Paul Auster’s New York Trilogy was a revelation to me: literary puzzles examining the nature of fiction-writing; an intellectual meta-fiction that turned the hard-boiled detective genre on its head. Those three novels featured characters with cryptic names—Blue, Black, White—and action taking place in mysterious, almost abstract settings: a locked room; the inside of a blocked writer’s head; the grid-like labyrinth of New York City at night. Auster has claimed this oddly compelling literary terrain as his very own, and Travels in the Scriptorium (Henry Holt), his thirteenth novel, is very much in the same vein as its predecessors. The story opens with an old man—we later learn his name is Mr. Blank—sitting by himself in an apartment. Everything around him bears a white strip of tape with block lettering: the table is labelled TABLE, the lamp LAMP, the wall WALL and so on. He does not know who or where he is, and has no memory of his past. Over the course of 145 pages, we—and he—try to make sense of these surroundings, as Mr. Blank is visited by a string of characters who treat him with a mix of anger and affection. One accuses Mr. Blank of ruining his life: “I walk around the world like a ghost, and sometimes I question whether I even exist.” Fans of Auster’s work—and we are legion—will welcome Travels in the Scriptorium, even as they wonder whether Auster’s themes are not now becoming a bit too onanistic.