Oracle Night [NOOK Book]

Overview


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 ...
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Oracle Night

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Overview


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.


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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
With such novels as The Book of Illusions and Timbuktu, Paul Auster has garnered a well-deserved reputation for literary experimentation, philosophical depth, and darkly atmospheric narratives. This time out he gives us a fascinating story about the redemptive qualities of love and the healing nature of the creative process.

While recovering from a serious illness, novelist Sidney Orr purchases a blue notebook and fashions a tale that, in some ways, parallels his own life. At the suggestion of a friend, the celebrated writer John Trause, Sidney crafts an alternate version of a Dashiell Hammett story that eventually departs completely from its source material. As Sidney's work progresses, he is drawn further into the book's plot, which concerns a manuscript called Oracle Night and features a World War I British officer tortured by the "gift" of prophecy. He also begins to receive what he believes may be signs about an impending disaster.

As the bewitching and bizarre narrative threads begin to weave together, Auster pulls us into a compelling world where salvation may be found within one's own conscience and courage. As the characters in Orr's magical blue notebook face their demons, regrets, and failures, the author realizes that he, too, must brave his troubled marriage and other difficult relationships.

Auster's surreal style allows readers a chance to consider the protagonist's troubled soul in ways not possible with a conventional linear narrative. We see how one's conflicts, perils, and losses can be overcome with the strength of will and hope. Oracle Night is a novel of hallucinatory power that will haunt you for many days to come. Tom Piccirilli

Washington Post Book World
This is Auster at his most oracular -- and probably least satisfying. He's far better in describing the mixture of the sensual and tawdry in a darkly lit sex club, a writer's pleasure in finding just the right notebook, the human need to forgive.

....What appears to be and what is are never the same, and disaster patiently lurks in the gap between them. In that no-man's-land Paul Auster builds his ingratiating yet paradoxical fictions. — Michael Dirda

The New York Times
Auster generously tips his hand here. He suggests that the terror of not being heard lies at the heart of writing, and that the artistic impulse generally might be summed up as: Somebody say something; 1 a.m., 2 a.m. -- just keep talking. That a man who has produced more than 25 books is willing to convey the visceral ping of that terror is evidence not only of his talent but of his grace. — Stacey D'Erasmo
Publishers Weekly
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) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Auster's 11th novel is again an urban mystery, yet here the quest for meaning is replaced with the quest for truth, resulting in a somewhat less profound experience. Auster once said that becoming a writer is not a career decision, and this is true of protagonist Sidney, who after purchasing an "enchanting" blue notebook in a stationery store in Brooklyn gets inspired to write his next novel. Thereafter he finds it difficult to distinguish what is real from what is in his head. He identifies with his own protagonist, Nick, but Nick can act on his desires. Both Sidney's and Nick's stories abound with unlikely characters whose actions further blur the line between fact and fiction: an enigmatic stationery store owner, a friend who is both a mentor and a rival, and a loner on a bizarre mission in Kansas City. As in Leviathan, the hero is faced with the task of reassessing his morality, but here the task is more challenging because he must deal with his own world as well as the one he creates. Although at times too knotty, the narrative flows well, owing to Auster's consistency with the language. The ending is abrupt, yet the ability to take the mundane out of life and give it this much dimension is the skill of a great writer. And even when taking this much risk, Auster remains just that. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 9/15/03.]-Mirela Roncevic, "Library Journal" Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A blocked novelist lives through a labyrinthine challenge to his artistic conviction that "[t]here was no connection between imagination and reality," in Auster's teasing, tricky 11th novel. Narrator Sidney Orr relates (in a text that includes detailed footnotes) a series of inexplicably connected events occurring in 1982, following a near-fatal illness for which he was hospitalized for months. Recovering slowly, Orr purchases a handsome blue notebook from a Brooklyn stationery store, and finds that possessing it stimulates him to devise a work based on a Dashiell Hammett story. It's a dark fable of flight and captivity, containing within it a novel (entitled Oracle Night) whose theme will be the destructive effect of the gift of prophecy. In a spare style by now honed into an instrument of Nabokovian precision, Auster moves adroitly from Orr's own "captivity" by the story he's compelled to write to enigmatic real-life relationships with his pregnant (and, suddenly, mysterious) wife Grace, his older author friend and mentor John Trause (a longtime friend of Grace's family), Trause's sociopathic pothead son Jacob, and the elusive stationery-store proprietor Mr. Chang, who's as affable and menacing as a Sax Rohmer villain. There's also a subplot featuring black WWII veteran Ed Victory, who lives in a manner that pays explicit homage to Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man-oh, and an aborted screenplay for a remake of H.G. Wells's The Time Machine, and a vintage Warsaw telephone directory. Much of this is quite entertaining, but the story's pay, though fully explanatory, is disappointing. Too many loose narrative ends are left dangling, and the "mystery" of the blue notebook (which Orr pointedlydescribes as "a place of trouble for me") is never confronted. The urban intellectual thriller is Auster's game, but he played it to superior effect in The Book of Illusions (2002). Oracle Night, fascinating as it is, is a lesser performance. Author tour
From the Publisher
"As Auster's many admirers know, his narrative voice is as hypnotic as that of the Ancient Mariner. Start one of his books and by page two you cannot choose but hear."—Michael Dirda, The New York Review of Books

"Compulsively readable yet wonderfully complex and unsettling. The book is both a babushka doll of stories within stories and a literary Rubik's Cube, the solution of which, if there is one, is the very nature of reality."—The Boston Globe

"Auster shines as a fabulist and tale-teller, putting a high-modernist gloss on noir."—The New Yorker

"A joy to read."—The Economist

"It's urban mysticism, a poetry of the hidden and the almost forgotten, with the supernatural power deriving equally from the city and the novelist's imagination. . . . A snow globe of a novel."—New York magazine

"Oracle Night is a triumph for novelist Auster. It cements his growing reputation as one of America's most inventive and original writers."—The Seattle Times

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781429900072
  • Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/28/2009
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 660,719
  • File size: 527 KB

Meet the Author


Paul Auster’s most recent novel, The Book of Illusions (0-312-42181-8), was a national bestseller, as was I Thought My Father Was God (0-312-42100-1), the NPR National Story Project anthology, which he edited. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Biography

Much later, when he was able to think about the things that happened to him, he would conclude that nothing was real except chance. But that was much later. In the beginning, there was simply the event and its consequences.

This sentence from the opening of Paul Auster's first novel, City of Glass, could also serve as a template for the author's career, both in circumstance and theme. City of Glass is perhaps the best known of Auster's postmodern detective New York Trilogy, which is rounded out by Ghosts and The Locked Room. Though the novels nominally involve cases to be solved, at base they are about the mystery of identity and how easily it can be lost or altered. In City of Glass, a mystery writer mistakenly receives a phone call for detective Paul Auster and assumes his identity, becoming embroiled in a case. The trilogy was a welcome breath of fresh air for both detective stories and postmodernist writing, and it put Auster on the publishing map.

Setting out to write his subsequent novel, Auster kept in mind the subtitle "Anna Blume Walks Through the 20th Century." The result was a woman's post-apocalyptic urban journey, In the Country of Last Things. Subsequent works such as Moon Palace, The Music of Chance, Leviathan, and Mr. Vertigo offered heroes caught up in strange worlds, playing out their stories over existential subtexts. The Music of Chance carries references from Beckett's Waiting for Godot in its story about a drifter who ends up teaming with a card player named Jack Pozzi to hustle two wealthy eccentrics in a fateful poker game. In Mr. Vertigo, a boy who has the ability to levitate goes on the road in the 1920s as "the Wonder Boy," moving through a panorama of pre-Depression America.

Auster's ability to blur the line between fantasy and reality has resulted in unique stories that never operate solely as good yarns. The New York Times wrote of Leviathan -- a dead man's coincidence-ridden story, as narrated by his friend -- "Thus in the literary looking glass of Leviathan, in which things are not always what they seem, our pleasure in reading the story is enhanced by the challenge of making other connections." Auster's fondness for allegory has earned him both praise for his cleverness and criticism from reviewers who, even as they praise his talent, occasionally find him heavy-handed.

The director Philip Haas adapted The Music of Chance for the 1993 film starring James Spader and Mandy Patinkin. But it was Wayne Wang who drew Auster to the movie business in earnest, convincing him to write the screenplay for 1995's Smoke, which was adapted from the short story "Auggie Wren's Christmas Story." The film did well enough to get producer Miramax on board for a sequel bringing back star Harvey Keitel, Blue in the Face. This time, Auster not only wrote the script but co-directed with Wang; he later went full-fledged auteur with the 1998 film (also starring Keitel) Lulu on the Bridge.

In 1999, Auster made the unconventional choice of writing from a canine's point of view in Timbuktu -- although as Auster noted in the Guardian, Mr. Bones "is and isn't a dog." In telling the story of himself and his owner, a homeless "outlaw poet" named Willy G. Christmas, Mr. Bones offers a meditation on mortality, human relationships, and dreams. "If anything," Auster said in a chat with Barnes & Noble.com readers, "I thought of Willy and Mr. Bones as a rather screwball, nutty, latter-day version of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, the befuddled knight-errant and his loyal squire." The New York Times called Timbuktu his "most touching, most emotionally accessible book."

Auster earned some of his best reviews with his tenth novel The Book of Illusions, about a widower who develops an obsession with an obscure silent-film star and is surprised with an invitation to meet the presumed-dead actor. Book magazine called it "certainly his best...the book [has] the drive and dazzle reminiscent of the classic hardboiled yarns of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett."

Auster is an author who, in both his fiction and his nonfiction, rekindles hope for the romantic, the coincidental, and the magical in everyday life. He does this not with fantastic story lines but by heightening the significance of twists and coincidences that happen to us all the time -- if we approach things in a certain light, our lives become like movies. Auster spins the projector.

Good To Know

Auster's wife Siri Hustvedt, whom he met in 1981, is also a novelist and essayist; writing about her novel The Blindfold, the Village Voice Literary Supplement called Hustvedt "a writer of strong, sometimes astonishing gifts." Auster's first wife was writer Lydia Davis.

Desperately poor in the late '70s and working unhappily as a French translator to make ends meet, Auster wrote a detective novel called Squeeze Play to make some money. He also invented a card game called Action Baseball that he tried to sell to game manufacturers. However, Squeeze Play is "not a legitimate book," he told the Guardian; it was published under a pseudonym. Later, an inheritance from his father allowed Auster the financial freedom to focus more on his writing.

Auster has enjoyed a remarkably international following, even in the days before his Hollywood projects raised his profile; his novels have been translated into several languages, and web sites from Germany to Japan pay him homage.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Paul Benjamin
    2. Hometown:
      Brooklyn, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 3, 1947
    2. Place of Birth:
      Newark, New Jersey
    1. Education:
      B.A., M.A., Columbia University, 1970

Read an Excerpt


From Oracle Night:

It was the second bewildering conversation we’d had in the past eighteen hours. Once again, Grace had been hinting at something she refused to name, some kind of inner turmoil that seemed to be dogging her conscience, and it left me at a loss, groping dumbly to figure out what was going on. And yet how tender she was that evening, how glad to accept my small ministrations, how happy to have me sit beside her on the bed. After all we’d been through together in the past year, after all her steadfastness and composure during my long illness, it seemed impossible that she could ever do anything that would disappoint me. And even if she did, I was foolish enough and loyal enough not to care. I wanted to stay married to her for the rest of my life, and if Grace had slipped at some point or done something she wasn’t proud of, what difference could that make in the long run? It wasn’t my job to judge her. I was her husband, not a lieutenant in the moral police, and I meant to stand by her no matter what.
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Reading Group Guide

About this Guide

Several months into his recovery from a near-fatal illness, thirty-fouryear-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

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 17 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(6)

4 Star

(6)

3 Star

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2 Star

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Sort by: Showing all of 17 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2009

    Unusual

    Not a book for quick, casual reading...takes time, but is engrossing and poetically written. Many layers to the novel and plot and characters, swinging between reality and fiction.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2009

    Unusual Book

    This book is very different than most. It keeps you intrigued. I couldn't figure out where the author was going with the plot so I finished the book in one day. The plot is hard to describe for me. I just recommend that you read it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2005

    Brilliant!

    Auster breaks every rule and comes out proving that the traditional literary mandates are not required ... what is required is a brilliant mind ... like Auster's!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2013

    Faulty ebook/Nook

    Just on page 130 I suddenly lost the rest of the book on my Nook. I had to finish my reading on my IPad. This.is why tablets will take over the market. The wook is wonderful!

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  • Posted May 31, 2011

    Great!

    Sucked me right in immediately and I could not put it down. Auster is truly gifted and I am envious of his talent.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2008

    Lacked a point

    It wasnt until almost the end of the book that everything started to make a little sense. The whole time i was reading it, i kept wondering what it was supposed to be about. It wasnt very interesting and very scattered.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2004

    Road(s) to nowhere

    I wanted to like this book. Especially after reading the description, and other reviews. However, it was a real disappointment. Too many loose ends. Things started, and not fleshed out - not even fleshed out enough to have any relevance to the plot. A plot which really doesn't go anywhere promising. What is wrapped up at the end of the book is a let down. I found the language boring, and the characters a bit cliched and chauvinistic. I found no connection to or believability in the characters or their plights. The book seems to start on a few interesting paths, but never quite pulls anyting substantive together.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2004

    Nothing, really.

    I found this story to be flat, with about as much substance as the dust cover. The characters didn't interest me, and I had to struggle to stay with the story until the end, after which I found it hard to remember much about the book. If the mark of a good story is that it haunts you long after you've finished reading it, this book truly deserves only two stars.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2004

    Nesting dolls

    As previously noted, this novel is an adventure indeed. A book constructed as if it were a set of Russian nesting dolls, Oracle Night is the story of a writer who is writing a story about another reader who is reading a novel written long ago. If that seems circuitous, consider that the reader of Oracle Night is the outermost doll of the set. This is a book questioning the relationship between illusion and reality. Where does imagination stop and the real world begin? It is a facinating concept and one which requires an open mindset of the reader who chooses to approach it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2004

    Tell,Tell,Tell,Tell...

    Writing instructors are forever explaining to new writers that they need to show and NOT tell. By this standard, Paul Auster is either the worst writer in America or a rather clever rule breaker. His book Oracle Night is tell wall-to-wall. He tells us ten times more plot than we need. It's like riding a horse for ten miles until it dies, then taking a train until you fall out of an open window, and then doing back flips into the subway. After a time, probability has been totally blasted away and all you have left is the voyage. It shouldn't work, and yet it somehow does work. It's like Dickens without the coherence or morality. It's like reading five comic books at the same time. Still, after a while, you start to get used to being talked at. You adjust to having little description or animation in the novel and settle down to being led around by the nose. The plot is so artifically transparent that you just about fall for it. There is no reason. After all, every story is ultimately a trick using words that suggest reality. Auster just gives over any effort to convey a sense that the story he is telling is or could ever be real. It's a story, get it? It's to be believed simply because he says it. The whole story is like a what if. Plot elements can go in any direction at any time. It's even told by a story teller who sometimes even admits that his plot is absurd and incredible. So when one story paints itself into a corner, he simply leaves it there and continues on somewhere else without excuses or explanations. Normally, this sort of high-handed treatment would be my definition of weak plotting, but somehow Auster pulls it off. It's an odd adventure in fiction but, in the end, an adventure nonetheless.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2008

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2009

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