Barry's Reviews > Stay Awake: Stories

Stay Awake by Dan Chaon
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's review
Mar 10, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: read-in-2012
Read from March 12 to 14, 2012

This book is bleak, really, really bleak. Not for one paragraph will you read something that can possibly produce a feeling of hope in your heart. It could almost be enough to drive you to a life of loveless solitude, because if you believe in the universe Chaon creates here, something bad will inevitably happen to whomever you care about most and destroy your very being.

I bloody loved it.

Chaon brings darkness to the short story form like Carver, or a personal favourite of mine, Ron Rash’s Burning Bright: Stories. Taking depressing snippets from people’s lives and leaving many unanswered questions, you won’t get any satisfying endings here, if you don’t enjoy wallowing in visceral tales you won’t like these stories. They certain aren’t written for everybody, the world would be a depressing place if they were.

I really thought this was going to be a no questions asked 5 star read until about 2/3rds of the way through, the last 3 or 4 stories felt considerably weaker than the previously (which admittedly I would class many amongst the best short stories I’ve ever read). My other problem is that it does get a bit samey, whereas Rash’s’ characters all had similar backgrounds but very distance voices, in many of these It could be the same 40 something male or struggling mother. More than once I stopped during a story to try and figure out if they were actually interlinking, I don’t think they were, but I’m still not 100% positive on that.

But it’s still a solid 4, I want to recommend it to everyone and no one at the same time cause I really think it has the power to drive some people to misery, but for me it’s only left me wanting to consume everything Chaon has written… just in a few weeks, once the gloom from this one has stopped consuming me fully.

And just in case you haven't seen it before, here is a excellent piece / tribute on when his own wife, Sheila Schwartz died.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Marian (new)

Marian Definitely putting on the list for this year! Another friend recommended it as well. Looking forward.

Barry Yes read it for sure, just not if your feeling a bit down at the time, lol.

message 3: by Ruby (new) - added it

Ruby  Tombstone [With A Vengeance] Have you read Scorch Atlas by Blake Butler? I'm reading it now, and having the same experience: It is absolutely, relentlessly, bleak. Page after page of desolation & despair.
Thanks for the review- Looks like a good one to follow up with!

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