Several months into his recovery from a near-fatal illness, thirty-four-year-old novelist Sidney Orr enters a stationery shop in the Cobble Hill section of Brooklyn and buys a blue notebook. It is September 18, 1982, and for the next nine days Orr will live under the spell of this blank book, trapped inside a world of eerie premonitions and bewildering events that threaten to destroy his marriage and undermine his faith in reality.
Why does his wife suddenly break down in tears in the backseat of a taxi just hours after Sidney begins writing in the notebook? Why does M.R. Chang, the owner of the stationery shop, precipitously shut down his business the next day? What are the connections between a 1938 Warsaw telephone directory and a lost novel in which the hero can predict the future? At what point does animosity explode into violence? To what degree is forgiveness the ultimate expression of love?
Paul Auster's mesmerizing eleventh novel reads like an old-fashioned ghost story. But there are no ghosts in this book -- only flesh-and-blood human beings, wandering through the haunted realms of everyday life. At once a meditation on the nature of time and a journey through the labyrinth of one man's imagination, Oracle Night is a narrative tour de force that confirms Auster's reputation as one of the boldest, most original writers at work in America today....Continua
Twisted, complex, introspective, chimerical.
Maybe too much.
I love this book. The ambiance is just right. With the only other example of the Brooklyn Follies coming to mind at the moment, I have to say that this is one of the few Auster novels that almost agrees with me in its entirety and frustrated me the least. Forget about the Book of Illusion. As macabre as I thought my reading taste was, I found the book of (dis)illusion unbearable, and I wonder why some hail it as Auster's masterpiece. It might be accomplished alright, just not to my liking.
I wouldn't say the Oracle Night was a lighthearted reading as well. Auster's openings were always a return (or a journey towards) from death, and this one was no exception. What with such a bleak manifesto by the protagonist Sidney Orr at the beginning, one inevitably recalls the likes of Brooklyn Follies, Man in the Dark, In the Country of Last things and the book of Illusion.
I read from the reviews by others that some are put off by the 'footnote' style of narration and the (as usual) story-without-a-closure in one of the subplots of the book. For me, however, I didnt have a problem with either of them. For the former, I guess that's how my mind always worked and, in the case of the latter, when _ was driven to the claustrophobic dead end as he was in, I found it just as well to leave it at that.
When all is said and done, I guess I would even say the Oracle Night is a (relatively) sweet book with such a character of Grace, who in my opinion is one of the more lovable female characters Auster had ever created. (Another was Kitty from Moon Palace, but whose role in the book turned out to accentuate the poignancy of that story)
This is well worth reading. It plays on the edge of the ordinary / mystical, absurdist, existentialist (difficult to find right word for his writing). Auster's work doesn't is captivating in that you are not distanced from the emotional needs of the characters, due to impossible events that occur to them and around them. This is why the ending disappoints so much. You crash down and all of the sudden feel this would never happen, doubt the characters and how events play out. However it is not the kind of book that relies on the ending wrapping everything up. I would recommend eating it....Continua