I have just finished Paul Auster’s “The Book of Illusions” and feel strangely compelled to share some literary impressions that have been building up over the last month of periodic reading. To begin with, it was a romping good story, full of fantastic moments and possibilities that only a creative genius like Auster can deliver in spades, so it is not tough-slogging to get it finished. Like a good meal, the journey here was meant to be pondered, savored, and enjoyed for all the incredible moments of juxtaposition and irony. So what is at the heart of this great experimental novel that comes with some manageable flaws? The tale starts with a tragedy and ends with one, with an incredible odyssey in between involving parallel worlds where two highly intelligent individuals – a university professor and cinematic comedian – are seemingly pursuing their own separate dreams in a very different time and space, that is until Auster very cleverly connects them through the medium of film. Zimmer, in the midst of trying to get his life back together after the loss of his wife and children, suddenly discovers some silent film produced by Hector Mann, whose wonderful simplicity and candid reality captures the poignancy of life. There is nothing in his art that is contrived or staged which is where the grieving Zimmer goes as he tries to remake his life by stripping it of all its layered memories. The rest of the story will be consumed with his journey into the past to find the creator of this artform in the hope that he finally determines the point of human intersection where art becomes life and everything makes sense. In other words, a lost world comes to life. What he will find is that Mann’s protracted narrative is more cautionary than illustrious or romantic. Dredge up the remnants of the past and you might find things you are quite prepared for that deserve to remain buried. Yes, you might happen to meet up with the providential presence of greatness from another era but it becomes one big momentary flight of fantasy that too often ends in death. The fact that Zimmer goes out into the loneliness of the New Mexico desert to meet his hero, who is dying, adds a dash of desperation to this race to the end. Fulfillment, at best, is a fleeting experience that comes only in briefly meeting the source of one’s inspiration as one transitions from the past to the future, still carrying its passions and illusions. This novel is worth a read for the sensitive and entertaining way it handles that strange passage.