ORACLE NIGHT

Paul Auster, Author . Holt $23 (256p) ISBN 978-0-8050-7320-1

One morning in September 1982, a struggling novelist recovering from a near-fatal illness purchases, on impulse, a blue notebook from a new store in his Brooklyn neighborhood. So begins Auster's artful, ingenious 12th novel, which is both a darkly suspenseful domestic drama and a moving meditation on chance and loss. Reflecting on a past conversation and armed with his new notebook, Sidney Orr is compelled to write about a man who walks away from his comfortable, staid life after a brush with death—a contemporary retelling of the Flitcraft episode in Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon . Orr's description of his fictional project takes over for a while, but through a framing narrative and a series of long, occasionally digressive footnotes, he teasingly reveals himself, his lovely wife, Grace, and their mutual friend, the famous novelist John Trause. While Orr's hero finds himself locked in a bomb shelter, Grace begins behaving strangely, the stationery shop is shuttered, John's drug-addicted son looms menacingly in the background and the blue notebook exerts a troubling power. The plot of this bizarrely fascinating novel strains credibility, but Auster's unique genius is to make the absurd coherent; his stories have a dreamlike, hallucinatory logic. The title comes from the name of the novel that appears within the story Orr is writing, and hints at the book's theme: that fiction might be at some level prophetic, not merely reflecting reality but shaping it. There is tension, however, between power and impotence: as Orr puts it, "Randomness stalks us every day of our lives, and those lives can be taken from us at any moment—for no reason at all." Author tour. (Dec. 2)

Reviewed on: 11/10/2003
Release date: 12/01/2003
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Paperback - 207 pages - 978-0-571-27662-2
Open Ebook - 256 pages - 978-1-4299-0007-2
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Paperback - 243 pages - 978-0-312-42895-2
Book - 978-0-06-058984-4
Hardcover - 277 pages - 978-0-7862-6505-3
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-0-312-42366-7
Hardcover - 360 pages - 978-0-7540-6981-2
Hardcover - 360 pages - 978-0-7540-6982-9
Hardcover - 224 pages - 978-0-571-21699-4
Hardcover - 224 pages - 978-0-571-27652-3
Hardcover - 304 pages - 978-0-571-21698-7
Hardcover - 7 pages - 978-1-4074-0169-0
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