The Music of Chance (英語) ペーパーバック – ラフカット, 1993/10/1
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An “exceptional” (Los Angeles Times) tale of fate, loyalty, responsibility, and the real meaning of freedom, from the author of the forthcoming 4 3 2 1: A Novel
A finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award
This “rich and dazzling” (Wall Street Journal) novel follows Jim Nashe who, after squandering an unexpected inheritance, picks up a young gambler named Jack Pozzi hoping to con two millionaires. But when their plans backfire, Jim and Jack are indentured by their elusive marks and are forced to build a meaningless wall with bricks gathered from ruins of an Irish castle. Time passes, their debts mount, and anger builds as the two struggle to dig themselves out of their Kafkaesque serfdom.
New York Times-bestselling author Paul Auster (The New York Trilogy) brings us back into his strange, shape-shifting world of fiendish bargains and punitive whims, where chance is a powerful yet unpredictable force.
Praise for Music of Chance:
“A tour de force about freedom and imprisonment, motion and stasis, order and randomness. . .its story beautifully paced and shaped, its tone powerfully ominous.”
–The Wall Street Journal
“You won’t read much better writing anywhere on the lure of the open road – and it catches the reader in a surprisingly strong spell. It’s further evidence that Auster is one of the few contemporary American novelists whose work is both original and interesting."
– The Washington Post
“Entertaining, provocative, and resonant. . .Auster can write with the speed and skill of a self-assured pool player, sending one bizarre event ricocheting neatly and unexpectedly into the next.”
– The New York Times
I've often heard over the years that true gambling addicts know they're going to lose in the long run. That they actually want to lose. Auster depicts this bizarre scenario beautifully in the mental breakdown of Jim Nashe, whose gambling problem seemingly arrives out of the clear blue sky as easily as does an inheritance he receives from a father who abandoned him as an infant. During what I would consider the first part of the novel, Nashe, 33 years old for most of the narrative, gambles away the last $12,300 of the inheritance via a stranger he meets on the road, Jack Pozzi, a fast talking poker player. As Nashe and Pozzi travel to a poker game Pozzi expects to be a certain victory for a large sum, a game in which Nashe will stake Pozzi with the last of what he has, Nashe imagines them losing every penny. To prepare himself for the potential downside, the potential loss of every penny, he makes himself accept that it may happen. He goes so far to expect that it will happen. And yet he remains on course.
When Nashe gets down to zero, not a penny to his name, he risks going $10,000 into debt on the single turn of a random card. One hand of faro, so to speak.
The second part of the novel takes readers to an entirely different place - away from the world of the gambler and into the mind of the manual laborer, the man working the same physically demanding job everyday for the same hourly pay. The eerie setting and tone for this part of the novel reminded me a lot of those in Castle, as did the breakdown of the main character, though the background and details are entirely different. The back story that leads Nashe to his period of devoted manual labor, and the way in which the events surrounding his labor unfold, are allegorical if not unrealistic, but themes of paranoia, feeling trapped, distrust by order takers of the order givers - all of it rings true and I found it all fascinating.
My only complaint, and what left me so disappointed, was the existence of two very well crafted problems left open by Auster in the end. I thought for sure the author would come back to these two situations and resolve them in some way for readers, but alas, he did not. On one hand I understand the potential reasoning behind leaving these two issues unresolved, open to interpretation, if you will, but on the other hand I really, really wanted something more. Nothing heavy handed, just a little something more to let readers know, even roughly, how a couple of things had gone down.
Overall, a very enjoyable, smooth, stylistically pleasing, and quick read. I couldn't put it down.
That being said, I have not stopped thinking about this book since I put it down a month ago. The series of adventures the main character undergoes may be implausible in reality, but they serve the author's purpose well- depicting a man experiencing an existential crisis and trying to make the most of it. From traveling around the country non-stop to spending close to a year on a physically arduous vanity project for a pair of wealthy bachelors (I am avoiding specifics on purpose- certain parts of the book are best discovered as you read), "The Music of Chance" is a clunky yet ultimately memorable slice of Twentieth Century fiction.
Paul Auster's books tend to be strong conceptually and weak in other areas and this book is a perfect example of that. Thankfully, at least in my opinion, the concept is strong enough to overshadow the flaws. An easy read, "The Music of Chance" is worth the time and effort and may even change your mind about some of life's more menial tasks.