In the following review, Evans admires Auster's passion for philosophical inquiry, language, and the narrative form in The Book of Illusions.]
David Zimmer is shattered, on the eve of his tenth wedding anniversary, his wife and two young sons are killed in a plane crash, plunging him into despair. "I remember very little of what happened to me that summer," he recounts. "For several months, I lived in a blur of alcoholic grief and self-pity, rarely stirring from the house, rarely bothering to eat or shave or change my clothes. ... whenever any of my friends came around. I always invited them in, but their tearful embraces and long, embarrassed silences didn't help. It was better to be left alone, I found, better to gut out the days in the darkness of my own head."
One night, however, while anesthetizing his hurt with television, he startles himself with a foreign sound--his own laugh. The laughter is provoked by Hector Mann, an obscure silent movie comedian whose last film was released in 1928. David resolves to seek out every film Hector made--somehow they might save his life.
From this gripping beginning emerges The Book of Illusions, Paul Auster's tenth novel and certainly his best. An indefatigable worker, Auster has written much: poems, memoirs, nonfiction, translations of French poetry and prose. He wrote screenplays for the ultrahip indie films Smoke and Blue in the Face, starring Harvey Keitel, and himself directed...