If you’ve never read Paul Auster, be warned that his work is always a little surreal. His novels read like a mixture of fantasy, mystery, and a ghost story. Pay attention to the details because some of them will weave their way deeply into the story and some are loose threads. The random encounters are rarely random, and even if a character seems like he hasn’t changed and/or made any kind of journey, you as the reader certainly will.
Such was my experience as I read Oracle Night. I could tell you the jacket flap details, but it would be much more fun to tell you it’s about a writer who writes a story about a man reading the work of a long dead writer who wrote about a man who has the ability to predict the future. If it sounds crazy, that’s because it’s a Paul Auster novel.
Still, don’t allow that to deter you from reading about writer Sidney Orr and his mysterious blue notebook purchased from M.R. Chang’s Paper Palace or about Sidney’s wife, Grace, and the nature of their relationship versus hers with fellow writer John Trause. Factor in Jacob, John’s drug addict son, and Nick Bowen who manages to lock himself into Ed Victory’s underground bunker (The Bureau of Historical Preservation), and Lemuel Flagg, a British lieutenant blinded in World War I who has the gift of prophecy, and you’re in the multi-layered world of Paul Auster.
Some of my thoughts as I read Oracle Night included:
Every writer’s nightmare and every writer’s dream: to write words that actually come true or at least predict the future.
What are these worlds that writers create?
Do we live in the present with the future inside us?
Are we creating futures as we write?
Is the pen truly mightier than the sword?
Such are the questions Auster’s work provokes every time I read it. I can also recommend Travels in the Scriptorium, The Book of Illusions, Augie Wren’s Christmas Story, and Man in the Dark. If you need a point of reference, readers of Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s Shadow of the Wind will probably enjoy Auster’s novels as long as they keep in mind that he will take it to the next level of wonderfully bizarre.