Title: Oracle Night
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co, New York, New York, U.S.A.
Publication Date: 2003
Binding: Hard Cover
Book Condition: Fine
Dust Jacket Condition: Fine
Edition: First Edition.
Fine/Fine unread copy protected by Archival Brodart Cover. Size: 8vo - over 7¾" - 9¾" tall. Bookseller Inventory # 001076
Synopsis: 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 puzzling 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 close 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.
Review: In Oracle Night, Paul Auster returns to one of his favorite themes: writing about writers and the act of writing. Recovering from a severe illness that has left him weak and prone to nosebleeds, struggling novelist Sidney Orr takes the suggestion of his mentor, the acclaimed novelist John Trause, and begins a story about a man who, upon considering a near-death experience as an omen (or excuse), walks out on his wife and begins a new life. Nick Bowen, Orr's protagonist, moves to Kansas City and finds work with a man engaged in creating a sort of catalogue of all known persons from a warehouse filled with phonebooks. Dressed in Goodwill clothing, Nick finds it "fitting to don the wardrobe of a man who has likewise ceased to exist--as if that double negation made the erasure of his past more thorough, more permanent." Grace, however, acts strangely soon after Sidney begins the "novel-within-a-novel" in a mysterious blue notebook.
Auster uses footnotes to provide interesting backstory and develops Sidney's insecurities regarding love and fidelity, but when Sidney hits a patchy spot and writes Bowen into a corner, he (and Auster) shrugs and drops the story. The mystery that seemingly unrelated coincidences may have a causal connection is left unresolved, and Trause's delinquent son shows up to facilitate a hollow, climactic ending. Auster is a gifted writer, to be sure, but once trapped by the inner story, Oracle Night loses steam. --Michael Ferch
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