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The fragility of life, the power of words, and the blue notebook,
This review is from: Oracle Night (Paperback)
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. His wife doesn't tell him about some time she spent in Portugal with her lifelong family friend John Trause and when she disappears for a day he makes up a back story for her and torments himself with imagined lovers and secrets he will never know. Basically Auster is writing about a writer but in a very convincing way, showing that when a writer isn't writing he's still writing with his mind stories that he will forget soon but can't stop imagining because of his literary inclinations.
There isn't really a plot, the story tends to meander like the writings of Orr in his blue notebook (in "City of Glass" Quinn wrote in a red notebook, what is it with Auster and these coloured notebooks?) but it's never dull and I was always interested in what Orr was doing whether he was writing his novel which doesn't work out or simply walking the streets of Brooklyn writing stories in the air and forgetting them the minute he goes back home. It's a clever, interesting tale of love, the love of writing, the love of friendship, the love between man and wife, and you see the love Auster has of writing too throughout this book, the writing never feeling forced but natural like a speaking voice. One of his better ones for sure, recommended reading!