The Music of Chance

infobox Book |
name = The Music of Chance
author = Paul Auster
country = United States
language = English
genre = Mystery novel
publisher = Viking Press
release_date = 1990
media_type = Print (Hardcover)
isbn = ISBN 0-670-83535-8 (Hardcover)
preceded_by = Moon Palace
followed_by = Mr. Vertigo

"The Music of Chance" (1990) is an absurdist novel by Paul Auster about the meaninglessness of the universe. In 1993, it was made into a film; Mandy Patinkin played Nashe and James Spader played Pozzi.

Plot summary

Jim Nashe is a fireman with a two-year-old daughter and a wife who has just walked out on him. Knowing he cannot work and raise a kid at the same time, he sends his little girl, Juliette, off to his sister's. Six months of sporadic visits pass and Nashe realizes that his daughter has begun to forget him. Suddenly, the father that abandoned Nashe as a child dies, leaving his son and daughter a large amount of money. Nashe, knowing that his daughter will be happier with her aunt, pays off all of his debts, buys a Saab 900 and spends a solid year doing nothing but driving back and forth across the country.

His fortune now squandered, Nashe picks up a hot-headed young gambler named Jack Pozzi, also known as Jackpot. The two hatch a plan to fleece a couple of ridiculously wealthy bachelors in a poker game. Of course, the two marks, Flower and Stone, gained their fortune by this case, by winning the lottery. In addition to purchasing a mansion, the two eccentrics have also bought ten thousand stones, each weighing more than sixty pounds. The stones were from the ruins of a fifteenth-century Irish castle destroyed by Oliver Cromwell; Flower and Stone intend to use them to build a wall in the meadow behind their mansion.

Unfortunately, the millionaires are not the lousy cardplayers the duo were expecting, and the plan backfires. Desperately trying to pull victory from the jaws of defeat, Nashe throws his car into the pot, only to lose that as well. Finally, the four agree on one more bet: they will cut the deck. If Nashe has the high card, he gets his car back; if Flower does, Nashe and Pozzi will owe them ten thousand dollars. Flower gets a seven. Nashe gets a four.

Now all but indentured to the millionaires, Nashe and Pozzi agree to a plan to work off their debt; they will build the wall for Flower and Stone, a meaningless wall that nobody will bother to see. For the rest of the novel, Flower and Stone are conspicuously absent. Nashe shrugs this off as fifty days of exercise, but Pozzi views it as nothing less than a violation of human decency.

The two men are watched over by Calvin Murks, the millionaires' tough but amiable hired man. When Pozzi takes a swing at Murks for cracking a joke about being too smart to play cards, Murks begins wearing a gun. Pozzi sees this as proof that he is nothing but a slave.

Even after the two men have completed working off their debt, the millionaires add on the charges the men have accrued as a result of living at the estate. Pozzi, convinced there is no way out of the contract, escapes the meadow. Nashe finds his young friend sprawled on the grass a day later, beaten into a coma. Murks claims innocence and takes Pozzi to a hospital while Nashe continues to work. Two weeks later, Murks tells Nashe that Pozzi checked himself out of the hospital and vanished, but Nashe is convinced that his friend died from his injuries.

Time passes, the wall grows and Nashe gets more and more obsessed with taking revenge on Murks, since Flower and Stone have become too distant to bear the immediacy of his hatred. When Nashe has completed enough work on the wall to pay off his debt, Murks and his son-in-law Floyd take Nashe out to celebrate. Nashe beats Floyd in a game of pool, but refuses the fifty dollars he has won; Floyd accepts this, saying that he owes Nashe a favor. Soon after, the three men pile into Murks's new car (Nashe's old Saab 900) with the slightly more sober Nashe behind the wheel. Nashe promptly takes the car up to eighty miles an hour and collides head-on with another vehicle.


"The Music of Chance" was referred to in David Mitchell's 1999 novel "Ghostwritten", which also deals with the nature of random chance. In the novel, one character is a member of a musical collective called The Music of Chance, named "after a novel by that New York bloke".

ee also

* Paul Auster

External links

* [ Music of Chance] , Movie Trailer

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