Friday, December 26, 2008

Aimless Reading: The A's, Part 30.1

Auster, Paul
The Music of Chance

Probably my favorite novel by Paul Auster (as opposed to my favorite book), I bought this copy at Libri Mundi in Quito, Ecaudor, which was the only place I knew of in the city to buy good books in English -- new ones anyway. My recollection of the store is that most of the English imports were actually imported from England, and that they were very expensive. This particular paperback cost 40,150 sucres, which in 1994 was 16 dollars, a lot of money for a volunteer working with the poorest of the poor. But hey, it's Paul Auster.

I know what you are thinking -- why weren't you spending your year abroad reading only in that language? I have no good answer to that question other than to say it was really hard. We had to teach 12 hours a day in Spanish, so coming home to read in English at the end of each day was a bit of a respite, as was watching 7-8 hours in a row of Seinfeld on VHS on a saturday.

My memory for details is somewhat vague, but I remember a man has a gambling debt and that he is held prisoner by another man or some men to whom he owes money, and then he builds a wall. The image of him building the wall has always stayed with me. There's something very sisyphean about the man and his fate. I also remember renting the movie when I got back to New York, and how disappointing it was.


It begins:

For one whole year he did nothing but drive, traveling back and forth across America as he waited for the money to run out. He hadn't expected it to go on that long, but one thing kept leading to another, and by the time Nashe understood what was happening to him, he was past the point of wanting it to end. Three days into the thirteenth month, he met up with the kid who called himself Jackpot. 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. And just like that, he went ahead and did it. Without the slightest tremor of fear, Nashe closed his eyes and jumped.

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