Eric Grunwald

Writer, Teacher, Tutor (ESL, German, Italian)

Auster Explores the Mysteries and Mechanics of Reality

(Boston Sunday Globe, February 15, 2004)

Recently I had the occasion, rarer than I'd like, to go to New York, more specifically to Brooklyn, which is not only where Paul Auster lives but also the setting for his 11th novel, Oracle Night, which I was coincidentally reading for this review. Riding the subway into Brooklyn, I looked up from the book at each unfamiliar stop, and just after we'd passed West 4th Street I turned the page to find the narrator, Sidney Orr, boarding the subway at...West 4th Street.

This would come as no surprise to Auster, since mysterious coincidences are at the heart of the compulsively readable yet wonderfully complex and unsettling Oracle Night. The book is both a babushka doll of stories within stories and a literary Rubik's Cube, the solution of which, if there is one, is the very nature of reality.

Like Auster's best-selling previous novel, The Book of Illusions, this one begins just after a brush with death for the narrator, though Sidney faces recuperation, not grief: a 38-year-old novelist stricken by an illness everyone expected him to die from, he is miraculously recovering. But it is no easy convalescence, due not only to his physical debilitation, but also because of, it seems, his random discovery and purchase of a mysterious blue notebook. . . .

To read entire review, please visit The Boston Globe website or email the author (above right).

Selected Works

Published short story
Published short story (excerpt)
Translation of Viennese author's short story "Wahrzeichen"
Translation, from German, of Hermann Hesse’s short story “Der Dichter.”
Review of Orfeo, by Richard Powers
Boston Globe Review of Dr. Olaf van Schuler's Brain by Kirsten Menger-Anderson
Leonardo Sciascia's The Day of the Owl and Equal Danger (from Boston Globe)
Prose poem/Performance piece