Oracle Night

ISBN: 0805073205
ISBN 13: 9780805073201
By: Paul Auster

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About this book

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 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.

Reader's Thoughts


Oracle Night seems like one of Auster's more perfunctory novels. There is the usual blend of a narrator getting over some big personal tragedy, reflections on the power of language (writing especially in this case), recurring coincidences, a female love interest in trouble, etc. The opening conceit of the blank notebook and Sid's need to fill it has this really interesting, ominous vibe going to it. But Auster doesn't seem all that committed to really diving into it, and by the end of the book it felt like little more than a forgotten pretext to set the whole narrative up instead of an organic development within the story. There are some really nice passages though, and it's interesting to read one of his books that has a decidedly more domestic kind of feel to it than a lot of his other work. But the ending feels rushed, and the whole strung-out-son-of-a-family-friend who suddenly pops up to wreak havoc in everyone's lives feels kind of like a cheap deus ex machina. I'd expect that kind of weak stuff from someone's first novel, not their umpteenth.


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 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.

MacDara Conroy

Paul Auster is the kind of writer who makes you wish you were one too. He might be too self-referential or self-indulgent for some, and this particular story isn't without it's shortcomings - too many loose endings, things left unexplained - but he has this gift for conjuring a lucid dreamworld that could easily intersect with your life, or mine. That alone makes it worth a read for the uninitiated.

Anne Nikoline

I have been patient with you, Oracle Night by Paul Auster, but you never seem to change. Maybe it is not you, but perhaps me who is too difficult to please. Either way, I think we should end our relationship before any of us gets more hurt. Maybe will meet again some time and maybe we will get together for a cup of coffee and talk of the weather and then go home separably. Even so, I know that I will have a hard time thinking of you, but sooner or later I should be able to move on, so that is what I'm doing now. Goodbye.


After a protracted, mysterious illness, fiction/screenwriter Sidney Orr buys a blue Portugese notebook and returns to writing (writes himself a life??), starting w/ a paratext loosely following on a story-w/in-a-story told in Hammet's "Maltese Falcon." Strange events ensue, making Sidney and the reader question future and past, premonition, love, trust, disappearance, and morality.I personally LOVE Auster's methods, and I never tire of his puzzles. This is the kind of book that frustrates and excites; you want to linger over the parallels; I found myself drawing diagrams on the periphery of my notes re: correlations btw Sidney and Nick, btw Auster himself and Sidney and Trause (anagram of Auster - can't say I picked that up on my first go).Do words have intrinsic power? What about Chang's statement about his stationary store - "Everything in here important to life." You walk away wondering - what impact exactly did the blue notebook (and Chang) have over the story? What impact did Sidney's imagination have? Is he a reliable narrator? Are the connections btw our subconscious and conscious more than spiderwebs and dreams?


رواية معاصرة بمعنى الكلمة (كتبها مؤلفها بول أوستر عام 2004). مع بداية الرواية لم أتوقع أن تكون الأحداث مشوقة إلى هذه الدرجة، تمزج بين رهافة الأحاسيس ورهبة التوقع وألغاز الحياة المعاصرة والتواصل مع خواطر الزمن. مع الاستمرار في صفحات الرواية كان الروائي يقدّم ما يكمّل الصورة في ذهني لأتوقع ما سيحدث أيضاً. الشخصيات الكثيرة ولكن المركَّزة على مدار سرد الوقائع أسهمت في شدّ عملية القراءة إلى الأمام، وقدّمت لي صوراً غير مألوفة عن مدينة نيويورك وطبيعة الحياة فيها وعلاقات الأشخاص معنوياً ومادياً. أستطيع القول إن كل ما جاء في الرواية جديد ولكن فيه شيء ملحوظ من الألفة. وأقترح على من يرغب بقراءة هذه الرواية أن تكون على مدى جلستين أو ثلاث بحدّ أقصى، كي يحتفظ بقدر كبير من التركيز واستيعاب ما يجري.


I think its refreshing sometimes to find a writer who leaves you a bit of space to make up your own mind rather than attempting to overtly express a strong point of view.. I love those who make strong statements (like Orwell for example) and admire the fact that they use their craft for a particular purpose -as a means to an end - but not every one can do this as skillfully and sometimes the story can suffer at the hands of the teller. I am glad Auster chose to write this story from the main character's perspective because we are given that little bit more space to make up our own minds about the story. Of course, Auster is there guiding our understanding of Sidney and his friends , but there are times when the lines between them become blurred and we are seeing something of ourselves in his main character rather than something of his creator. As a result of this quietening of the writer's voice, the story becomes more than just the product of its teller and the means becomes an end in itself. Can't wait to read more of this author!!


My favorite part of Paul Auster's writing is his descriptions of interpersonal relationships, be they familial, romantic, business, etc. He manages to nail so many details and nuances so beautifully without being trite or florid or faking anything. And this novel fits that bill to the t. The Sid/Grace relationship was brilliantly fleshed out and detailed for a novel under 250 pages, with each character seemingly intensely real, their relationship understandable and believable. But, Auster is more generally known for his analysis of the writing craft and the depth of meaning/confusion of of language, so I suppose I should also note that this novel does this quite well. He mixes the traditional Auster mystery (somewhat hard-boiled, this time focused on the relationship of the written word to the shapings of reality) with a tragic hero, both in the novel itself and the novel within the novel that Sid writes. But the conclusion, which is striking in its ultimate ANSWER to the literature as prophecy discussion is, left me near tears. Great.

Jen Maidenberg

It's difficult for me to review this book as it's hard to tell right now whether or not I truly enjoyed the story and the reading or if I am so overwhelmed by certain parallels between this and my own life / current writing project. My story almost felt like one of the stories within a story inside the novel. A deeper layer of sorts. It's the second time I've read Auster and the first was so many years ago I don't remember it, but I am drawn to the theme of this book (regardless of the parallels to my own life), synchronicity, time travel, the power of words, magical thinking vs. rational, predicting or dreaming the future. I loved the book.


رواية داخل روايةعندما تقرأ لأول مرة لبول أوستر لا يسعك بعد ذلك إلا البحث عن مجمل أعماله..متعة فائقة أن أتقرأ لكاتب يحترم عقليتك و يضع ذكاءك موضع المسائلة و الإختبار كأنه داخل إلى متاهة ذهنية و يريدك أن تعمل على حل عقدها و التكهن بالخطوة القادمة التى لن تقدر على التنبؤ بها أو حتى التفكير فيها..دائما توقعات صادمة تنهش فى لحم الحقيقة لتعرى ما هو مختفٍ تحتهاالرواية قائمة على تداعى السرد و تشابك الأزمنة و التقل فيما بينها من الماضى للحاضر و المستقبل و بالعكس ، و تداخل حياة الراوى- الذى يعمل بالأساس كاتب قصة- مع الشخصية التى يقوم بتخيلها و التى طيلة قراءتك للرواية تتساءل أيهما الحقيقى الرواى/ الكاتب/الشخصية المتخيلة..بينهما دائما نقاط إلتقاء فى الحياة و فى التفكير و فى المفردات المادية و المعنوية التى تشكل عالميهماتحكى الرواية عن كاتب يدعى"سدنى أولا" و الذى أصابه حادث فكان على شفا الموت ..و قام من موته ليكتب قصة فى دفتر أزرق صنع برتغالى كان له الأثر الفعال فى تغيير منحى القصة من آن لآخر...يكتب عن شخصية كانت سابقاً بطلة فى رواية"الصقر المالطى" لكاتب آخر إسمه داشيل هامت..مع تحوير فى الصفات الجسمانية و كذلك الحياة الإجتماعية غير أن الذى يربط بينهما هو حادث سقوط جسم هائل من أعلى بناية يمر من تحتها فكاد أن يسقط عليه لولا تفاديه و إصابته بجروح طفيفة.كان لهذا الحادث أثره عليه بعد ذلك فى تساؤلاته عن الموت العشوائى و الغير منظم و تتابع أسئلة الكثيرة عن معنى الحياة و الوجودضمن الرواية يحاول أيضاً الكاتي"بول أوستر" أن يعطينا فكرة عن التكنيكات المتبعة فى كتابة قصة..الخيط الأول، أول كلمة، تداعى الأفكار و التحكم الواعى بها..إعادة التنسيق و البناء المادى و المعنوى للشخصيةهى رواية محيرة و مثيرة و تشد الأنفاس نظرا لكتابتها بطريقة سرد بوليسية تعطيك إنطباعا أنك تعيش فى عالم فنتازى لا واقعى و لا منطقى و غير مارابط و لا يمت لحياتنا الواقعية فى شىء ..لكنك تقع فى مغالطة كبيرة إن تيقنت من هذا


Auster's favourite theme is randomness, chance. And we see it again in this novel, which is a story within a story within a story, told in Auster's favourite narrative style. Given that there is so much ground to cover in this short book, I'm not sure there is any other way but to "tell" this story. However, only the main story line heads towards any type of conclusion in this book, while the others stall midway, again, demonstrating randomness, perhaps?I like this book because it deals with the life of a writer, Sydney Orr, who has suffered a long illness and is just picking up his interrupted life. It is also a good study on plotting, for Auster weaves plot within plot in his embedded stories - quite deftly, it seems. Sometimes randomness can be a cop-out, when new plot points are introduced just to hype things up or slow things down. The late arrival of Jacob Trause, the truant son of Syney's mentor John Trause, and his suddden but drastic impact on the course of the narrative, pushes the concept of "chance" a bit too far. Auster also experiments with putting back-story and other non-essential detail into lengthy footnotes that overlap several pages and that can be read ( or not) to enhance the depth of the main storyline - this device worked for me..The lesson of randomness however, is quite powerful, because after the random event, all previous efforts by those affected seem trivial and unecessary.Which begs the question of whether one should strive in life or just go with the flow?


I really enjoyed this, a Morning News recommendation a couple years ago. But take that with a grain of salt; it was the first Paul Auster book I'd read at the time, so I wasn't jaded by his little tricks yet. Now I know he does basically the same thing in every story.


Probably not that many Auster readers start 2004's Oracle Night the second after finishing 1987's In the Country of Last Things, so don't notice that Boris Stepanovich, a significant secondary character in the latter, has a brief role as a cab driver in the former.More noteworthy, and scary, is that Jacob, the late-adolescent gone wrong (not just a little wrong, either) mirrors the character of Mark in Auster's wife Siri Hustvedt's What I Loved - I hope this didn't really happen to them.Suggestions of autobiography are hard to dismiss in any novel where the central character is a writer. This one is meta-meta-meta, where the story within the story is itself about an unpublished novel; parallels emerge in all three levels of the story and half the significant information is explained in footnotes that fill up more of the page than the ostensible main narrative - post-modern but still gripping and finally arriving at an almost melodramatic climax that is all the more shocking in the wake of the many unfinished story lines that precede it.


'If you have never read Auster before,' proclaims a quote displayed on the cover of this edition of Oracle Night, 'this is the place to start.' I hadn't read Auster before beginning this book, but I'd been meaning to for a while - especially since I've now read three of his wife (Siri Hustvedt)'s books and have gathered that their work ie very similar in style and theme. I wasn't out looking for an Auster book, I was just browsing at the library, but when I spotted it, the intriguing summary and that quote were good enough for me.Oracle Night is short, but packed with detail. It's a multi-layered story, beginning with Sidney Orr - a novelist who is recovering from a severe illness - buying a unique Portuguese notebook in a rather odd stationery store. On the recommendation of his friend, also a novelist, Sidney begins to flesh out an idea for a story concerning a man who suffers a near-death experience and impulsively leaves his wife and home, resolving to start his life anew in a different city. The narrative follows both the progression of this tale and its protagonist Nick Bowen, and the 'real' story of Sidney, whose relationship with his wife Grace (the history of which is detailed in a number of footnotes) begins to flounder soon after he acquires the notebook. Meanwhile, Sidney attempts to re-write HG Wells' The Time Machine as a modern film script, turning it into an unconventional romance, and the Nick narrative also has a further strand wherein the character is profoundly affected by the contents of a lost manuscript, the title of which is Oracle Night. Like I said, multi-layered.There are definitely elements of the weird about this story - the disappearance and relocation of the Paper Palace and its enigmatic proprietor, the 'powers' of the notebook - but it isn't a paranormal or fantasy novel. This really appealed to me - I love the combination of literary prose and hints of the unexplained. I also LOVED the writing. It is very like Hustvedt's, though it's also quite easy to tell the difference. Despite all the intricacies of the plot, it often seems secondary to the way the story is told, the ideas it explores. There are parallels galore and the book often touches on the relationship between fiction and reality and/or language and action.I'd have liked this book to be longer (and it easily could have been), but overall it was a fantastic read which piqued my interest in Auster enough for me to go straight on to another of his books - The New York Trilogy - after finishing it.


I was given this book, and assured that I would like it. And I did! This is the first time I have read an Auster novel and I found it to be a lovely piece of work, I started it and stopped for a moment to breathe, since I have no other books to read, I tried to savour it but alas! I couldn't I just had to read it in one sitting. Such is the the curse of the fast reader. I enjoyed it from start to finish and liked visiting a Brooklyn neighborhood I spent a lot of time in(my sister lived in in Carrol Gardens for was a charming little novel. Can't wait to check out more of his work.

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