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The Music of Chance

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  9,601 ratings  ·  490 reviews
This novel follows Jim Nashe who, after squandering an unexpected inheritance, picks up a young gambler named Jack Pozzi hoping to con two millionaires. But when their plans backfire, Jim and Jack are indentured by their elusive marks and are forced to build a meaningless wall with bricks gathered from ruins of an Irish castle. Time passes, their debts mount, and anger bui ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 217 pages
Published 1991 by Faber and Faber (first published 1990)
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Average rating 3.91  · 
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 ·  9,601 ratings  ·  490 reviews


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Shovelmonkey1
Oct 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who enjoy being blindsided by the brilliance of random
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
...more
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.
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 ...more
Vit Babenco
Sep 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
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 ...more
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
...more
Szplug
Aug 09, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Donna
Feb 09, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
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
...more
Craven
Feb 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
K.D. Absolutely
Jun 16, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Must Read Books for Men; 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006 to 2010)
Shelves: 1001-core
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 ...more
Shane
Dec 15, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Greg
Feb 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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.
Ben
Nov 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Laura
Opening lines:
'By the time Nashe understood what was happening to him, he was past the point of wanting it
to end . . .'
James
Jul 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Matthew
Aug 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
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
...more
Tyler Jones
Nov 11, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poker
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
...more
Joe
Jul 07, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: paul auster fans, obviously.
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 ...more
Maru Kun
Long and comprehensive interview with Paul Auster in The Guardian January 2017 Paul Auster: ‘I'm going to speak out as often as I can, otherwise I can't live with myself' ...more
Jack Lanigan
May 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
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 ...more
Fiza Pathan
May 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 rea ...more
Sandy
Mar 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, stories
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 ...more
Jim
Sep 01, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Bob
May 05, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
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
...more
Laura
Sep 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this many years ago. The characters in this book have incredible staying power. Sure this is about a wall. It's about the wall as a symbol for rebuilding a life both the interior and exterior life.Paul Auster is an amazingly talented writer. If we develop a way to lengthen the human life span I hope we will give it to this author so he can write many more books. This work takes on a life of it's own as a firefly sends a beacon of light this work sends a beacon of a lasting almost spiritua ...more
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, ...more
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9,173 followers
Paul Auster is the bestselling author of Report from the Interior, Winter Journal, Sunset Park, Invisible, The Book of Illusions, and The New York Trilogy, among many other works. He has been awarded the Prince of Asturias Prize for Literature, the Prix Médicis Étranger, the Independent Spirit Award, and the Premio Napoli. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the American Ac ...more

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