The Music of Chance begins with Jim Nashe, a former firefighter from Boston, coming to the end of a year-long road journey. In this way, the novel is reminiscent of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road (1957), but the similarities end there. Nashe, one learns, is on the road thanks to a $200,000 inheritance from a father he never really knew, which has allowed him to leave behind his everyday life and drift around the United States. His trip is a series of chance encounters, and, just as the money is about to run out, he meets a seedy character named Jack Pozzi, a gambler who inducts him into the “International Brotherhood of Lost Dogs.” Nashe gambles away the last of his inheritance by bankrolling a poker game that Pozzi has put together. The game is with two Pennsylvania millionaires named Flower and Stone, who demand that Nashe and Pozzi work off their debt by building a stone wall on their estate.
Another strong outing by Auster, this book differs significantly from his others. It is a road narrative, but, as always in Auster’s world, chance is an authoritative force. Auster explores the roles of security and serenity, the restraints of freedom and solitude, the power of language and randomness in a violently apathetic world, and the nature of the true quest for justice. The Music of Chance is a thrilling story told in clean and exact prose.