Here’s the thing: if you’ve been reading Paul Auster for a long time, you’re going to love Travels In the Scriptorium because it was written for you. Meaning, this little devil is so full of Easter eggs from Auster’s past works that longtime readers will have a field day.
Because I’ve read many of Auster’s works, it’s hard for me to disassociate what I’ve read before and look at Travels In the Scriptorium objectively as a stand-alone project. If I were going to recommend this book to new Auster readers, I would say it is once again a captivating story that makes expert use of metafiction. Auster often submits stories-within-stories in his writings, and Travels In the Scriptorium is no exception. Furthermore, Auster explores his classic themes of isolation, identity, and self-analysis.
To the experienced Auster fan, I would say that yes, while Auster once again presents a story-within-a-story, and while he once again delves into ideas of isolation and ambiguous identity, he does so in a fresh, enjoyable manner. I compare Auster’s talent to that of Michael Jordan. Sure, when Jordan played, there came a time when we’d seen most of it all before, yet we still couldn’t take our eyes off of him because he made each dunk, each three-pointer, and each cross-over a thing of beauty, something far and away better than anything anyone else could ever hope to do.
Such is Auster. I’ve read all of these themes before and seen most of the techniques, but he makes it all seem original with each new outing. Consequently, though I won’t spoil the book, Travels In the Scriptorium covers new metafictional ground for Auster, and I think if anyone deserves to try something like what occurs in this book, it’s Auster.
I wouldn’t recommend Travels In the Scriptorium as a first read for someone new to Auster, but to those loyal Auster fans, it was a real delight for reasons you’ll notice almost immediately.