REVIEW: Paul Auster, The Music of Chance

Paul AusterThe music of chance does not always sing with clear voice or charm us with an obvious melody. It is however impossible to resist its call or deny the impact that random events and chance encounters have on our lives. Paul Auster is a master at dealing in the mystery and intrigue associated with ‘cause and effect’ connections. He speaks to readers with clear voice and crisply formed prose that flow in thrilling fashion.

In ‘The Music of Chance’ unbeknownst to the main character Jim Nashe, we become silent witnesses to a significant turning point in his life. With him we experience the strongest feelings of a life lived without constraint or permanency, but also discover how quickly this freedom can slip away.

Authors like Auster who have the capacity to raise questions beyond the immediate words on the page, are a rare and wondrous breed. Even now some time after reading ‘The Music of Chance’, many questions still come to mind:

What is freedom? Who should we trust? What do we cling to in the darkest hours? Should we always hope for a better future?

Auster is equally compelling and challenging, working his unique magic with words in a style that immediately grabs attention. He plays with shifting timelines and his characters perceptions of self and identity. Through Auster’s deft hand we are reminded that a series of singular events may not of themselves be of much consequence. Rather, it is the timing of these events in relation to eachother that can push an individual to the brink.

An unexpected windfall…
However unfortunate the circumstances, a financial inheritance is generally viewed as a blessing, and on the surface the same goes for Jim Nashe. With his financial gain he is able to buy the illusion of freedom, setting himself on a directionless course as he searches for something to make meaning of himself and his life in this world.

So there is Nashe – just a man, his car and a truckload of cash…surely life cannot be more free of attachment or responsibility? Of course if you rest too long in any place, the world of social connections threatens to pull you back into the fold of normalcy. As tempting as a return to stability sometimes appears to Nashe, for him it is not to be. Nashe has no choice but to react to the whim of a universe which appreciates the irony of unsynchronised events.

A roadside encounter…
Without constant positive attention money will not last forever. With Nashe’s funds dwindling to alarming levels a crisis point is fast approaching. A palpable sense of dreadful desperation lingers in the air. In one last hurrah Nashe finds himself winding through country back roads bound ultimately for New York. While driving he notices a man walking beside the road and sensing the man is in trouble, stops to offer him a lift. It is in this way that Jim Nashe meets a young man who has seen better days, Jack Pozzi.

A hopeful pact…
For different reasons the men are both driven by the need for money, seeing it as the way to reach the life they want to be living. Being the sharp poker player that he is, Pozzi just happens to have a big poker game on his horizon, the only problem being that he no longer has enough cash to deal in. Lucky for him that fate had him cross paths with Nashe, a man looking to turn his shrinking inheritance around.

Agreeing to become partners and split the winnings, Nashe and Pozzi set off to the biggest game of their lives, against a couple of ‘just-begging-to-be-fleeced’ billionaires, Flower and Stone. The future of Nashe and Pozzi hangs in the balance and will be decided by a simple game of cards…fiction does not get more nail biting than this.

As in all his works Auster places his characters under the microscope, exposing their flaws and strengths in sometimes gritty detail. However like a stranger met in life, the full picture is never revealed; certainly things left unsaid are just as much part of the Paul Auster experience as those which are written. With ‘The Music of Chance’ Auster presents a voyeuristic thrill ride that will leave readers gasping for breath at times, but certainly asking for more.


  1. Lee

    Paul Auster will be the next author I read after I finish State of Fear (which is starting to drag itself along). Of course you’re going to have to pick which book for me to start the Auster experience.

  2. Elaine

    Great blog!
    you’ve been added to

  3. Tracey

    Hi Lee – YAY!! It’s always exciting to convert another person to one of my literary obsessions…you’ll be addicted too!!!

    I think for you – you should definitely start with The New York Trilogy….such a great, crazy, intense read.

  4. Tracey

    Hi Elaine – Thanks so much for adding me to 2kbloggers!! 8)

Comments are closed.