Auster's ( Moon Palace ; the New York Trilogy) offbeat and strangely compelling black comedy invites speculation about the counterpointing of choice and chance, and carries resonances of Samuel Beckett. With a windfall of nearly $200,000, Jim Nashe abandons his stalled life, leaves his small daughter Juliette with Minnesota relatives and compulsively drives around the country for a year. He meets a frail, spunky, badly beaten youngster, self-advertised jackpot winner Jack Pozzi, and agrees to finance Pozzi in an epic poker match against an apparently childlike but actually malign pair named Flower and Stone in their remote mansion. Ruined in the game, Nashe and Pozzi try to work off their huge debt by building a wall out of 10,000 stones from an imported Irish castle, under the baleful overseer Murks, who gets Nashe's prized car. Affection springs up between Nashe and ``the kid,'' Pozzi, but optimism erodes as their plight becomes clear, disaster befalls Pozzi and numbing toil stretches endlessly. In his lucid, captivating yarn, Auster quietly raises disturbing questions of servants and masters, of loyalty, freedom and the inexplicable urge to kill. 25,000 first printing; author tour. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/01/1990 Release date: 10/01/1990 Genre: Fiction
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