IN 1999 PAUL Auster instigated the National Story Project in America. The idea was that people would submit anecdotes and other factual accounts which 'defied our expectations about the world ... in other words, true stories that sounded like fiction'. There were over four thousand entries, and the resulting radio shows and book constitute a remarkable archive of what Auster called 'reports from the front lines of personal experience'. However, the project also served as an investigation into one of the quandaries at the centre of Auster's work: what makes a story true?
It's a puzzle he re-examines in his latest novel, Oracle Night. Sidney Orr, the narrator, is a writer living in Brooklyn and slowly recovering from an accident so severe that his doctors think he should have died, who buys a curiously enchanting blue notebook in an exotic stationery store that