THE BOOK OF ILLUSIONS
Hector Mann was a silent-film star billed as ”Senor Slapstick” and distinguished by a mischievous mustache. In 1929, he disappeared. In 1986, David Zimmer, a professor immersed in self-pity since his family died in a plane crash, happens across a clip of a Mann film, laughs, and decides to publish a study of Mann’s work. Then he gets a letter asking if he’d like to meet the Mann himself. The novel is a sterile variation on Auster’s familiar theme of erased existences, and the writing is slack. Must Mann live in a town called Tierra del Sueno — Land of Dreams? Why do characters know things ”beyond any shadow of a doubt”? Is there any coincidence in this book Auster doesn’t inflate into an Act of Fate?