Monday, May 30, 2011

Book Review: Travels in the Scriptorium by Paul Auster

Photo taken from Goodreads

Book Info
Title:  Travels in the Scriptorium
Author:  Paul Auster
Publisher:  Henry Holt and Co.
Language: English
Format:  Hardcover
Pages:  145 pages
ISBN - 10:  0805081453
ISBN - 13:  978-0805081459
Source:  Purchased, Book Sale


From Goodreads
"An old man awakens, disoriented, in an unfamiliar chamber. With no memory of who he is or how he has arrived there, he pores over the relics on the desk, examining the circumstances of his confinement and searching his own hazy mind for clues. Both chilling and poignant, Travels in the Scriptorium is vintage Auster: mysterious texts, fluid identities, a hidden past, and, somewhere, an obscure tormentor. And yet, as we discover during one day in the life of the man--identified only as Mr. Blank--his world is not so different from our own."

Travels in the Scriptorium by Paul Auster left me hanging, speechless, and confused.  It's a story about an old man who wakes up and finds himself in a strange room, not remembering how he even got there in the  first place.  He almost could not remember anything about himself, his past, and why he was in the room.  As he tries to work out the how, what, and why, a camera is revealed to be watching his every move.  I thought it would be something action-packed, a suspense thriller.  So how the novel turned out was pretty surprising - and that is not entirely a good thing.

Needing answers, I searched some more about this novel and found that this was a book whose characters were from Auster's other books, as well as some future works.  That was when understanding dawned on me:  This story is partly autobiographical, I wish I could say more about this concept but it would ruin the suspense.  Now, if this was not my first Auster read, I probably would have gotten it straight away.  Therefore, advice to readers:  Read this if you have already read other books by Paul Auster; if you have some on your TBR, bump them up and make sure to read them first before this book.

So confusion and subsequent enlightenment aside, the story was strangely engaging as Mr. Blank, the protagonist, struggled with his memory, read a report of a man on a mission, and pieced together said report's missing ending.  A story within a story, the characters were equally intriguing and charismatic, although they seem more caricatures than real people - which is exactly what drew me to them, because they did not seem real, and never tried to be.

The writing style was very unique as Auster approached the narration as if watching from a surveillance camera.  The reader, as if a voyeur, witnesses Mr. Blank's constant battle  with his forgetfulness, the mystery of his room, as well as the bigger mystery of the people who calls and visits him during the day.  The only knowledge that the reader is privy to without having to resort to monitoring him through the hidden camera and bugs is the old man's thoughts, which the narrator slips surreptitiously into the story.

I really regret not having read any of Auster's novels before, as he seemed to write very interesting and unique stories, and as it would help me get in on the joke way before I even finished reading this.  In a way, it was funny to read something like Travels in the Scriptorium and find some very familiar names that you were introduced to and are now haunting you in this book.

If you have any questions on this particular rating, please refer to my ratings system here.


All opinions expressed in this book review are my own and not influenced by any party in any way.

Please contact me for questions, comments, and suggestions.  

1 comment:

  1. I'm a big Paul Auster fan but haven't read this one yet. I've got to say that he really has a niche way of writing. If you would like to read Paul Auster's other books, may I recommend The Book of Illusions, Sunset Park, The Brooklyn Follies, Oracle Night or Invisible.


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