Hemingway has been glorified for seeking truth by stripping away the extra words. Lee Oser takes the opposite tack. The Oracles Fell Silent, Oser’s second novel, tracks down many truths: Did an aging pop star kill his best friend? Is the troubled narrator a virtuous man? Does God exist, or even add value? Who is the woman with the red Ferrari? And it does so in an avalanche of incorrigible detail.
Oracles is not a particularly thick book. You can read it in a weekend. But each sentence contains a revelation of pop culture, chewy details, delightful turns of phrase, and a salty sense of humor. It’s a murder mystery and coming of age story, in which the young ghostwriter, Bellman, tries to ferret out the truth about his employer, Sir Ted Pop, a British rock star decamped to the Hamptons with his third or fourth wife.
The book builds to a delirious cacophony of competing, overlapping, and often ludicrous stories, featuring characters whose own grasp of reality, truth, and trust veers from the paranoid to the paranormal. Bellman, described by Sir Ted as “thick as a brick, but no Judas,” may be the only trustworthy character in the book, but as the stories and his own world unravel he trusts himself less and less.
It’s no surprise that Oser, who put himself through Reed driving a cab, washing dishes, and holding down the bass in the popular Portland new wave band the Riflebirds, would write a strangely convincing novel about the weird world of rock fame and the search for God and meaning. What is surprising is that he manages to create a thrilling work of fiction in which even this devout atheist reader hopes that someone will find truth, a higher purpose, and conviction in his own virtue before everything comes crashing down.