Synopses & Reviews
Several months into his recovery from a near-fatal illness, thirty-four-year-old novelist Sidney Orr enters a stationery 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 this blank book, trapped inside a world of eerie premonitions and puzzling 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 stationery shop, precipitously close 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 Austers 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 mans imagination, Oracle Night is a narrative tour de force that confirms Austers reputation as one of the boldest, most original writers at work in America today.
"[A]rtful, ingenious...both a darkly suspenseful domestic drama and a moving meditation on chance and loss....The plot of this bizarrely fascinating novel strains credibility, but Auster's unique genius is to make the absurd coherent..." Publishers Weekly
"Much of this is quite entertaining, but the story's pay, though fully explanatory, is disappointing....Oracle Night, fascinating as it is, is a lesser performance." Kirkus Reviews
"[O]ne spellbinding and provocative storyline leads breathlessly to another...Auster orchestrates a terrifying denouement that burns away all ambiguity, leaving his hero enraptured by the radiance of what matters most: love." Donna Seaman, Booklist
"[Auster] suggests that the terror of not being heard lies at the heart of writing....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
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 this blank book, trapped inside a world of eerie premonitions and bewildering events that threaten to destroy his marriage and undermine his faith in reality.
A novel that expands to fill volumes in the reader's mind, Oracle Night is a beautifully constructed meditation on time, love, storytelling and the imagination by one of America's boldest and most original writers.
About the Author
is the bestselling author of Travels in the Scriptorium
, The Brooklyn Follies
, and Man in the Dark
. 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 languages. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Reading Group Guide
1. How does the three-dimensional viewfinder that John Trause speaks of serve as a symbol for the novel? Think of its evocation as a “magic lantern.”
2. Discuss the use of color in Oracle Night, not simply the blue notebook, but his “tinted” descriptions of the city and his extended discussions of bodily fluids on page
3. Sidney describes his discovery of (and subsequent productivity in) the blue notebook as “a little piece of black magic.” How is coincidence a force in the novel? How does Sidney, and his creations, react to these mysterious encounters and occurrences? Does he - or they - believe in fate?
4. Why do you think the doors to Ed Victorys Bureau of Historical Preservation have no doorknobs? Is this an idea from another part of the novel made physical in Nicks story? Furthermore, what other sorts of ephemera from Sidneys life manifest themselves in Nicks world?
5. What of Sidneys feelings for Grace are projections of his feelings about himself? Think in particular about Sids fraught reaction at Graces disappearance directly after feeling guilty for attending Changs strip club?
6. Return to page 210 of the novel. As Sidney re-evaluates the notebook and its influence on his life, he in some way announces that his story ends here? Is he trapped, like his protagonist? Why do you think he decides that the notebook is trouble?
7. Sidney is overcoming an illness; John Trause is ill; Ed Victory is ill; by the end of the novel, Grace endures serious ailments - where does physical suffering lead these characters? Are they changed by pain? Are they made better by it?
8. Oracle Night doesnt just play with notions of Time; it reinvents characters by way of the place within time, some even seem to be mis-placed (someone from the past who shouldnt be in the future; someone else whos tempered fate and suffered by being refused entrance into the future). Are there characters in the book that representatives of the past, or the future? Think of each and every character in the book? Do you think Trauses sons appearance at the books close is a function of such philosophical play?
9. Does Sidneys destruction of the notebook cause Trauses death?