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    As long as they kept on working, the work was going to make them free.
           -Paul Auster, The Music of Chance


    And did those feet in ancient time
    Walk upon England's mountains green?
    And was the holy Lamb of God
    On England's pleasant pastures seen?

    And did the Countenance Divine
    Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
    And was Jerusalem builded here
    Among these dark Satanic mills?

    Bring me my bow of burning gold!
    Bring me my arrows of desire!
    Bring me my spear! O clouds unfold!
    Bring me my chariot of fire!

    I will not cease from mental fight,
    Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
    Till we have built Jerusalem
    In England's green and pleasant land.
        -William Blake

There comes a moment in the very best works of film noir and existentialism when the reader/viewer too surrenders to the internal logic of inexorable fate, stops thinking of the protagonist as a passive idiot, and starts rooting for him to see the situation through to its inevitable ugly end with some style.  Forget the underlying philosophy of man's helplessness, there's just something viscerally thrilling about watching someone go down in flames.  But then, on reflection, you come back to the same old objections, chief among them : that man is not doomed; that free will exists; and that individuals determine their own fates.

Paul Auster manages here to provide a compulsively readable thriller, wherein we experience that moment where surrender makes sense, and then to pull back from that brink and restore some measure of free will.  Along the way he hurls around enough allusions, references and parallels to keep a battalion of academics scribbling away for years as to what it all means.  I'm afraid to even hazard a guess--let me just say that I was especially struck by the Biblical and Sisyphiphean themes and the similarities to Cool Hand Luke and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, but noticed the Huck Finn theme which Michiko Kakutani talks about in her NY Times review, and am perfectly willing to accept both her Waiting for Godot comparison and the Freemasonry angle that one reviewer at Amazon has come up with.  Though brief, it's a densely textured work, great fun to read and to contemplate afterwards.  Though I find its ultimate elusiveness to be frustrating, I'm sure others will find it especially gratifying for precisely the same quality.


Grade: (A-)


See also:

Paul Auster (2 books reviewed)
Paul Auster Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Paul Auster
-ESSAY: Paul Auster: Why Is America the Most Violent Country in the Western World?: On the Normalization of Gun Culture in the United States (Paul Auster, January 18, 2023, LitHub)
    -INTERVIEW: Interview Paul Auster: ‘The right to own a gun in the US is seen as a kind of holy grail’ (Lisa O'Kelly, 1/15/23, The Observer)
    -PODCAST: Paul Auster on the Poem He Can’t Get Out of His Head: In Conversation with Mitchell Kaplan on The Literary Life Podcast (The Literary Life, December 3, 2021)
    -ESSAY: Paul Auster on One of the Most Astonishing War Stories in American Literature Considering the Dark Horrors of Stephen Crane’s “An Episode of War” (Paul Auster, November 1, 2021, LitHub)
    -INTERVIEW: ‘This might be the last thing I ever write’: Paul Auster on cancer, connection and the fallacy of closure (Nicholas Wroe, 11/18/23, The Guardian)
-PROFILE: Kind of Blue: Harnessing the rhythmic power of the comma, Paul Auster composes a little night music (Benjamin Strong, January 7 - 13, 2004, Village Voice)
    -VIDEO LECTURE: Burning Boy: Paul Auster on the Extraordinary Life and Work of Stephen Crane (LOA Live, 10/28/21)
-REVIEW ESSAY: Shallow Graves: The novels of Paul Auster. (James Wood, November 2009, The New Yorker)
    -REVIEW: of Burning Boy by Paul Auster (Paul Perry, Independent ie)
    -REVIEW: of Bloodbath Nation by Pauil Auster (Gary Younge, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Bloodbath Nation (Paul Pery, Independent ie)

Book-related and General Links:
-FEATURED AUTHOR : Paul Auster (NY Times Book Review)
    -ARCHIVES : "auster" (NY Review of Books)
    -FILMOGRAPHY : Auster, Paul (Imdb)
    -Paul Auster and the National Story Project (NPR)
    -ESSAY : Why Write ? (Paul Auster, National Endowment for the Arts)
    -ESSAY : Thinking of Rushdie (Paul Auster, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of LIFE, A USER'S MANUAL By Georges Perec (Paul Auster, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of RUBICON BEACH By Steve Erickson (Paul Auster, NY Times Book Review)
    -INTERVIEW : At Home with Paul Auster : Chance of a Lifetime (Elaine Louie, October 5, 1995, NY Times)
    -INTERVIEW : with Paul Auster (Worldguide)
    -INTERVIEW : with Paul Auster (LitKit)
    -INTERVIEW : Having Words with Paul Auster (City Search)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW : Paul Auster Interviewed by Bill Goldstein (May 5, 1999, NY Times)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW : with Paul Auster (LINEbreak)
    -PROFILE : Case of the Brooklyn Symbolist (Adam Begley, August 30, 1992, New York Times Magazine)
    -PROFILE : My Lunch with Paul Auster (Chris Colin, Salon)
    -Paul Auster: A Brief Biography
    -Paul Auster (1947-)(American Literature on the Web)
    -Paul Auster--Definitive Website
    -Stillman's Maze
    -ESSAY : "An Examination of the Identity of Author and Character and Their Relationship Within the Narrative  Structure of Paul Auster's New York Trilogy" (Nicholas Dawson, Blue Cricket)
    -ESSAY : Escaping from the Locked Room: Overthrowing the Tyranny of Artifice in Paul Auster's New York Trilogy (Chris Pace, Blue Cricket)
    -ESSAY : Paul Auster and the Crisis of the Individual (Carl-Carsten Springer)
    -REVIEW : of Paul Auster's City of Glass (RICHARD E. NICHOLLS, NY Times Book Review)
    -ESSAY : Comics (Tom De Haven, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of The Music of Chance By Paul Auster (Michiko Kakutani, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of THE MUSIC OF CHANCE By Paul Auster (Madison Smartt Bell, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of City of Glass: The New York Trilogy. Volume One by Paul Auster (1985)(Toby Olson, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of GHOSTS By Paul Auster. The New York Trilogy, Volume Two (1986)(Rebecca Goldstein, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of THE LOCKED ROOM ''The New York Trilogy,'' Volume 3. By Paul Auster (1987)(Steven Schiff, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of IN THE COUNTRY OF LAST THINGS By Paul Auster (1987)(Padgett Powell, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Moon Palace By Paul Auster (1989)(Michiko Kakutani, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of Moon Palace by Paul Auster (Joyce Reiser Kornblatt, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of THE INVENTION OF SOLITUDE By Paul Auster (W. S. Merwin, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Leviathan By Paul Auster (1992)(Michiko Kakutani, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of LEVIATHAN By Paul Auster (1992)(Ginger Danto, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of MR. VERTIGO By Paul Auster (1994)(Jay Cantor, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Mr. Vertigo by  Paul Auster (Jeffrey Goldsmith, Boston Review)
    -REVIEW : of HAND TO MOUTH A Chronicle of Early Failure By Paul Auster (1997)(Michiko Kakutani, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of HAND TO MOUTH A Chronicle of Early Failure. By Paul Auster (1997)(Patrick Giles , NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Hand to Mouth (Dwight Garner, Salon)
    -REVIEW : of    Hand to Mouth: A Chronicle of Early Failure by Paul Auster (Alain de Botton, booksonline uk)
    -REVIEW : of Hand to Mouth, a Chronicle of Early Failure (Stephen Amidon, Literary Review)
    -REVIEW : of Timbuktu by Paul Auster (Oscar Villalon, SF Chronicle)
    -REVIEW : of Timbuktu by Paul Auster (Will Cohu, booksonline uk)
    -REVIEW : of Timbuktu by Paul Auster (Paul Bailey, booksonline uk)
    -REVIEW : of TIMBUKTU By Paul Auster (Michiko Kakutani, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of TIMBUKTU By Paul Auster (1999)(Jim Shepard, NY Times Book Review)

    -FILMOGRAPHY : Auster, Paul (Imdb)
    -INFO : The Music of Chance (1993)(Imdb)
    -REVIEW : of Music of Chance (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times)

    -ARTWORK : Jerusalem by William Blake