R&R 019 | Oracle Night
First published in 2003
This edition: First edition, Henry Holt & Company 2003
Cover design by Raquel Jaramillo
Book bought in New York
Read by the same author: The Brooklyn Follies (and after this review, The New York Trilogy)
On one of his walks, Sidney Orr, a novelist recovering from a near-fatal illness, discovers a new stationary store in New York. There, he becomes mystified with a blue notebook, which he buys and uses immediately upon his return home. While using the notebook to write the manuscript for what could be his next novel, Orr's life is disrupted by odd events which he cannot explain. It's when his wife Grace suddenly disappears without a trace, that Orr finds himself helpless and losing control of reality.
When I started reading this book, there was so much to be excited about. Auster had plenty of material ready to be worked out more thoroughly, and a number of great and original ideas to continue on with in this book. But he did not work with them much, and left many questions unanswered, issues and mysteries unresolved.
However, this is not the main goal of the book. To have answers to everything and a perfectly rounded up plot.
Like many of Auster's other books, we're looking at a work of meta-fiction: a novel where the act of writing fiction in itself is found to be the most important subject of the book. It's almost like an open demonstration about fiction and methods used to construct it. Meta-fiction, I suppose, for its writer is about the "road taken", and not about the destination. The Finished Project is, in this case, rather irrelevant.
Auster uses many clever tricks to explore the elements of fictional writing. There is the use of footnotes and the novel-in-a-novel structure of the text. The protagonist is a struggling writer. Even the book's jacket design reminds me of a blue notebook.
This is a book which will leave many of its readers to feel immensely disappointed, because of the lack of closure. But this is why Oracle Night is perhaps a very brave book, one that could teach its readers, and other writers, to think more about what is written right now, instead of "what happens next" and to be more aware of the act of writing in itself. Or, the art of writing.
Oracle Night took a suprising form which I can accept and check out further. It definitely tickled my brain a little, and now intrigues me enough to go ahead and try out some other works in order to better understand what Auster and other metafiction authors are trying to make their readers explore. Because no, Oracle Night alone did not make me understand metafiction as I now think I am supposed to understand it. But it got me thinking about this different side to both reading and writing. And I think that side of it is quite interesting.
(It was a while later, when I read The New York Trilogy, that a lot more became clear to me regarding metafiction. The New York Trilogy will be reviewed as part of my reading & reviewing series later on.)
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