Patrick Faller's Reviews > Stay Awake

Stay Awake by Dan Chaon
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May 16, 12

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In a piece on revision published in the May/June 2010 issue of Poets & Writers, Ben Percy mentions that at one time in his writing career he considered himself an "organic" writer who pieced together his stories through one "act of discovery" after another. Percy employs a gardening metaphor to further develop his definition, suggesting that the act of composing and the act of revising a piece were very close in nature: "I let the garden grow," Percy writes, equating composing to letting nature take its course, "and returned to [the garden, or whatever writing he'd produced during the composing process,] to trim back the tangles, rip out the weeds."

"Dan Choan... is such a writer," Percy continues, noting, in a moment I could painfully identify with, that Chaon's draft pages dwarf the story that emerge from them by nearly eighty pages. Apparently, Chaon went through so many drafts writing "The Bees," a story contained in this collection, that he "would have probably been better off writing a novel."

This is by no means to suggest that the stories in Chaon's third collection (coming two years after his acclaimed novel Await Your Reply), are shoddy. Several of the stories feel somewhat too neat, too clean. The better pieces are those that seem to have accumulated a few too many weeds--to extend Percy's metaphor. Or, to put it another way, the better stories seem to achieve an indeterminacy that may be a byproduct of the fictional process used to produce them.
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