Bookslut explains why this particular book is even more obscure than Auster's usual fare:
Everyone hates clip shows -- those TV shows that feature clips of old episodes . . . So what are we to make of Paul Auster? His 13th novel, Travels in the Scriptorium, sounds suspiciously like a literary clip show: an abbreviated frame tale populated with characters from his previous books. . . .
So Travels in the Scriptorium is really two books: one for Auster fans and one for everybody else. If you fall into the first group, you’re in luck. You now have a treasure hunt on your hands. You might as well grab a pen, as Mr. Blank does, and start writing down names as if you were reading Encyclopedia Brown. Here, I did some work for you:
Page 28: Mr. Blank is asked to wear white clothes at the request of Peter Stillman, Jr. (City of Glass).
Page 79: Mr. Blank receives a phone call from his doctor, Samuel Farr (The Country of Last Things).
Page 88: Dr. Farr tells Mr. Blank that the manuscript he has been reading was written by John Trause (Oracle Night). . .
There is also Auster’s distracting over-description (“He savors the bulk and softness of Sophie’s somewhat pendulous but noble mammaries”) and questionable slang (“two shakes of a cat”). Careful reading is necessary to acquit some phrases; a tautology like “the word all is an absolute term” becomes acceptable only if one remembers its pair, “the word old is a flexible term,” 23 pages back. . . .
for fans only.
In short, this book, already containing literal masturbation, also has plenty of the intellectual kind.