The Reading Group reconvened just before Christmas, to discuss the latest book choice, Paul Auster’s enigmatic novel, The Music of Chance. It was anticipated that this strange piece of fiction, sometimes described as being ‘absurdist’ in style, would divide opinion in the group; in fact, the encouragingly high turn-out of students gave the novel a unanimous ‘thumbs up.’ Whilst none of the characters is particularly likeable, it was felt that the novel posed a number of very interesting questions, often couched in metaphorical terms: the American quest for freedom on the road; the stultifying impact of conformity and responsibility; the power of capital; and underpinning everything, the effect of chance.
Members of the group suggested that the pointless building of a huge wall in the middle of nowhere had some symbolic meaning, perhaps open to interpretation, whilst in the gamblers Flower and Stone, Auster has created two sinister and unsettling characters for the flawed ‘hero’ Jim Nash to battle against. There was some feeling that the ending of the novel was a little ambiguous and not very satisfactory but apart from this the general view was that Auster’s story is well written and thought provoking.
There were three nominations for the next choice, with Margaret Atwood’s modern dystopian classic, A Handmaid’s Tale, being chosen.