Written under the text-and-celluloid spell cast by its predecessor, “The Book of Illusions.” In 1982, novelist Sidney Orr buys a blue notebook from a Chinese merchant in a Brooklyn stationer’s shop. You know you’re in the State of Auster when the merchant can’t distinguish between “Orr” and “or.”
We then meet novelist John Trause, who has urged struggling Sidney to write a book based on a scene from “The Maltese Falcon.” This Orr does (or so he says), imagining a 1920s character who gets a manuscript “by the suggestive title of Oracle Night.” Suggestive indeed. Auster treats linear time like so much gristle, lopping from the edges at will. He spews “scientific,” author-friendly data only to corrupt it. He makes up ghosts from his own fairy tales. Now, that’s entertainment.