Sidney Orr is a writer, but he has not worked in a while because he has been very ill. Slowly his health returns and he is able to make longer walks outside. During one of his walks he sees a shop that sells notebooks etcetera. He buys a new notebook here, a blue one, made in Portugal. He takes it home and before he knows it, he is writing like he hasn’t done in such a long time.
He writes a story after an idea by Dashiel Hammett, about an ordinary man who is almost hit by something falling and then changes his life completely. Sidney uses this to write his own story about an editor who leaves everything behind and takes a plane to Kansas city when something almost falls on his head when he goes to the mailbox. In Kansas, his adventure becomes very strange.
Sidney tries to finish his story, but in the meantime he is also worried about his wife and their friend, author John Trause who is very ill.
Stories, wrapped in stories while a story is being told. That is one of the main characteristics in Oracle night by Paul Auster, who knows, like no other, how to take all these different stories and make them into one. In the meantime you are constantly wondering if what you read is a vital clue for the next bit of the story, or the previous part.
Past, present and future are also mixed. One of the stories is about a man who can see the future and it drives him mad, and Sidney writes a story based on the Time machine by H.G. Wells. It also becomes clear Sidney is writing this story twenty years after it happened, and it is not clear if what he claims to know is true, or based on what he learned later.
Very intriguing are the footnotes, with extra explanations about the story. Often these footnotes are going on for pages, making two parallel stories in the same book. Very interesting and unexpected.
All these things make Oracle night a typical Auster, constantly challenging what you know and making you think everything can be a vital clue. I love it.
Published in 2003