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The Music of Chance Paperback – Deckle Edge, December 1, 1991
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From Publishers Weekly
Compulsive traveler Jim Nashe finances an epic poker match for a self-proclaimed jackpot winner. "In his lucid, captivating yarn, Auster quietly raises disturbing questions of servants and masters, of loyalty, freedom and the inexplicable urge to kill," said PW .
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
This insightful novel is a taut study of the self-contradictory mind living by chance while thinking it can get away with anything. 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.
- Kenneth Mintz, formerly with Bayonne P.L., N.J.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
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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.