Stay Awake, Dan Chaon's new collection of stories, finds the author of Await Your Reply revisiting familiarOriginally published inTime Out New York.
Stay Awake, Dan Chaon's new collection of stories, finds the author of Await Your Reply revisiting familiar themes of isolation, abandonment, loss and identity. This time around, Chaon—no stranger to the dark impulses of people in crisis—focuses on the claustrophobic reality of lives lived in the surfeit of moments following traumatic events.
In "The Bees," Gene is haunted by memories of the family he abandoned when his son begins having night terrors. In "I Wake Up," a phone call starts foster kid Robbie on a journey that will force him to confront the gory details of a night that changed everything for him. "Thinking of You in Your Time of Sorrow" finds a high-school basketball star burying more than a dead infant. And surviving a heart attack may have been the worst break traveling salesman Dave Deagle ever got in "Take This, Brother, May It Serve You Well."
Chaon has a knack for the dramatic—double suicides, conjoined twins and kidnapping all feature prominently—but there's more than a beguiling premise animating these stories. His real quarry is the pervasive nature of trauma's aftermath. Everyone here is caught in its slipstream, and what little relief Chaon does sanction outright often comes at too dear a price: brain damage and car accidents, for instance. The men (and they are mostly men) in Stay Awake find solace clinging to seemingly arbitrary snippets of speech that drift through the text like impotent mantras. Catastophes may take on uniquely horrific forms, but what happens afterward is often eerily similar. Our shared humanity, Chaon seems to ironically suggest, lies in how well we can suffer. ...more
Let me start by saying I'm partial to Isherwood. His Prater Violet is perhaps my favorite novel of all time. The World in the Evening, however, may beLet me start by saying I'm partial to Isherwood. His Prater Violet is perhaps my favorite novel of all time. The World in the Evening, however, may be a close runner-up. Isherwood oscillates between epistolary and straight-forward narrative, for a rather haunting, heart-felt experience that eschews sentimentality. It's the story of Stephen Monk, a wealthy young man who meanders throughout the world in the company of his wife, Elizabeth Rydal - a celebrated British author - in the early '30s. As is common with Isherwood, the specter of Hitler's Germany is always operating on the fringes to ground the narrative with a kind of melancholy realism. What's particularly interesting about Stephen is that, unlike most of Isherwood's narrators, he's more than just a thinly veiled version of the author. They share essential characteristics - a kind of wanderlust and a simmering political consciousness carefully kept in check - but they are fundamentally different people - the character and the author - a distance that is brought off to great effect. Ultimately, what The World delivers is a clear meditation on coming-of-age in a chaotic world, with plenty of the bohemian verve and Weimar insightfulness we've come to expect from Isherwood. Highly recommended....more
What a fun read! After reading both of Bechdel's graphic memoirs a couple of years ago, I was psyched to read her comic strip. The recent Genius GrantWhat a fun read! After reading both of Bechdel's graphic memoirs a couple of years ago, I was psyched to read her comic strip. The recent Genius Grant award prompted me to finally get around to it.
What I like most about Bechdel's work is her ability to illustrate macro socio/political things through super relatable domestic scenes. She has a great sense of humor and a highly developed sense of situational irony. Every page of DTWOF fires on all cylinders simultaneously and the juggling act is breathtaking to watch.
I'd say my favorite character is Mo. She's principled, neurotic, often annoying, but also capable of great empathy. Even though the strip is told from multiple perspectives, I couldn't help but read it all through Mo's point of view. I also like how Bechdel doesn't pull punches. Bad things happen to these people and they often do not-so-nice things to each other as well. Yet throughout it all there's a great sense of humor.
This volume collects ~20 years worth of the strip into one collection. It was fascinating to see a more-or-less real-time record of the political crises experienced since the late 80's, to rehash all the old arguments and remember the alternating sense of hope and despair that accompanied those crises. I loved watching the characters grow-up and negotiate their personal politics with the realities of their lives.
While the sense of profundity wasn't as explicit in this collection as it was in Bechdel's memoirs, I suspect many readers will prefer the easier to relate to tone of the strip. The memoirs are often viewed as too esoteric. Those same underpinnings are present in the strip, but they're surfaced in a much more practical way—partly, I suspect, because there simply isn't enough space to develop a long erudite narrative. ...more
This one is more of a mystery than the first, but that's not really why you're reading, is it? You keep reading to spend some more time with this campThis one is more of a mystery than the first, but that's not really why you're reading, is it? You keep reading to spend some more time with this campy soap opera. "Wait. Can you repeat that again? What's that about Mrs. Madrigal?" "What happened to Michael?!" Cruise ship. Bordello. Twist. ¡Escandalo! Basically, that's the loop going on in my head as I read these books. Love it!...more