Rosa's Reviews > Stay Awake

Stay Awake by Dan Chaon
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Feb 26, 12

Read from February 18 to 26, 2012

Dan Chaon,

Yours is always one of the first names that pops into my head when I ponder who my favorite writers are. I love the subtlety, depth, and intelligence of your writing - most of all, I love the surprising flashes of sly humor, which often get overlooked because of the immense sadness that pervades your work. You always have such great opening paragraphs that I'm immediately drawn in... you love depicting characters who are "stuck," and I usually can't stand reading about stasis or passivity - but then again, your characters typically aren't passive (if they are, really weird and/or macabre things start happening around them) - they usually do something so fantastically self-destructive that all we can do is keep reading while wanting to shield our eyes at the same time. I enjoyed this collection immensely, despite the fact, as the negative reviews have commented, that it's kind of a downer (but didn't you notice it was often funny, people?), and that many of the endings have us turning back to see if we missed something. I must say, though, that as a fan who's read most of your work, I'm really, really curious to see what an uplifting or even remotely hopeful story might look like from you, because off the top of my head, I can't think of a single example. What would a happy Dan Chaon story read like? I swear I'm not a huge fan of the Oprah triump of the human spirit type genre, but that's the whole point - how would a writer as nuanced and as attuned to genuine tragedy and absurdity, how would a writer like you pull that off? The other thing I've often thought as I've read your work is that your protagonists seem way too feeling and intelligent to be caught in the predicaments that they get ensnared in; I'm not sure if that's your hopeful element (that even the most screwed up people have thriving inner lives), or if that's the most depressing aspect of your work of all (their deep intelligence and sensitivity is often what leads your characters down their fatalistically self-destructive paths)... anyway, uplift - think about it! I'm curious. But either way, I'll definitely be along for the ride; you had me a few books back, probably at the misogynistic talking bird and subsequent offstage avicide....
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