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Oracle Night [Hardcover]

Paul Auster
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)

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Book Description

5 Feb 2004

The discovery of a mysterious notebook turns a man's life upside-down in this compulsively readable novel by 'one of the great writers of our time' (San Francisco Chronicle)

Several months into his recovery from a near-fatal illness, novelist Sidney Orr enters a stationery shop in 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 bewildering events that threaten to destroy his marriage and undermine his faith in reality.

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. 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.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber; First Edition, Second Printing edition (5 Feb 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571216986
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571216987
  • Product Dimensions: 22.5 x 14.4 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 807,967 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Paul Auster is the best-selling author of Man in the Dark, The Brooklyn Follies, The Book of Illusions, The New York Trilogy, among many other works. In 2006 he was awarded the Prince of Asturias Prize for Literature and inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Among his other honours are the Independent Spirit Award for the screenplay of Smoke and the Prix Medicis Etranger for Leviathan. He has also been short-listed for both the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award (The Book of Illusions) and the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction (The Music of Chance). His work has been translated into more than thirty languages. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Product Description

Amazon Review

Paul Auster's 11th novel Oracle Night is as intelligent and compellingly written as any he has produced. Sydney Orr is a writer recovering from an illness that almost killed him. Out on his daily constitutional he happens upon a curious stationery shop, the Paper Palace, and purchases a blue Portuguese notebook. The notebook casts a curious hold over Orr and seems to enable him to write, something he hasn't done since coming out of hospital. He writes a story about a books' editor who, on serendipitously avoiding some falling masonry, decides to read the near-accident as a reason to change his life. He takes an unread, recently discovered, manuscript of an important writer from the 1930s, Sylvia Maxwell, and disappears off to Kansas City. Reinvention and the associated idea that identity is fluid, re-imaginable, are linked, as is often the case with Auster, to the idea of chance.

So, Auster's usual themes are here: writing about writers and writing he discusses themes such as identity, disappearance, creativity, chance. But, despite what initially looks like a tricky structure (with footnotes and stories within stories) this is really a novel about love and forgiveness. Notwithstanding the dubious reputation of being a "writer's writer" the philosophical Auster has written a comparatively simple, very moving, quite brilliant novel. If the novel's ending is a little too neat, and the drama, as the narrative moves to a close, a little too soap opera, this hardly matters. --Mark Thwaite


"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" --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The eternal detective of the spotted mind. 13 April 2005
Summary: a crossword puzzle story in which cryptic clues may give different answers to the 'easy' ones.
Paul Auster writes in a clean, beguiling style, skilfully using his characters to describe and blur their interior and exterior worlds. The language serves up the story in shavings, layers and chunks, as Auster guides you in and around variously interlinked stories.
Sidney Orr, a writer, and principal narrator, is married to Grace, a graphic designer. Grace is for him 'an enchanted being..., a luminous point of contact between desire and the world, the implacable love.' The novel opens by disclosing that Sidney had been sick a long time, and 'when the day came for me to leave the hospital, I barely knew how to walk any more, could barely remember who I was supposed to be.' From that moment, we are taken with Sidney through a series of encounters and visions that may be imagined, or may be real. One is never sure, not least because Auster gives only suggestive hints.
The nearness of death, and the accompaniment of illness, concentrates Sidney to try to understand what and whom he loves, and why, and to ask if there is anything that is real other than what he fixes or distorts through his and our shifting perceptions. Auster unsettles the reader by making a person's sense of reality only that - a sense - dependent entirely on the way in which facts are discovered and looked at from angles, like a three-dimensional photograph. The core of the book, if it has one, is discovery of self (or different selves) through the device of writing stories within stories. Auster gives this exploration form through Sidney's writing in a blue notebook, to which he is obsessively devoted.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I like stories about writers doing writerly things because even though I know the writer is a character, you get to see the author writing the character who's a writer and is writing, and so gain an insight into that particular author's writing process. You know what I mean. "Oracle Night" is about a writer just like "City of Glass" is about a writer and like that book, "Oracle Night" is a pretty darn good yarn.

The story switches from the story of the main character as he recovers from his near-fatal accident and tells us about his world, and the book that he's writing which is an extrapolation of an incident that took place in Dashiel Hammett's novel "The Maltese Falcon". Both stories are compelling but about halfway through the book, the narrator and main character Sidney Orr, decides to drop the novel he's writing as he's hit a wall in the plot (just like in real life) and his life becomes the focus of the rest of the book. Some people didn't like the way Orr's novel broke off and was never picked up again but I think the way he ends it is symbolic of the way the rest of the story plays out and is a good choice by Auster.

We get a more in depth look at Orr's world, about his wife Grace, about his friend the famous writer John Trause who's dying, and about other characters Orr meets, Chang the stationary shop owner and Trause's junkie son Jacob. Orr makes up stories for them, giving Chang a brutal past of book burning and beatings as he imagines Chang being a part of Mao's China and playing a role in the "cultural revolution" of China.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well-written, but incomplete story lines 14 Oct 2005
Sidney Orr is a 34-year old writer in New York who is recovering from a near fatal illness. As part of his rehabilitation he roams the streets of his neighbourhood, where one day he finds the Paper Palace, a stationary shop where he buys a blue Portuguese notebook from the Chinese owner. When he gets home he immediately starts to write a story about a man who one day walks out on his wife and disappears without a trace. But after a while he gets stuck and does not know how to continue. In the meantime he finds out that his wife is pregnant, his house is broken into, he endangers his marriage when he encounters the Chinese shopowner Mr Chang again, his best friend, the renowned author John Trause, has health problems and the son of this best friend ends up in a rehab centre. And all that in the timespan of nine days. As Sidney tries to cope with all this he needs his blue notebook to make sense of all the developments.
This book gets mixed reviews on Amazon and I see the problems that some people have with the two relatively unfinished story lines. Paul Auster can definitely write: even though the story as such was not terribly interesting to me (except for the story within the story of the guy who disappears without a trace), the book is so well-written that I was simply forced to read on.
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5.0 out of 5 stars great storytelling 3 Sep 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I bought this for my kindle thinking it would last me a week whilst on holiday. The story was so intriguing that I finished it in two sittings, and immediately I went shopping for more Paul Auster. So far I have read seven of his books and he rarely fails to disappoint. Top Class Mr. Auster.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars More Magical Narrative Twists And Turns
This 2003 novel by Paul Auster is another absorbing read from a master storyteller, full of Auster's infectious prose and (even at only around 200 pages) levels of narrative... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Keith M
5.0 out of 5 stars Ingenious and original
A complex and ingenious story that whilst being outlandish is also believable and makes you think. The writing, as always with Auster, is first rate.
Published 14 months ago by Art
2.0 out of 5 stars Great Voice, Dog's Dinner Of A Narrative
This was and remains the only Paul Auster book I have read. The narrative style is good- you are drawn in by the feel of the voice and that is why you read on. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Mr. Michael D. Donaghy
2.0 out of 5 stars Oracle Night
A good start with promise but a weak finish. I think Paul ran out of ideas and reflected it in his story.
Published on 4 Jan 2012 by Keydriver
5.0 out of 5 stars Beguiling
Somehow, I'd not encountered Paul Auster's work until I stumbled upon a copy of "Orcale Night". Suffice it to say that, since reading this book, I've devoured every Auster book... Read more
Published on 27 May 2010 by Friendlycard
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly claustrophobic and atmospheric
I enjoyed this novel much more than I thought I would, especially the elements of a highly literary game. Read more
Published on 2 Oct 2009 by Eileen Shaw
4.0 out of 5 stars Questions
I like books which pose questions and leave them sort of unanswered. Normally I read at a slow pace, but Oracle Night was too enchanting to lay down. Read more
Published on 30 May 2009 by Suzan te Pas
4.0 out of 5 stars Captivating and fascinating
Typical Paul Auster, I could not put it down. This novel is fascinating because it's about a series of unexplained events happening in the day-to-day life of a writer after he's... Read more
Published on 5 Nov 2008 by French reader
4.0 out of 5 stars As ever, an intriguing work
The novels of Auster are always intriguing, clever, well-written page turners that excite, challenge but often frustrate the reader. And this is no exception. Read more
Published on 30 May 2008 by Paul Holland
4.0 out of 5 stars Great suspense spoiled by rushed ending
Although I've owned a copy of "The New York Trilogy" for a while now, I'd not as yet got around to reading it and so I was interested to note the comment from Herald on the front... Read more
Published on 4 Jan 2008 by Horn Smorgas
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