Oracle night

by Paul Auster

Hardcover, 2003




New York : H. Holt, 2003.


Several months into his recovery from a near-fatal illness, novelist Sidney Orr enters a stationery shop in 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. This novel is a narrative tour de force that confirms Auster as one of the most original writers at work in America today.

User reviews

LibraryThing member pingdjip
Auster’s novels are bizarre and yet they suck you in. This one is no exception. It catches a feeling about life that is profound: something about its insecurity and the way we stumble about, in a trial-and-error way. The novel provides all kinds of clues to muse about these themes and to connect
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the loose ends in the story (without really solving the puzzle). I found it very easy to slip into Sidney Orr's life: get to know his job, marriage, friends, his feelings, his suspicions and calculations. Apart from Sidney's inner life, the novel presents several strange (and dark) events, surprising yet convincing.
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LibraryThing member Sarah771
Paul has a way of telling you just enough to keep you interested. I loved the character of the shop owner but my problem with the book is that it feels rushed at the end. Like everythign had to be concluded when the rest of the book flowed along like a great mystery. The main character is lovely,
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embracable, human, very much what i love about his writing. good for the beginning Auster readers but i would say not note his best.
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LibraryThing member Cecilturtle
Typical Auster : nothing is what it seems; regular people get lost in a mystery of coincidences
LibraryThing member kylekatz
2003. This book started out amazing. It breathes New York City. It has a main character, a writer, named Sidney Orr, age 34, whom I really like. It tells Sidney's story over a few days in 1982, when his life is particularly crazy. It also tells several stories he's writing, one of which I found
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extremely compelling and wanted to get back to, but he never finishes that part. The story reaches a dead end. Some of the other stories were told such a way that it was like a writer was telling you about what he was writing instead of actually writing it. This was cool, in small doses, but was carried too far, and lost my interest.
The original story about Sidney is also quite compelling, but I was disappointed in how it ended. The book as a whole seemed to be saying something profound about life in general using writing as a metaphor for life. Life is random. Life altering things happen when you least expect them, you can't control them and they don't mean anything, they just happen. And they don't tie up neatly like a Hollywood Movie, or even most novels. So it doesn't tie up neatly either, and it was unsettling, and ultimately unsatisfying too. I don't want to read a long rambling book about randomness and lack of cohesion in the world, even if it's very well written. So while it definitely has some brilliant moments and good prose, I didn't love it.
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LibraryThing member timtom
This is a dense story, with many ramifications, stories nested within the story and metaphysical coincidences. Thanks to Auster's precise writing and impeccable storytelling, the reader never feels lost in the multiple plots. Reading Oracle Night is quite like wandering the rooms of a museum: they
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are arranged in a precise, chronological order, yet multiple doors allow visitors to momentarily get back in time or immerge in a different genre before returning to the main exhibit. This meandering must be how a writer feels when he is obsessed with a story, and Auster manages to bring this feeling to his readers in a remarkable way.
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LibraryThing member adamallen
Oracle Night was my second read by Paul Auster and one that I selected for two reasons - 1. I found Travels in the Scriptorum to be unique, intriguing, and thoroughly enjoyable. 2. It was on the cheapie rack at B&N. The second point shouldn't belittle the book in any way. It is a solid outing for
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Mr. Auster, just not as solid as Travels.

As I believe I've mentioned in past reviews, my reading is cyclical. The book I'm reading during the slow down period always seems to be short shrifted to some extent. Such was the way of Oracle Night. I enjoyed the book but found that reading it in 5 - 10 page increments each day didn't help me engage with it or the characters as much as I'd have liked. Keep that in mind as you read my review.

All that said, I'd recommend you pick it up, read it, and give it the attention it deserves. It is a good book.

**SPOILER ALERT (Highlight)**

The story is about Sidney Orr an author who is in recovery from a recent battle with a near-fatal illness. Sidney is trying to get back into the swing of writing (and life in general) as strange things begin to happen along the way. His wife begins to say strange things like "just love me and everything will be OK" along with exhibitions of unusual behavior. He buys a Portuguese notebook to begin writing and becomes obsessive about the notebook itself and it's powers to draw out the story. One of his (and his wife's) best friends has a son who goes into rehab and Sidney is the one tasked with reaching out to him. The store owner who sold Sidney the notebook turns out to be a shady character who is interested in opening a bordello (which Sidney visits reluctantly). And so on...

As with Travels, Auster has the story within a story which I found didn't work as well in this case. The sub-story was interesting but I found it to be more of a distraction. Since the story in Travels played into the main character's life, I kept expecting he sub-story ("Oracle Night") to be intertwined with Sidney's life. While there were loose connections, it was not to the extent it was in Travels. Maybe that comparison's unfair.

*****END SPOILERS*****

Find the book and read it. You'll likely enjoy it.
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LibraryThing member atheist_goat
A strange little book about a writer who buys a notebook at a mysterious stationery store and finds that the stories he writes in it affect his real life. The premise was more interesting than the execution, I think, and the mysterious Asian man who owns the store becomes such a disturbing
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stereotype that I didn't know what to think (at first it's a self-conscious use of a noir trope and our narrator is aware of it as such, but when Mr. Chang starts bringing said narrator to sinister brothels and making threats, I got really uncomfortable). Auster makes it clear that he's working with noir conventions and so everything is stylized and overdramatized, but that made it difficult for me to care about any of the characters. I was a bit disappointed; the only other book of his I've read was Mr. Vertigo, which I loved. This one was interesting as a writing exercise but not necessarily as a novel.
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LibraryThing member SimoneA
Oracle Night tells the story of a New York writer, who has been very ill. We see him start to write again, and get pieces of the things he's writing. We wander with him through New York and meet his wife and best friend. The plot is a bit jumbled, but the writing is quite good. I kept reading, but
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when I finished the book, it didn't feel like it. The ending wasn't really an ending and I didn't feel like I read one story. If you don't mind a lack of plot and like Auster's style, read this book, but I can't really recommend it otherwise.
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LibraryThing member cat-ballou
Paul Auster really disappointed me with Timbuktu, and I wasn't especially willing to give him a second chance. But then I saw the cover of this book and knew I had lost all choice in the matter. Paul Auster and I, you see, both love office supplies. Or at least the protaganist in Oracle Night does.
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When he described finding the perfect notebook and the need to write something meaningful to begin it, I knew immediately and exactly what he meant. On top of our office supply affinity, this book encompasses several parallel plot lines within a single work. It's a detective story, a love story, a whatever-you-want-it-to-be story. How lucky - that's my favorite kind!
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LibraryThing member fordskyliner
This a story about a writer who is recovering from a traumatic injury. As his passion to write returns (in a mystical notebook purchased from a very strange character) he finds that he has a different perspective on his life which centers on his marriage and career. He explores this with his
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writing and discovers secrets that he has previously ignored.

I found this book hard to read with a second story being told in the footnotes. Never the less the book was engaging until the end when it seemed the author just decided it was time to finish it and did so hastily. There was opportunity to tie the two story lines together which I believe would have been much more interesting.
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LibraryThing member soylentgreen23
A shorter, less substantial book by Auster, but a good one nonetheless. I quite like the intertextuality he presents - the narrator is a writer, and is writing a book himself. I've read other attempts at this kind of thing that can fall quite heavily on their arses, so it's refreshing to read one
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that handles the effect so competently.
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LibraryThing member thorold
A complicated novel about an author who's writing a book about an author who's reading a book about another author (etc...) and in the process finds himself digging unexpected stuff about his own life out of his subconscious. But there's also a Magic Notebook and a Mysterious Chinaman (do they
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really still have those?) and it all somehow boils down to a fistfight between two men about a woman.

Very stylish, but I'm not sure what it did for me, if anything.
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LibraryThing member ariesblue
The story was confusing,the end upset me,and i feel depressed after finishing it....may be it wasn't the right time for me to read it...
the part about his mysterious blue notebook,and how it give Sidney Auster's protagonist,some kind of power over his writing.... and it's effective impact in
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changing the direction of the story from time to time, was the only interesting thing .....

"Those notebooks are very friendly, but they can also be cruel, and you have to watch out you don't get lost in them," warns Trause.
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LibraryThing member librarybrandy
The plot was intriguing, the characters sympathetic, the writing style fine, and yet I still came away from this one indifferent. I'll try another of his books--this may have been a bad starting point--but on the whole, meh.
LibraryThing member arubabookwoman
Sydney, a Brooklyn writer recovering from a near-fatal illness wanders into a stationery store owned by Mr. Chan, purchases a blue notebook, and for the first time in a long while begins writing, the story magically pouring from his pen. He writes of an editor, Nick Bowen, who is given a strange
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manuscript by a long dead writer to edit. But on his way to the office one day, Nick is nearly killed by a heavy falling object, and this experience impels him to just drop everything in his life and run away to the first place he can buy a plane ticket for, Kansas City as it happens. In Kansas City, Nick becomes involved with a man who collects worldwide telephone books and stores them in a "museum" hidden away underground under the railroad tracks, where Nick becomes trapped with no way out when the telephone book collector suddenly dies of heart disease.....So we have a story within a story, within a story: The manuscript of a novel called Oracle Night by a deceased writer, being edited by Nick, who has just abandoned his life to run away to Kansas City, as written/imagined by Sydney, a writer in Brooklyn who hasn't written in a while, as written/imagined by Paul Auster (a writer living in Brooklyn I believe). There's layer after layer here, and it was sometimes a challenge keeping track of whose story we were in, especially if I had set the book aside for a few days. But it was all thoroughly enjoyable. I'm a fan of most of the Paul Auster books I've read. I like the way he frequently plays games with the reader of his books, and I constantly marvel at his imaginative powers.

4 stars
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LibraryThing member eclecticheart
I really like the story in a story in a story concept, but I really disliked the extended footnotes. Not his greatest, but it doesn't make it a bad effort.
LibraryThing member Eye_Gee
Love Paul Auster.
LibraryThing member Melanielgarrett
This blew my mind. One of the most lucid arguments I've ever read on 'what is a novel', argued in the form of a novel. Not to be missed!

LibraryThing member annmariestover
I consider Paul Auster to be my most worthwhile discovery of 2005. I picked this one up randomly, because the cover seemed mysterious. And with a title like "Oracle Night", I was willing to try it. And it was every bit worth it. He relies on footnotes in this book, but he rarely abuses it. I didn't
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get to read any of his other books that year. Seattle Public Library had one other title, and I didn't get a chance to read it (I owe SPL money for it, actually).
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