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The Music of Chance [Paperback]

Paul Auster
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
Price: £8.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over £10. Details
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Book Description

5 Jan 2006

'By the time Nashe understood what was happening to him, he was past the point of wanting it to end . . .'

Paul Auster fuses Samuel Beckett and The Brothers Grimm in this brilliant and unsettling parable.

Following the death of his father, Jim Nashe takes to the open road. But there he picks up Pozzi, a hitchhiking gambler, and is drawn into a dangerous game of high-stakes poker with two eccentric and reclusive millionaires.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (5 Jan 2006)
  • Language: French
  • ISBN-10: 0571229077
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571229079
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 1.4 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 176,267 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

About the Author

Paul Auster was born in New Jersey in 1947. After attending Columbia University he lived in France for four years. Since 1974, he has published poems, essays, novels, screenplys and translations. He has also edited the story collection TRUE TALES OF AMERICAN LIFE. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars pure brilliance 19 Jan 1998
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
There is something about The Music of Chance that makes the reader fall in love with Paul Auster.It could be the clarity of his prose and his real precision with language. It might be that he takes an idea, two men being forced to build a wall because they lost a poker game, and elevates it from the absurd to the brilliant. The novel speaks about chance - brief encounters with people and ideas. It is a beautiful novel.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'Chance' - the musical ! 21 Nov 2008
Format:Paperback
I'm having a sudden urge to raid Paul Auster's works, following up `Mr. Vertigo` with `The Music of Chance`, a book I had long-neglected but somehow - like an Auster character, perhaps - convinced myself I had already read. This is probably because of the low-key but cultish film adaptation starring James Spader and M. Emmet Walsh that burned a peculiar and indelible mark on my brain. Once I had picked up `The Music of Chance', though, it was very difficult to put down, a quality common to the author's novels. There's something in the rhythm of Auster's writing, in his unknotty way of describing incremental and inexorable changes in his characters' fortunes, that makes his works compelling and - in this case - quite distressing. `The Music of Chance' has the curious quality of being simultaneously about inevitability - or fate - and having the atmosphere of a nightmare. Very little about Auster's novels seems real - there is the symbolic nature of a fable about `The Music of Chance' - but as a reader we can still live the experience as one might live through a very bad dream.

`The Music of Chance' has gained, for me at least, a contemporary relevance in that it deals with characters finally enslaved by their own greed. I use `greed' for lack of a better word since in fact Auster's protagonists are not simply driven by avarice but see in money their only chance of freedom, and not without reason of course. It is the fact - or at least the prevailing belief - that money buys freedom which dooms friends Nashe and Pozzi, the odd couple who meet in a chance encounter. Nashe, a somewhat lonely soul, has inherited money from the death of his father and, having been left by his wife, sells virtually all his possessions to embark on a prolonged and randomly-plotted road trip.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An intriguing novel about freedom and fate 26 Sep 2001
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
A thought provoking tale. Asks us whether a man can be truly free, and indeed, whether such freedom necessarily leads to happiness. Nashe comes into an inheritance, setting off on an aimless driving marathon around the USA. He only feels free when driving, but must keep going to avoid his responsibilities and the real world catching up with him. Eventually, with his money running out, a chance encounter with a young gambler leads to Nashe losing his precious liberty in bizarre fashion. I strongly recommend this book, whether read just as a strange story, or as an examination of Man's existential plight.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Suspense and Brilliance 4 April 2010
Format:Paperback
Faber and Faber's 2005 publication of some of Paul Auster's novels in collected form has made it more convenient to embark on Auster binges, eating up two or three of his novels in succession. It also provides a cunning method of sneaking more books into the holiday luggage. ('Holdall heavy? Can't think why, sweetie, I've only got one book in there.' ).

Volume two of Collected Novels consists of 1990's The Music of Chance, 1992's Leviathan, and 1994's Mr Vertigo. The first novel in this 600+ page volume is The Music of Chance. Like many Auster novels (for example the three novellas comprising the New York trilogy; The Brooklyn Follies; Invisible), it hinges on the way chance meetings or events can transform lives. In this case, the life is that of Jim Nashe, a Boston fireman in his early thirties, whose world is thrown into tumult. First, his estranged father, who he hasn't seen for thirty years, dies. Then Jim';s wife Therese walks out on Jim and their two year-old daughter Juliet. Jim comes to the only child-care solution he can think of on his limited fireman's wage, which is to leave Juliet with his sister Donna in Minnesota. Too late, he finds out this could have been avoided; six months after his father died, Jim is tracked down by his father's lawyer who informs him that Jim;s deceased father left both Jim and Donna a substantial inheritance. But Juliet is settled and happy in her new home. Besides, Jim has been seized by a wanderlust he has never previously known. He is driven to gobbling up thousands of miles in his new car, travelling across his country.

We learn all this in the first couple of pages. We also learn, on page 1, that Jim happens by chance to meet a garishly dressed kid in his early twenties by the name of Jack Pozzi.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's all about the journey 16 Mar 2004
By Jim
Format:Paperback
Unlike Leviathan which took me by the scruff of my neck from page one, it took me about 30 pages to get off the blocks with Music of Chance.
But then, as with all of Auster's books, that was it - bang - had to stay up half the night to finish it. I was as captive as protagonist Jim Nashe building his monolithic wall.
Auster's clearly a lot smarter than me because I'm not sure I really 'get' existentialism but his themes are always accessible, and the freedom vs. captivity debate is as subtly shaded as it is in real life.
The central characters, Nashe and Pozzi, are wonderfully well drawn. The characters of Flower and Stone, as well as that of their emissary Murks, are crafted in such a way that they are at once ordinary people and duplicitous, mythic demons.

That's the remarkable (and agonising) thing about Auster, he gives you space to paint your own story alongside his. He creates questions in the mind of his protagonists which then become your questions. You race along desperate to find the answers to those questions. But they never really come.
So you're left there at the end, if you're not that smart like me, saying "cop out ending". But just maybe Auster's saying, well, real life doesn't answer your questions either.
And maybe you don't really want them answered because long after you've put the book down, it still won't go away.
At the character level, Nashe and Pozzi stick to you like glue and it's hard to let them go. At the plot level, you're still reaching your own conclusions about what people's real motives or actions were. At the thematic level you continue asking questions about your own life. You wonder whether this is a tale of the ordinary or the supernatural.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
very good but not as interesting as some of his other books.I have read similar stories.
Published 1 month ago by edmund
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Brilliant
Newark, New Jersey-born author Paul Auster has written some brilliantly inventive novels in his time, but this 1990 work is, for me, one of his finest. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Keith M
5.0 out of 5 stars "He risks everything on the single blind turn of the card..."
I'm an immense fan of Paul Auster's writing. He is disquieting, edgy, and probes the deeper recesses of the reader's mind. Read more
Published on 7 Nov 2011 by John P. Jones III
3.0 out of 5 stars Is this a social fable?
Having read almost all of Auster's novels, I find that their appeal often lies in the ideas they deal in rather than the plots, which are sometimes less than spectacular. Read more
Published on 8 Sep 2010 by reader 451
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterpiece
I first studied this book at university and have been hooked on Auster ever since. The book follows the story or Pozzi and Nashe as Auster details his ideas on the order - or lack... Read more
Published on 2 Jun 2010 by Mr. C. B. Foote
4.0 out of 5 stars hypnotizing
It took me a good 50 pages to get into it but once I was into it I could not put this novel down ! As soon as the hero meets Pozzi, I got hooked. Read more
Published on 6 April 2009 by French reader
5.0 out of 5 stars Cleverly crafted tale of fate..
This novel begins with a random chance encounter, and as the story develops Auster weaves this blinding tale of how fate and destiny can be manipulated by circumstance. Read more
Published on 4 Oct 2000 by Mr. G. S. Rencourt
3.0 out of 5 stars A reader from Tokyo
Bizarre. It is a very strange book - the characters in it are extremely strange, almost unbelievable, and Paul Auster has created a strange world where reality twists and a simple... Read more
Published on 20 April 2000
4.0 out of 5 stars You all might think I'm fulla beans, but here goes....
First I saw the movie, and halfway through, it literally detonated in my head. It's a Freemasonic allegory! Read more
Published on 2 Sep 1999
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