The Music of Chance by Paul Auster – A Book Review

Paul Auster once again scribes a tale that lingers in the consciousness long after the initial reading.

In The Music of Chance, Auster provides an utterly unpredictable story focusing upon Jim Nashe, a firefighter who inherits an unexpected sum of money and begins driving cross-country for no real reason.  As chance would have it, he happens across a self-proclaimed poker savant just as Nashe is in danger of running out of funds.  The poker aficionado, Jack Pozzi, guarantees Nashe he can multiply Nashe’s capital if only Nashe will back him in a big, upcoming game with a couple of millionaire dunderheads.

I won’t spoil any of the outcomes, but I can tell you that Auster’s story abruptly shifts direction so often and so savagely that it’s like riding in a brakeless car – thrilling and nerve-wracking.   Furthermore, when dealing with chance, there is often no reasonable explanation, and such is the case with The Music of Chance.  Auster’s brilliance with this novel is his sheer disregard for pattern.  Don’t get me wrong, Auster is always mindful of his thematic favorites – isolation, freedom, identity – but The Music of Chance has such unforeseen events that the mind races trying to fill in the unexplained gaps.

Perhaps most hauntingly is the fact that Auster appropriately provides no answers as to why certain events occur in The Music of Chance.  In the hands of a lesser author, this would be maddening, but Auster’s rebellious plot is delivered eloquently, skillfully, and engagingly, and so his unwillingness to elucidate certain incongruities somehow serves as a strength in The Music of Chance rather than a hindrance.  Consequently, if you’re like me, you’ll take joy in dissecting these mysteries long after you’ve finished the book.

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