Auster ( The Music of Chance ) captivatingly renews a theme central to his acclaimed New York Trilogy and Moon Palace --that of the other, the shadow self whose parallel life somehow jumps the track and threatens the more sober protagonist. After his valued friend and fellow writer Ben Sachs blows himself up with a bomb, Peter Aaron reviews their 15-year bond--including their shared love for Ben's lovely wife--and tries to reconstruct Ben's life. A boyhood experience in the Statue of Liberty haunted Ben until his transformation following a plunge from a fire escape at a drunken Fourth of July party in Brooklyn. After this fall, Ben stopped writing and became the ``Phantom of Liberty,'' detonating Statue of Liberty replicas as a sign to America to ``mend its ways.'' Peter's writing, on the other hand, surges ``as though I had caught fire.'' The novel explores the fictional act: the relation between conflicting stories and kinds of truth; the reading of an address book, a la Sophie Calle, as a fertile text jammed with mysterious characters; role-reversal as self-discovery, practiced by photographer Maria and prostitute Lillian, women friends intimately linked to Peter and Ben. Finally, Peter (and Auster) appropriates the title of Ben's abandoned novel, a title that evokes the biblical sea monster and, thanks to Hobbes, the state, implying that the novel is itself a monster genre that merges diverse humans, their nightmares and passions. 25,000 first printing; author tour. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/31/1992 Release date: 09/01/1992 Genre: Fiction
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