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The Music of Chance

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In a Pennsylvania meadow, a young fireman and an angry gambler are forced to build a wall of fifteenth-century stone. For Jim Nashe, it all started when he came into a small inheritance and left Boston in pusuit of "a life of freedom." Careening back and forth across the United States, waiting for the money to run out, Nashe met Jack Pozzi, a young man with a temper and a In a Pennsylvania meadow, a young fireman and an angry gambler are forced to build a wall of fifteenth-century stone. For Jim Nashe, it all started when he came into a small inheritance and left Boston in pusuit of "a life of freedom." Careening back and forth across the United States, waiting for the money to run out, Nashe met Jack Pozzi, a young man with a temper and a plan. With Nashe's last funds, they entered a poker game against two rich eccentrics, "risking everything on the single turn of a card." In Paul Auster's world of fiendish bargains and punitive whims, where chance is a shifting and powerful force, there is redemption, nonetheless, in Nashe's resolute quest for justice and his capacity for love.


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In a Pennsylvania meadow, a young fireman and an angry gambler are forced to build a wall of fifteenth-century stone. For Jim Nashe, it all started when he came into a small inheritance and left Boston in pusuit of "a life of freedom." Careening back and forth across the United States, waiting for the money to run out, Nashe met Jack Pozzi, a young man with a temper and a In a Pennsylvania meadow, a young fireman and an angry gambler are forced to build a wall of fifteenth-century stone. For Jim Nashe, it all started when he came into a small inheritance and left Boston in pusuit of "a life of freedom." Careening back and forth across the United States, waiting for the money to run out, Nashe met Jack Pozzi, a young man with a temper and a plan. With Nashe's last funds, they entered a poker game against two rich eccentrics, "risking everything on the single turn of a card." In Paul Auster's world of fiendish bargains and punitive whims, where chance is a shifting and powerful force, there is redemption, nonetheless, in Nashe's resolute quest for justice and his capacity for love.

30 review for The Music of Chance

  1. 5 out of 5

    Shovelmonkey1

    This book is essentially about some men building a wall. Admittedly it is portrayed as the most sinister episode of landscape gardening that there ever was, but nonetheless it is still, inherently about two men building a wall. How do you make landscape gardening sinister? Here is the recipe: Take one sticky situation. Add two desperate chancers Mix in two mendacious and sinister old men (soft on the outside but hard as nails on the inside for the desired texture) Sprinkle on some money Shake things This book is essentially about some men building a wall. Admittedly it is portrayed as the most sinister episode of landscape gardening that there ever was, but nonetheless it is still, inherently about two men building a wall. How do you make landscape gardening sinister? Here is the recipe: Take one sticky situation. Add two desperate chancers Mix in two mendacious and sinister old men (soft on the outside but hard as nails on the inside for the desired texture) Sprinkle on some money Shake things up thoroughly Pound with one large but outwardly amiable henchman until tender and bloody Leave overnight to absorb the consequences and stew in own juices Pop into a metal vessel then turn up the heat. I’m not going to say anymore aside from the fact that this absurdist novel by Paul Auster is, of all the novels he has written, my very own favourite.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Luís C.

    Jim Nashe is a frivolous Boston fireman who needs music as a life crutch. His wife abandons him just before his father dies, leaving him money that he squanders aimlessly while driving around America. Near desperation, he meets a bitter young itinerant gambler, Jack ("Jackpot") Pozzi, who lures him into a losing poker game with two shady recluses, Flower and Stone, on their Pennsylvania estate. Nashe and Pozzi must retire their debt by building a stone wall on the premises: what this Herculean l Jim Nashe is a frivolous Boston fireman who needs music as a life crutch. His wife abandons him just before his father dies, leaving him money that he squanders aimlessly while driving around America. Near desperation, he meets a bitter young itinerant gambler, Jack ("Jackpot") Pozzi, who lures him into a losing poker game with two shady recluses, Flower and Stone, on their Pennsylvania estate. Nashe and Pozzi must retire their debt by building a stone wall on the premises: what this Herculean labor does to them is the novel's leitmotif. An interesting story, but some may object that the journalistic prose merely tells the story instead of showing it. I don't know if I necessarily enjoyed this book (or any Paul Auster book at the moment, for that matter). The enjoyment comes from the questions I ask myself after I've put the book down. It is not an enjoyable reading experience, but rather a contemplative one. In that regard, it is a highly successful piece of art. The story appears to be relatively simple. One man goes driving. He meets another man on the road. The two of them meet some eccentric millionaires. The four men play poker. Then two men build a wall. It is almost non-sensical now that I look back on it. But the story's not really the thing (it never is in an Auster-book). So don't go looking for closure, and don't expect easy answers. It's all just an excuse for some finely written meditations on the nature of fate and the restrictions of freedom. Auster's writing style is enigmatic. There is a faux-coldness to it, appearing at first glance distant and reserved. Closer inspection, however, reveals much humanity and passion in his prose. I've always had suspicions that his surname is really an ingeniously calculated pseudonym, for any austerity in the writing is both sincere and ironic. That's a neat trick to pull off, and, to my mind, his greatest strength as a writer. In this example from his oeuvre, he gets the balance just right.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    [4.5] The Music of Chance ticks with impending doom. Or maybe not. I kept hoping for relief. Auster makes the routine act of building a stone wall (for months) freighted with meaning and suspense. I have so many questions! I am just floored by this book. Brilliant and unnerving.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Vit Babenco

    What is a human fate? Is it a preset pattern decided by some divine providence from above? Or is it just a hellish roulette? “It was one of those random, accidental encounters that seem to materialize out of thin air – a twig that breaks off in the wind and suddenly lands at your feet. Had it occurred at any other moment, it is doubtful that Nashe would have opened his mouth. But because he had already given up, because he figured there was nothing to lose anymore, he saw the stranger as a reprie What is a human fate? Is it a preset pattern decided by some divine providence from above? Or is it just a hellish roulette? “It was one of those random, accidental encounters that seem to materialize out of thin air – a twig that breaks off in the wind and suddenly lands at your feet. Had it occurred at any other moment, it is doubtful that Nashe would have opened his mouth. But because he had already given up, because he figured there was nothing to lose anymore, he saw the stranger as a reprieve, as a last chance to do something for himself before it was too late.” A chance… There is always a chance. And the wheel of fortune keep turning… “His money was gone, his car was gone, his life was in a shambles. If nothing else, perhaps those fifty days would give him a chance to take stock, to sit still for the first time in over a year and ponder his next move. It was almost a relief to have the decision taken out of his hands, to know that he had finally stopped running.” The gamblers had put on their lucky card too much and lost. Desolation, hopelessness and the infernal toil – those were their award and they literally found themselves in one of the circles of hell with only a chance of redemption… We gamble with chance and chance plays with our fates.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Patrick

    A macabre fable about fate and chance and randomness and destiny.Plenty of philosophical reference and dilemmas sprinkled throughout the tale.Throw in some Greek mythology also.Lots of the classical Auster themes and characterisations are here.Enjoyed the reference to Rousseaus target practice in a forest,I can relate to that. Not for everybody but I really enjoyed it. Discovered afterwards that it was made into a movie.Apart from his most recent novel I think I have now completed the entire Auste A macabre fable about fate and chance and randomness and destiny.Plenty of philosophical reference and dilemmas sprinkled throughout the tale.Throw in some Greek mythology also.Lots of the classical Auster themes and characterisations are here.Enjoyed the reference to Rousseaus target practice in a forest,I can relate to that. Not for everybody but I really enjoyed it. Discovered afterwards that it was made into a movie.Apart from his most recent novel I think I have now completed the entire Auster canon.One of the best living American writers in my view.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Steven Godin

    Another strange but absorbing read from one of America's finest, its a little on the short side but is instantly recognisable as Auster. Featuring oddball eccentric characters and elements of The Brothers Grimm and Samuel Beckett, its quite a straight forward story basically about a couple of guys losing a game of poker then building a wall as a way to clear the debt, its told in a way that makes it feel like a surreal fable. There is also a shocking ending I didn't see coming. For fans it's a w Another strange but absorbing read from one of America's finest, its a little on the short side but is instantly recognisable as Auster. Featuring oddball eccentric characters and elements of The Brothers Grimm and Samuel Beckett, its quite a straight forward story basically about a couple of guys losing a game of poker then building a wall as a way to clear the debt, its told in a way that makes it feel like a surreal fable. There is also a shocking ending I didn't see coming. For fans it's a worthy read, although not his best.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Szplug

    Another enmeshing, enticing, and enigmatic novel from Paul Auster, and one that features yet again a gent infected with the peregrine spirit, unconcerned about such typically weighty matters as steady employment, pursuing a family life, establishing communal roots, etc. This time the narrator, one Jim Nashe—a man who, upon receiving an unexpected inheritance, opts to abandon his young family in order to aimlessly meander about the young country in the purpose of blowing the entirety of his stack Another enmeshing, enticing, and enigmatic novel from Paul Auster, and one that features yet again a gent infected with the peregrine spirit, unconcerned about such typically weighty matters as steady employment, pursuing a family life, establishing communal roots, etc. This time the narrator, one Jim Nashe—a man who, upon receiving an unexpected inheritance, opts to abandon his young family in order to aimlessly meander about the young country in the purpose of blowing the entirety of his stack—hooks up with an inveterate gambler, Jack Pozzi, and is persuaded to back him with the remains of his windfall in a poker play against a pair of old duffers whose didactic skills are held to be no match for this Hustler et ami. Alas, fate has played cruelly with these chumps who have dared to test her moods, and Jack and Jim shortly find themselves paying off their sizable gambling loss by means of labouring to build a stone wall across the breadth of the estate of the triumphant, and modestly triumphal, geezers. This is not merely a debt of money, but one of human honour, and there are strict observances and reparations that are expected ere it will be satisfactorily discharged. The loser duo aren't long in discovering the backbreaking requirements of the wall's construction, one that, paired with their room and board expenses, have stretched the debt's termination point unto a despairingly distant horizon. Pozzi chafes under the bonds of indenturement, while Nashe finds himself seeing deep channels carved in this lesson in fiduciary and existential mindfulness. When the tensions mount to the breaking point, not the least observant of readers will be surprised to discover that bad things are going to happen. An absorbing and thoughtful read, if a touch elliptic whenever Auster slips too sartorially into the seamed passions of his postmodern graces. This microcosmic morality play examines the macrocosm that is the capitalist system—one whose constructs have so often been compared to that of a thinly-veiled slavery, and whose memes of debt, with all of the numerical explosiveness of compounded interest and back-burnered principal, chew-up temporally-alloted life in massive, grinding bites—as well as the costs and obligations that are paid-out and amassed in the pursuit of a freedom that can so often prove anything but; not least in the moral morass one can founder within when the question concerns the shirking of one's duties, the breaking of one's word, the strict observance of the law with no recourse to human feeling, pity, or generosity—whether one does indeed spoil the child when the rod has been spared—and how victories won and freedoms gained can pale in the chanced stopwatch measuring of an unmoved world. It was many years ago that I read this, and after I had seen the movie with James Spader and Mandy Patinkin, and I'm not certain that I could honestly state which one I preferred more. It was also my second Auster, In the Country of Last Things having been the gateway for me into his own sparse and abstracted and, post The Book of Illusions , overplayed and underperforming literary theatre.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Donna

    In the early zeros, when I worked at the village IGA, Georges, one of the older baggers, came back from lunch with a stricken look on his face. He held up a receipt he found crumpled up by the bank machine across the street. "Hey. Check!" he said, holding it too close to my face. "Balance $200,000 tabarnak! My life is fucking garbage and always will be fucking garbage." An unhappy bagger can make for a long afternoon, so I examined the paper, clapped a chapped hand on his shoulder and said, "O In the early zeros, when I worked at the village IGA, Georges, one of the older baggers, came back from lunch with a stricken look on his face. He held up a receipt he found crumpled up by the bank machine across the street. "Hey. Check!" he said, holding it too close to my face. "Balance $200,000 tabarnak! My life is fucking garbage and always will be fucking garbage." An unhappy bagger can make for a long afternoon, so I examined the paper, clapped a chapped hand on his shoulder and said, "Only an idiot would leave $200,000 in a savings account." This seemed to cheer him up a bit, and it gave us a good discussion topic for the rest of the day. When Nashe, in Paul Auster's 'The Music of Chance' plops his $200,000 inheritance into a bank account, I know I'm in for a nervous read about a man will run out of money somewhere awful. Will it be fast? Will it be painful? Even when he's just driving the roads to nowhere in the beginning of the book, there's a lot of suspense over that money in the bank, and later, the glove box; sort of a fiscal musical chairs where I know from the start, Nashe is going to be 'out' in a big way. This is my first Paul Auster book, and I thought it was damn clever the way he wove suspense out of something sitting somewhere and running out. Once the money is gone, he continues to build a good story from other things running out on Nashe; strength, energy, clarity of mind, liberty, companionship, until the end where he finds out what he is made of. And the verdict isn't bad. He's lost everything, but Nashe is made of adequate stuff. He also appreciates how: "All of a sudden, the stones were turning into a wall, and in spite of the pain it had cost him, he could not help admiring it. Whenever he stopped and looked at it now, he felt awed by what he had done." I've never understood gambling, but the stones turning into a wall is a familiar state of mind, and I like how Auster let it sneak up on me, his lovely voice pulling me along. Does he, perhaps, feel this every time he writes a book? And how about this: "As Nashe and Pozzi discovered, it was one thing to lift a sixty-pound stone, but once that stone had been lifted, it was quite another thing to lift a second sixty-pound stone, and still another thing to take on the third stone after lifting the second. No matter how strong they felt while lifting the first, much of that strength would be gone by the time they came to the second... Every time they worked on the wall, Nashe and Pozzi came up against the same bewitching conundrum: all the stones were identical, and yet each stone was heavier than the one before it." This is the best book I have ever read about art, that's not about art. For what are great works of art, especially novels, made of? Heavy-lifting and geologic patience.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lynne King

    I think that I had an absolute brainstorm in reading this book. Do I love it? Do I hate it? I really don't know but frustration kept me continuing my reading marathon and this to me is sheer insanity. Imagine a man, Jim Nashe, who has inherited a small fortune. He wasn't unhappy working in the Fire Department but he was separated from his wife and this is where the insanity begins. With this serendipitous money, Nashe buys a new car and goes on a mad driving trip through the States. He is a man d I think that I had an absolute brainstorm in reading this book. Do I love it? Do I hate it? I really don't know but frustration kept me continuing my reading marathon and this to me is sheer insanity. Imagine a man, Jim Nashe, who has inherited a small fortune. He wasn't unhappy working in the Fire Department but he was separated from his wife and this is where the insanity begins. With this serendipitous money, Nashe buys a new car and goes on a mad driving trip through the States. He is a man demented and driven but what to say and then he meets Jack Pozzi. Well I suddenly stopped reading and looked around and thought why on earth am I reading this very unusual book (I've actually never come across this writing style before which is somewhat hypnotic like a drug) and well I abandoned it, surprisingly enough rather regrettably...But I keep on thinking about it nevertheless... What to do? My alter ego says finish it but...

  10. 5 out of 5

    Craven

    This book left with so much thinking to do and had so many philosophical metaphors that I ended up pushing it on my friends, fully thinking that I had their best interest in mind. But when I actually, thought about it I realized that what I really wanted was someone to discuss the book with. I wanted to talk about the characters and the metaphor and what it was all really trying to say. Yeah, this is a fabulous book. It deals with existentialism, freedom and captivity, chance and coincidence and This book left with so much thinking to do and had so many philosophical metaphors that I ended up pushing it on my friends, fully thinking that I had their best interest in mind. But when I actually, thought about it I realized that what I really wanted was someone to discuss the book with. I wanted to talk about the characters and the metaphor and what it was all really trying to say. Yeah, this is a fabulous book. It deals with existentialism, freedom and captivity, chance and coincidence and obsession. Most of all I feel this book deals with how one should live one's life. Whether to except things as they come or to struggle for what you want. Man, there's so much to this book. I'm just going to stop here, but don't miss this one.

  11. 4 out of 5

    K.D. Absolutely

    Pennsylvania in the 80's. 33-y/o Jim Nashe is a bum newly divorced dad who inherited almost US$200,000 from his dead dad who he did not see for almost 30 years. He resigned from his work as a fireman, bought an expensive Saab (car), threw a couple of parties, left his 4-y/o daughter Juliette to his sister Donna and drove around aimlessly across the USA. He likes music (he plays the piano) so he has lots of cassette tapes (this is in the 80s) in the car. The long drives while the music is on seem Pennsylvania in the 80's. 33-y/o Jim Nashe is a bum newly divorced dad who inherited almost US$200,000 from his dead dad who he did not see for almost 30 years. He resigned from his work as a fireman, bought an expensive Saab (car), threw a couple of parties, left his 4-y/o daughter Juliette to his sister Donna and drove around aimlessly across the USA. He likes music (he plays the piano) so he has lots of cassette tapes (this is in the 80s) in the car. The long drives while the music is on seem to bring him to another world. See the cover: it captures everything a child - because that really what he seems to be being a bum and aimless - driving a red sports car. Read the title: The Music of Chance. Music forms the integral mood in this novel. Auster made use of classical music and sounds to heighten emotions to important scenes in this book. We know that books, unless they are audiobooks, cannot have songs or music. The way Mr. Auster does this is he mentions a song, tune or artist in a particular scene with the character probably listening to it. As I reader, if you are familiar with the song, tune or artist you recall it and as you read, it is as if you are with the character (or maybe you become that character) experiencing the sight and sound of the scene. It is what I then call the magic of literature: being transported straight to a literary fictional world while in reality you are just sitting on the armchair or lying in bed. With music, it is like being in the movie. It is just wonderful. This is my 3rd book by Paul Auster. Early last year, I read his The New York Trilogy a.k.a. NYT and I was struck by his brilliance in interrelating his characters and plots in those three well-written stories. It was my first time to read a book like that so I gave it a 5-star rating and promised myself to re-read it in the future. A couple of months back, I read his Invisible as it is a newly added book in the 2010 edition of the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. The distinctive Auster style is still there: straightforward, no-frills, no-pretentions, no-philosophical agenda writing is still there but the plot is different from NYT as it deals with incest. So, I have to give it another 5-star rating. Using "3-novel rule": you can tell a writer if he is formulaic by reading 3 of his works. For Auster, he is definitely not formulaic. Music does not have the mistaken identity plot in NYT, no incest plot in Invisible. The same distinctive writing style is there. But the theme, plot and characters are totally different. His work does not have any of those stream-of-consciousness, roman-a-clef or other literary terminologies. His characters cannot talk to cats, cannot fly, cannot smell all the odors in his surroundings. He does not use big words that will prompt you to open a nearby dictionary in the middle of the night. He does not surprise you with big quotation that will prompt you to fold the corner of the page. He does not make you cry. He does not make you laugh. Auster is just straightforward storyteller. His characters can be you or me. Easy read but his vivid imagination and believable plot do the trick. You will cry or laugh but you will perhaps dream. No wonder that this 1001 book is also in the 100 Must Read Book for Men. If there is a new author whose work you may want to sample soon, try Auster. Chances are, you will love him.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    1. I liked this book a lot more than I expected. 2. I'm not sure I've seen a book on Goodreads before with this many ratings and 0% one star ratings. That's all I've got for a review. You can imagine those two points drawn out with a couple of thousand words of rambling asides as being what my review would basically say.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Shane

    By far the best book I have read of Auster. The characters are brought deeper and deeper into a prison made up of their own careless acts of chance. The ending reminded me of Kafka's "The Trial" - just as one sees light at the end of the tunnel, a random event changes everything - just like the game of poker in the begining

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    This is a super fun, smart, and ultimately powerful story about chance and money. The tone is both strange and familiar. Much of the dialogue is ripped right out of the experimental crime novels of the 1930s and 40s. The characters are fascinating creeps and lost lovers, and the setting is just bizarre enough to seem both very real and eerily prophetic. It felt timely - re: occupy movement - and timeless - re: chance. A fun roller coaster ride of a plot. Wow... talk about texture. This books is This is a super fun, smart, and ultimately powerful story about chance and money. The tone is both strange and familiar. Much of the dialogue is ripped right out of the experimental crime novels of the 1930s and 40s. The characters are fascinating creeps and lost lovers, and the setting is just bizarre enough to seem both very real and eerily prophetic. It felt timely - re: occupy movement - and timeless - re: chance. A fun roller coaster ride of a plot. Wow... talk about texture. This books is it! And interestingly it kind of denies any lyrical movements in favor of ellipsies and stress points until the denial itself feels lyrical. Highly recommend for lovers of the crime-ish novels of Denis Johnson (Nobody Move) and Charles Portis (Dog of the South).

  15. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Opening lines: 'By the time Nashe understood what was happening to him, he was past the point of wanting it to end . . .'

  16. 4 out of 5

    James

    I enjoyed my first foray into Auster. I thought this novel was well constructed and delightfully disorientating. I also really enjoyed the absurdist undercurrent. I would have given it five stars were it not for the fact that I found some of the exchanges between Nashe and Pozzi a little grating.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    A friend spoke to me once of "concretizing the metaphor" when trying to write evocative and symbolically pregnant prose. Auster manages to do that very effectively in almost all of his works, and The Music of Chance is no exception. No one reading this work could help but be struck by the three cases of concrete metaphor on display here. The first is Stone's City of the World. The second is Flower's museum of unwanted objects, but the third and most compelling is surely The Wall. William Jenning A friend spoke to me once of "concretizing the metaphor" when trying to write evocative and symbolically pregnant prose. Auster manages to do that very effectively in almost all of his works, and The Music of Chance is no exception. No one reading this work could help but be struck by the three cases of concrete metaphor on display here. The first is Stone's City of the World. The second is Flower's museum of unwanted objects, but the third and most compelling is surely The Wall. William Jennings Bryan once said, "Destiny is no matter of chance. It is a matter of choice: It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved." Auster shows that choice, chance and destiny are not nearly the separate things that Bryan may imagine them to be. That it may be our choices that put us on destiny's path and that chance may play a role in us fullfilling our destiny, but also that it is our choice to be the victim of chance or the author of our own destiny.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Steve mitchell

    Very well written, very original. Great book but I just couldnt give it a 10. In my book a 10 or 5 on Goodreads demands that I buy the book if I havent (I got this from the library) and tell everyone they must read it. I think the character Jack Pozzi "Jackpot" is a pun on Ponzi scheme? Just a guess. I wonder if this is Austers reply to the beatnicks on the road, and what happens if a person does not root down somewhere and commit to something. Look at the relationship that Nashe has with the jo Very well written, very original. Great book but I just couldnt give it a 10. In my book a 10 or 5 on Goodreads demands that I buy the book if I havent (I got this from the library) and tell everyone they must read it. I think the character Jack Pozzi "Jackpot" is a pun on Ponzi scheme? Just a guess. I wonder if this is Austers reply to the beatnicks on the road, and what happens if a person does not root down somewhere and commit to something. Look at the relationship that Nashe has with the journalist in San Fran, by the time he decides she is important and worth standing for its to late again. Auster uses money as a tool in a few of his stories I have read, in Music of Chance, he gives Nashe an inheritance and Nashe squanders it then tries to rebuild it to ruinous results with Pozzi. And in Invisible he gives the main character money to start a magazine. I think he likes this device, and makes a statement that some folks can be happy regardless of circumstance while others are unhappy even with most of lifes worries taken care of. This is almost a piece like zen and the art of motorcycle maintenenance, both because it speaks about parenting and having a passion for something. This is where the quote comes from during the novel, “You had to invent something. It's not possible to leave it blank. The mind won't let you." Nashe and Pozzi are talking about an episode in Pozzi youth. The act of building a giant wall or stone is a metaphor for fixing something broken in your life, you wasted your time and money, relationships, and now with each brick you can mend them. Maybe the time you take and the thinking while performing this job is therapeutic. I do really like Paul Auster and will read anything he writes, however I want to do something horrible like slap a baby or kick a dog or yell at an old person, after the sudden and incomplete ending! I just hate that he did not answer any of the questions posed during the story, like: possible spoilers***************************** What happened to Pozzi, what happened with Nashe did he die in the crash, how was his daughter, what about the 2 old fogies that had him build the wall. I also wonder if the 2 old men, Laurel and Hardy as Pozzi describes them, were a book or story that Auster was working on and then decided to just add them here? I wonder if he will come back to them in the future, they were very interesting and then out of the book the rest of the way.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Tyler Jones

    My favourite Paul Aster novel - and not just because it has poker in it. Jim Nashe, a Boston firefighter, is as solid a guy as there is. But when he unexpectedly comes into a fair sized inheritance the routine of his life is overturned by the possibilities of what he can now do. He quits his job, buys a nice car and drives all over America, leaving his fate to chance and his decisions to the whim of the moment. When the money starts to run out however, Jim can't bring himself to return to his for My favourite Paul Aster novel - and not just because it has poker in it. Jim Nashe, a Boston firefighter, is as solid a guy as there is. But when he unexpectedly comes into a fair sized inheritance the routine of his life is overturned by the possibilities of what he can now do. He quits his job, buys a nice car and drives all over America, leaving his fate to chance and his decisions to the whim of the moment. When the money starts to run out however, Jim can't bring himself to return to his former life. Instead he falls in with a gambler who promises that, with Jim's backing, he can make them both a small fortune playing poker against a couple of rich suckers he knows. From this point onward the novel changes tone, changing from a gritty realism into the classic Auster blend of symbolism and wonderland mind games. This is good stuff and I won't spoil it for you. For me, The Music of Chance is a cautionary tale about the intoxicating allure of giving up control of one's life - an impulse that draws many to gambling. Poker people often talk about how the game is a metaphor for life, but what they mean when they say this is that the discipline, intelligence and risk tolerance required to succeed at poker will also help you win at other endeavours. While true, the darker aspects of poker, such as it's appeal to our self-destructive nature, are reflections of yearnings that play themselves out away from the table as well. High marks to Auster for nailing the psychology that drives many to the game. I recommend everyone read it, and if you also play poker I hope you will recognize the Jim Nashe in you and keep his impulses in check.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    auster has a tendency for ambiguous, detached endings that leave you with several questions unanswered.. and for the stories in the ny trilogy i think it works perfectly, but for this book it kind of left me a might disappointed. he starts to tell a real straight forward story, and it almost seems as though he ran out of ideas towards the end, left a lot of really important questions unanswered, and frantically put together a closing chapter. besides that... it was an entertaining read. the char auster has a tendency for ambiguous, detached endings that leave you with several questions unanswered.. and for the stories in the ny trilogy i think it works perfectly, but for this book it kind of left me a might disappointed. he starts to tell a real straight forward story, and it almost seems as though he ran out of ideas towards the end, left a lot of really important questions unanswered, and frantically put together a closing chapter. besides that... it was an entertaining read. the characters are authentic. it's worth it if you like auster's stuff... but i wouldn't recommend it to anyone who hasn't read city of glass.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jack Lanigan

    A road trip, some high stakes poker, and indentured servitude. Sure, why not? The Music of Chance moves along at a rapid clip. Characters speak back and forth at each other like that one scene in Reservoir Dogs, and the actual narration feels kind of like some old Texan going on and on, missing out some of the details but hitting the important notes. It's an odd style but it's really quite engaging, and I only found myself stopping due to other personal obligations. Reading some of the responses a A road trip, some high stakes poker, and indentured servitude. Sure, why not? The Music of Chance moves along at a rapid clip. Characters speak back and forth at each other like that one scene in Reservoir Dogs, and the actual narration feels kind of like some old Texan going on and on, missing out some of the details but hitting the important notes. It's an odd style but it's really quite engaging, and I only found myself stopping due to other personal obligations. Reading some of the responses and reviews it seems that there's a lot of discussion about the metaphor and meaning of the book, but that doesn't feel like the most important aspect of it to me. There's undoubtedly some recurring themes but to me the most important (and engaging) elements are the interactions, the dialogue, the general atmosphere of the whole thing. It sets a really consistent tone quickly and dips in there for a good while until a very particular thing happens to flip it all on its head and change the feeling. The abruptness is sure to put some people off, and that's not just in terms of the ending, but if you can get over that (and there's not much to get over, in terms of page count), you may very well find yourself having a good time.

  22. 5 out of 5

    DebsD

    The person who recommended this to me really, really loves it, so I suppose I went in with high expectations - but I didn't feel they were met. The writing is often excellent, and I'm sure Auster is saying many things on many subjects, but I did not enjoy it, and did not feel it hung together well as a story. I felt no connection to or sympathy for any of the characters and the tale seemed to simply meander. I freely admit that I don't have much interest in reading rambling prose about someone d The person who recommended this to me really, really loves it, so I suppose I went in with high expectations - but I didn't feel they were met. The writing is often excellent, and I'm sure Auster is saying many things on many subjects, but I did not enjoy it, and did not feel it hung together well as a story. I felt no connection to or sympathy for any of the characters and the tale seemed to simply meander. I freely admit that I don't have much interest in reading rambling prose about someone driving around aimlessly, or the blow-by-blow of a poker game, or the technicalities of building a wall, so perhaps this is simply very much not a novel for me.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Fiza Pathan

    I loved this book. Paul Auster is a genius. He has this unique way of telling the story in a way that every line sounds like a 'thunder-clap'. He manages to make a simple story complex with his unique writing style which is something out of this world. His 3rd person narration skills are persuasive, thrilling & full of surprises along with little psychological tricks to get the reader totally involved in the book. I loved the plot of the book. Kudos to Paul Auster for a job well done ! Happy I loved this book. Paul Auster is a genius. He has this unique way of telling the story in a way that every line sounds like a 'thunder-clap'. He manages to make a simple story complex with his unique writing style which is something out of this world. His 3rd person narration skills are persuasive, thrilling & full of surprises along with little psychological tricks to get the reader totally involved in the book. I loved the plot of the book. Kudos to Paul Auster for a job well done ! Happy reading to all !

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sandy

    I was reading this book on Kindle, so imagine my shock when I realized the book has ended. It was quite an audacious move, to end a book in the midst of a scene like that. I could just imagine so many readers throwing their books down and screaming out of sheer frustration. And if you were to ask him, what does the ending mean? He would probably just ask you back, what do you think it means? Well, it's not often you find a book that makes you ponder long and deep after you finish it. That's why I was reading this book on Kindle, so imagine my shock when I realized the book has ended. It was quite an audacious move, to end a book in the midst of a scene like that. I could just imagine so many readers throwing their books down and screaming out of sheer frustration. And if you were to ask him, what does the ending mean? He would probably just ask you back, what do you think it means? Well, it's not often you find a book that makes you ponder long and deep after you finish it. That's why this book feels so special to me. It has to be of my favorite from Auster. I've always loved the way he develops a story, adding layers of mystery and suspense, but not making any judgement, as if he wants the readers to decide for themselves. And in the end, I am still not sure whether Murks and Floyd did it to Jack Pozzi, and I begins to wonder whether Nashe's sanity is intact....

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    This is not the kind of book I'm used to reading, and I went back and forth with it throughout, often disliking it; finding the characterizations and dialogue thin and unconvincing, but still being drawn in by the hopelessness and futility; the irony of the protagonist's relentless pursuit of freedom, squandering his one means to it, only to end up as a slave through his own reckless and incomprehensibly stupid actions. That's what compelled me towards the end, though I thought parts of the narr This is not the kind of book I'm used to reading, and I went back and forth with it throughout, often disliking it; finding the characterizations and dialogue thin and unconvincing, but still being drawn in by the hopelessness and futility; the irony of the protagonist's relentless pursuit of freedom, squandering his one means to it, only to end up as a slave through his own reckless and incomprehensibly stupid actions. That's what compelled me towards the end, though I thought parts of the narrative, on the surface, read like some lowbrow airport bestseller. These characters are not drawn as fully dimensional human beings; there's little sense of who Nashe and Pozzi are, their pasts, why they're driven towards these risky decisions or why they like each other. They seem primarily to manifest the cycle of a purposeless, Sisyphean, Sartre-eque, rewardless emptiness. This is my second experience with Paul Auster. Having been swept away by the tender, poignant language and honesty of 'Winter Journal', I was less enamored by the mainstream narrative voice and cadence of "The Music of Chance", though thematically - especially for anybody who feels trapped in a bad job - it stays with you in a troubling way.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Bob

    My Paul Auster marathon (involving much sacrificed sleep) continues. This one opens "For one whole year, he did nothing but drive, traveling back and forth across America as he waited for the money to run out" which is characteristic; sometimes the characters are sitting in their apartments without moving for a year until the money runs out, sometimes they are driving aimlessly across the country, sometimes they are driving purposefully, blowing up small patriotic emblems as they go, but this ex My Paul Auster marathon (involving much sacrificed sleep) continues. This one opens "For one whole year, he did nothing but drive, traveling back and forth across America as he waited for the money to run out" which is characteristic; sometimes the characters are sitting in their apartments without moving for a year until the money runs out, sometimes they are driving aimlessly across the country, sometimes they are driving purposefully, blowing up small patriotic emblems as they go, but this existential crisis of more or less passively opting out of participation in society is a persistent theme. In this case what one is opting out of is explicitly an economic system which is thinly disguised penal servitude - the narrator eventually does run out of money and finds himself in a Kafka-esque allegory with the moral equivalent of "the good German" keeping him there, while the real capitalist exploiters are largely invisible. It does not end happily and while riveting and thought-provoking, is still a bit heavy-handed.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lorenzo Berardi

    I've bought this book without having ever heard of it. I was looking for a Martin Amis book, but I wasn't able to find it in the bookshop. Turning my eyes from left to right and from right to left, I've seen Paul Auster - Music of chance. I just knew the name of the author and I must say that the title has made me pretty curious. Considering that my expectations on it were extremely vague, I haven't been disappointed by this novel. Auster knows how to write and albeit I don't like poker I've bee I've bought this book without having ever heard of it. I was looking for a Martin Amis book, but I wasn't able to find it in the bookshop. Turning my eyes from left to right and from right to left, I've seen Paul Auster - Music of chance. I just knew the name of the author and I must say that the title has made me pretty curious. Considering that my expectations on it were extremely vague, I haven't been disappointed by this novel. Auster knows how to write and albeit I don't like poker I've been able to read without difficulties a book in which that card game plays a key role in the plot. Then my career as a merciless gambler began, but this is another story...

  28. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    Paul Auster is one of those artists who works around a reliable set of themes. Haruki Murakami, Martin Scorsese, and René Magritte are comfortably in this company as well. This isn't a bad thing, and I love all of these artists, but it means that I go into a Paul Auster novel with certain expectations, and I have a fairly good idea by now how things are going to turn out. This is also not a bad thing, as the journey to those end points in The Music of Chance is gripping and surreal and haunting, Paul Auster is one of those artists who works around a reliable set of themes. Haruki Murakami, Martin Scorsese, and René Magritte are comfortably in this company as well. This isn't a bad thing, and I love all of these artists, but it means that I go into a Paul Auster novel with certain expectations, and I have a fairly good idea by now how things are going to turn out. This is also not a bad thing, as the journey to those end points in The Music of Chance is gripping and surreal and haunting, and I really, really didn't want it to end.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    Auster takes an existential theme and hangs it on the hook of a story about two drifters and an epic poker game. In doing so it becomes, for me, Auster's best novel - combining accessible characters with philosophical introspection.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Anatoly

    A really nice story with a really great ending, although not so surprising. I enjoyed the plot and Auster does magic with his writing, but I can`t say that it`s a masterpiece or a must read. Just an ordinary short novel that you can read in order to pass some time. A really nice story with a really great ending, although not so surprising. I enjoyed the plot and Auster does magic with his writing, but I can`t say that it`s a masterpiece or a must read. Just an ordinary short novel that you can read in order to pass some time.

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