I don’t know where I found it, or how I came across it, whether it was in a charity shop, or someone lent it to me, but I have a novel called ‘Oracle Night’ by an author I had never previously heard of, Paul Auster. I was trying to find out more about it, or the author, and put the words ‘oracle’ and ‘novel’ into search, and came across so many other books with it in the title, as well as ‘oracle cards’ which are supposed to help divine the future, answer dilemmas, help solve problems..
Paul Auster was born in 1948 and is an American writer… I don’t want to find out too much about him until I have finished the book because it is such an unusual and mysterious novel that I’m afraid I might spoil the intrigue. I have a feeling that this book might become a favourite, and one I will read and reread.
When I began to read it, it reminded me of other American stories, but not in a specific way, maybe Tucker Coe (aka Donald Westlake) maybe Philip Roth, maybe Salinger… but none of those I’ve mentioned are actually like what I was reading, it was just a flavour of something familiar,something I had read when I was much younger. I didn’t pick up when it was written or when it was set, before or after the war, fifties, or sixties… but in a way it didn’t matter. As I read on, it reminded me of something else, twentieth century French literature I had studied for my degree, then Italian writers such as Calvino, Primo Levi… but it wasn’t that either…
There were very long footnotes, sometimes going on for pages – a woman was mentioned, the main character’s wife and a four page footnote is devoted to how he met her… When i first started writing properly I would write novels in a non-sequential way; I thought this would make it more interesting, and puzzle and intrigue the reader – if I had been a better writer it may well have done, but the stories I wrote (two of the, ‘Telling All The Truth’ was one… a title I may use for my new novel!) the stories I wrote using this device which just plain confusing and muddledy! I do still sometimes delay an explanation of something which has happened in a narrative to surprise (but not confuse) the reader, but I am not skilled, not writer like Auster is a writer!
In the early chapters, of ‘Oracle Night’, Auster describes how a character who has had an undisclosed medical incident, begins to write again; the character decides on a name for his character, and is suddenly swept along by writing and even as he makes rational decisions about the appearance and type of person his character is, it’s as if the person he is creating is standing beside him watching him write, and when the writer leaves the room his character remains sitting there… I think that experience may be common to many writers, but I have never seen it described before, especially in a way which makes it so recognizable.
I’m not going to write any more about it until I finish, except to say it was published in 2003… Is it a mystery, a romance, a history, something else? I have no idea!