cover image The Forgetting Room

The Forgetting Room

Nick Bantock. HarperAudio, $22 (112pp) ISBN 978-0-00-225176-1

Bantock's (Griffin and Sabine) mastery of the illustrated fable wears thin in this latest effort. Here, the illustrations, though sumptuously reproduced, are darkly surreal and not especially inviting. Moreover, they are not as integral to the plot as in his earlier books. And the story itself is ponderous and less than engaging, despite its attempts at cosmic seriousness. It purports to be the journal of Armon Hurt, a Chicago bookbinder who inherits his grandfather's house in the picturesque village of Rondo, Spain. The grandfather, Rafael Hurtago, with whom Armon once had a close relationship, was an artist who loved magic. Armon's father, however, who changed the family name when he came to America, was a distant man who was obviously the source of Armon's anomie. Rafael, it turns out, had left a series of puzzles for Armon to solve, beginning with a tiny surrealist painting and a ""kafkaesque game.'' As Armon slowly deciphers his grandfather's conundrums, he himself is moved to do a painting--which readers can watch develop--and in doing so he discovers his creative identity. While Bantock's way with riddles is as intriguing as ever, Armon often solves the puzzles too easily, by stumbling on an obscure clue or by chance. And the book's feel-good message ultimately has the ring of told-again truths. 125,000 first printing; $120,000 ad/promo. (Oct.)