Oracle Night A Novel

Paul Auster




Trade Paperback

256 Pages



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Several months into his recovery from a near-fatal illness, thirty-four-year-old novelist Sidney Orr enters a stationary 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 the blank book, trapped inside a world of eerie premonitions and bewildering 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 stationary shop, precipitously shut down 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.


Praise for Oracle Night

"Compulsively readable yet wonderfully complex."—Eric Grunwald, The Boston Globe

"Every bit as sad and spooky as [Auster's] New York Trilogy—and perhaps more intricate . . . [This book] plumbs persistent Austerian themes: identity, reinvention, betrayal, disappearance, chance, and the possibility that a supernatural heart quivers beneath the everyday surface of life . . . As in the New York Trilogy, he subverts our expectations of what a mystery story should be, and the reading experience is far richer for it."—Philip Connors, Newsday

"Over the course of many books, Auster has burnished . . . ambivalence to a sheen by crossing metatextual strategies with the conventions of the noir thriller—Chandler meets Borges . . . Oracle Night is situated squarely on the Austerian matrix of narrative and reality—i.e., in a writer's notebook . . . [The novel] reads, indeed, like a dream or gloss on all the Auster novels that have come before, with its disorientation, its interlocking webs of seekers and sought, its blur of the invented and the artifact . . . 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, The New York Times Book Review

"A writer recovering from a mysterious life-threatening illness begins to write in a notebook that has, it seems, the supernatural power to draw him into the very story he is writing. And the story, as it happens, is a reworking of Dashiell Hammett's idea about a man who, after nearly dying, flees a comfortable family life. That nothing is what it seems is standard-issue Auster metaphysics, and the narrator here seems familiar: too-literary, Brooklyn-based, decent, if a trifle self-serious. What saves Auster's story from ponderousness is the sheer verve with which he follows his narrator through the labyrinthine plot. He barely has characters, or none more substantial than you'd find in a 1930s murder mystery, but he shines as a fabulist and tale-teller, putting a high-modernist gloss on noir by leaving his tales within tales within tales unfinished."—The New Yorker

"Paul Auster has taken the inherent self-consciousness of a novelist narrator to such painstakingly layered extremes that the strategy seems anything but lazy. In remarkably few pages, Mr. Auster builds up a marvellously thick ply of wallpapers, and it is delectable to peel away the little rose pattern to reveal the stripes underneath . . . The lucid Mr. Auster is a natural story-teller, with a seemingly inexhaustible trove of yarns at his disposal. All of the stories within stories are compelling in their own right . . . This neat, sweet volume is a joy to read. The prose is clean and translucent. Considering the number of spin-off plots that Mr. Auster manages to insert in asides or footnotes, readers get more than their money's worth in plain good story-telling."—The Economist

"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 . . . Bizarrely fascinating . . . His stories have a dreamlike, hallucinatory logic."—Publishers Weekly

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I had been sick for a long time. When the day came for me to leave the hospital, I barely knew how to walk anymore, could barely remember who I was supposed to be. Make an effort, the doctor said, and in three or four months you'll be back in the...

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  • Paul Auster

  • Paul Auster is the bestselling author of Man in the Dark, Travels in the Scriptorium, Brooklyn Follies, and Oracle Night. I Thought My Father Was God, the NPR National Story Project anthology, which he edited, was a national bestseller. His work has been translated into thirty-five languages. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

  • Paul Auster Lotte Hansen
    Paul Auster




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