It wasn’t until I started listening to Oracle Night that I realized how much I missed Paul Auster’s voice. After the 30-some hours of Auster reading 4 3 2 1 I came to see him as a close friend. And like 4 3 2 1, Oracle Night is fantastic storytelling. In Oracle Night, which was published in 2003, you can see the germs of 4 3 2 1, the layers of storytelling, stories within stories, a certain meta quality. And for me at least, Auster’s storytelling is fascinating and has real heart.
Sidney Orr is a writer recovery from a long, serious illness that no one expected him to live through. The discovery of a Portuguese notebook in a stationary shop provides Orr with the incentive/inspiration to begin writing again. Like “Sole Mates” in 4 3 2 1, Auster gives us a story within the story which I found totally captivating. I was dying to know how it would end but Auster plays a trick on the reader that is both plot and metaphor. As we go along and Orr becomes physically stronger all manner of things go wrong in his life. His work, his wife, his literary mentor, his security, his future. It all gets tossed around in ways that could seem outlandish but didn’t somehow.
The thing that amazes me about Auster is that his brain must be like the stacks of the New York Public Library. Vast, and full of interesting information.
Even if I wasn’t a big fan of this book (I am) the first scene in the stationary store is enough to make it worth the read for an officephiliac like myself.
And did I mention that it has footnotes? It has footnotes. Long ones. I loved it.