Review

Oracle Night

by Paul Auster



Read the first sentence of ORACLE NIGHT and you'll be caught in the
vortex of this intricate, well-crafted story. The plot seems simple
enough at first. A man recovering from an undefined illness takes a
walk around his neighborhood to gather his thoughts and get his
bearings. He stops at a new stationery store, introduces himself to
the strange but friendly owner, and buys a crisp blue notebook made
in Portugal. He returns home to get ready for dinner with his wife,
whom he adores, and her old-time family friend, another writer who
--- it is rumored --- is finishing yet another book.

Upon closer inspection readers realize that the main character,
Sidney Orr, is grasping at a writing career he fears may be
slipping away from him. The blue notebook inspires fevered writing
sessions that lead him to question whether fiction predicts or
limits his future, and reveals a darker version to the sunnier
reality that he conveys or believes to be true.

With every sentence and each turned page, readers gather new scraps
of information about Sidney and his life. Yet ORACLE NIGHT is a
story within a story, a piece of multifaceted fiction revealed as
Sidney scribbles in his blue book from Portugal. And what he
discovers as he writes is that the secrets of daily life can be
worse than the scariest fiction and what may appear to be a dead
end.

ORACLE NIGHT is a tightly spun tale, a compilation of several
stories or portraits of people who struggle to live the lives they
think they've always wanted, and ultimately discover that it may be
okay to change course somewhere in the middle. Somewhere in the
middle is where we join these characters who live in New
York within the intertwined circles of the publishing world and
struggle with the question of who they are, will be and
ultimately should be.

Paul Auster, well-known author of THE BOOK OF ILLUSIONS and
TIMBUKTU, will not disappoint readers who have looked forward to
his new work; this 243-page novel is a fast but memorable read. The
structure alone is a testament to the author's craft. Using
footnotes to introduce elements of character background and
progress reports on the fiction that Sidney is working on, Auster
throws readers off course, making them struggle to maintain a hold
on the story at hand without getting lost in past events. Or is it
his way of reintroducing the theme --- or question --- of whether
fiction predicts or limits the future?

Because of this structure and the way the story begins, readers may
feel as if they have interrupted a story somewhere in the middle,
but they will be too interested in what happens next to worry about
what they have missed.

Reviewed by Heather Grimshaw on January 22, 2011

Oracle Night
by Paul Auster

  • Publication Date: November 1, 2004
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 243 pages
  • Publisher: Picador
  • ISBN-10: 0312423667
  • ISBN-13: 9780312423667