Lo stile di Auster è fantastico e coinvolgente, ma dopo aver letto Follie di Brooklyn la trama di questo romanzo mi ha deluso. A un certo punto ho pensato di potermi ricredere, perché stava diventando interessante e inquietante, ma poi è finito lasciando il tutto inconcluso, troppe domande senza risposta. Boh....Continua
This is the last piece of novel I read from Paul Auster (*), and I somehow instinctively know that I wouldn’t be drawn to it as much as I am to his other works. Otherwise I wouldn’t put off reading Music to the later stage of my reading. From the title (with hindsight, there is neither any music nor much chance to speak of in the book**), to the cover, (***) to the synopsis of the story (A fireman, a gambler, a game of poker), even the names of the character – Nashe, jackpot (?!), flower, stone – failed to intrigue me in the least. For old time’s sake though, I decided it wouldn’t hurt to give it a try.
This has got to be one of the worst novels Auster had ever produced, so much so that I found myself struggling between a 2 or 3 starred rating. **** If I gave it a 3 that’s only because I reckon the only redeeming ($) factor in the book, for Auster’s prose is as refined as ever. () But then again, if I’m tempted to give it a 2 I’ve only to take in that fact that such a book was by Paul Auster. A mediocre book (again, such as Timbuktu) is way better than a would-be good book which configurations and characters are all flawed.
It certainly seems intriguing for an Austerian protagonist to be neither a writer nor a detective but, and in all unlikelihood, a fireman, (who I suppose was Auster’s idea of what his Sisyphean hero should do for his living – by ) It didn’t help much, though, to encounter another Auster’s leitmotif of running-away-hero. As far as I am concerned, it worked on Hector Mann in the book of Illusion (having committed the unpardonable crime he thought he have to atone for with his life), it worked on the character [Nick bowen?] Sidney orr created in Oracle Night (even the use of ‘fictional character’ in a story is a move as lousy as stuffing scary ‘dreams’ in horror movies.), it worked on Benjamin Sachs in Leviathan, (who’s after all not just an abandoned husband but also an idealist), but it just doesn’t work for me to read about a fireman who one day decided to abandon himself to the road, leaving his two years old daughter and sister (with whom he is close) behind, when his wife walked out on him and he is in some odd way ‘compensated’ by a large sum of inheritance from a never-known-father who suddenly dropped dead. And Nashe somehow got it into his head to burn down his fortune by driving like there’s no tomorrow until he couldn’t afford another liter of gasoline. Call me coldblooded but it just doesn’t do anything for me. I mean, risking to sound utterly unfeeling, what is a walked away wife? If the emotional impact dealt such a blow that undermined Nashe, I certainly would expect to read about it. (the struggles, the turmoil, the psychology of a bereaved creature. Like Auster did with David Zimmer in The Book of Illusion)
But none of these things happened. And before I know the story had been turned into a road movie. (I am not surprise this bloody thing is turned into a movie. It certainly feels like its written for one). Then in no pages indeed the road movie had taken another twisted turn into one impossible farce after another. Somehow Nashe the-libertine-in-the-car picked up a beaten up hitchhiker daredevil who talked smack of how he gambled away his life on poker. (with yet another meaningless mention in passing of his missing father) The impossible duo hit it off in no time, and before we know, Nashe (obviously growing impatient of how slowly his money is burning away) had decided to gamble the whole of his windfall on the next ‘big game’ the kid is playing with ‘the big guys’. Pokers of course. Does it remind you of one of those lousy Gambling-God hong kong movies in the 90s? (Chow Yun Fat, Stephan Chow, Andy Lau….). It does reminds me.
Midway thru the book when Nashe and Jack arrived at the mansion owned by the “big guys” they were to duel at the table of poker for the night, I found myself bored to tears. The realization hit me that I’d never care less for any other Auster characters as those in this book. The utterly unnecessary and longwinded account of how Flower and Stone (and what terrible names are these?!) rise to the height of the wealth (by winning lottery with Prime numbers, and thereby allowing Auster to once again delve into his favorite theme of chance, which has totally lost its luster by then), and their tour around the house (flashing off one cheap taste antique after another) threatened me to give up the book at that point. Needless to say they were only expected to lose the last penny of their bet (actually Nashe’s money alone) for the book to continue, but it was anything but expected when the uptight Nashe detoured in the middle of the game (excusing himself to the lavatory for over an hour, and no one even bother to at least suspect what was going on) to steal one of the worthless pieces of junk flower and stone owned, for reasons that had entirely eluded me. Even more impossible was how Nashe, returning from his little excursion, proposed to mortgage the car on the poker table when Jack had run out of his luck. Not only did they lost that as well (of course), but because Nashe the amateur poker topped his rivals so badly, they found themselves in a debt which neither is capable of repaying, and (here comes the most absurd part) as a ill-humored form of compensation, they are given the offer to build a wall for Flower and Stone out of the ten thousand pieces of boulders they had just acquired, each weighting a 60 to 70 pounds.
Auster clearly thought the most absurd situation he might create was by parodying the absurdist classic of The Myth of Sisyphus. ***** , but I hesitate to call Music of Chance an absurdist fiction, for the simple reason of my different understanding of the absurd. To my mind, the notion of absurd was the clash between the human tendency to seek inherent meaning in the universe and the human impossibility of finding any. But in Auster’s characters (all of whom all followers of the cult of chance) I could see little attempt in finding meanings on their parts. ****** Neither is the universe these folks dwell in so hostile or incomprehensible. After all, you receive a handsome amount of windfall out of nowhere, but decided to burn it on gasoline and pokers. You gamble and then you lost. You are in debt and then you enter into a contractual agreement to repay it. What is so strange or absurd about it? To create absurdly ridiculous characters is not tantamount to writing an absurdist fiction. Just as incorporating unseeming twist to the plot is not tantamount to a Kafkaesque fiction.
It wasn’t the implausibility of the plot that got to me (one among other things, of course), but the implausibility of the emotional reaction the characters demonstrated. Auster’s characters are not your average Murakamian unimpressed happy-go-luckys, they’re always blood and flesh humans, who don’t hesitate to talk vulgar and don’t balk when provoked. It was peculiar enough for Nashe to allow the absurdity of his situation to sink in with such equanimity and indifference, almost as if he was asking for it. Stranger still is his unwavering affecton for ‘the kid’ Jack (who is not so much a kid himself in his twenties) when he had all but forgotten his two years’ old daughter’s birthday. Not only did Nashe volunteered to be the benefactor for Jack Pozzi (who called himself Jackpot, oh my…), from then on he had even put himself up on the role that is a mixture of a surrogate father and big brother for the person who is little more than a stranger. (buying him clothes, feeding him, impressing him by lodging at fancy hotels and treating him with big meals, lecturing him…) Jack, on the other hand, did not turn out to be the pity faking conman we supposed him to be. Given his thorough insults and reckless behavior (including the likes of calling in a prostitute while he and Nashe was confined to the trailer where they serve their ‘sentences’), he revered Nashe as a big brother.
The characters don’t strike me as unreal as much as downright inconsistence. No simple argument of good-people-do-bad-things *******or the other way round can brush off the inconsistencies when the affectionate big brother Nashe neglects his daughter, when the amoral and reckless jack play by the rules, and when the yesterday generous Flower and Stone who couldn’t care less for money grew petty today.
The bluntness of vulgarity employed throughout the book is not distasteful but was felt entirely unnecessary. If anything, it only furthers the impression of some smart ass coming up with a Hollywood script. Smart it is, indeed, I would give you that. But what do smart dialogues create in a stupid novel?
* excluding Travels in the Scriptorium, of course. That one was decided to be the last read from the outset
** (I mean, you just can’t get yourself in deep shit and blame it on chance can you? And that was certainly not something musical)
*** (a grumpy child sitting in front of a piano, I mean what the heck? Whoever was responsible for the cover design had obviously not read the book. Just because they saw the word ‘music’ to the title they thought they should a put a piano in it. They obviously have read the synopsis though, and so they have to stuff a glaringly SCARLET car next to the piano. I figure this must be how they interpret the word chance – by being totally random. Not the worst Auster bookcover I have seen though, if you have read Mr. vertigo you’d…now I’m getting ahead of myself)
**** I never consider anything less than a 3 star even for Timbuktu, the one who bore me to tears
*****the man had, after all, translated Jean-Paul Sartre’s Life/Situation before embarking on his literary career.
******and when confronted by Jack’s outburst that Nashe should be held responsible for getting them in such a miserable situation, the latter attributed everything to an ill turn of luck, what more can one say about it?
*******as the central theme in Oracle Night might have it...Continua