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Stay Awake: Stories

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  2,463 ratings  ·  496 reviews
Eerily beautiful . . . [Chaon] is the modern day John Cheever.Boston Sunday Globe
Powerful and disturbing . . . The shocks in this collection are many.The Washington Post
These haunting, suspenseful stories by acclaimed author Dan Chaon feature scattered families, unfulfilled dreamers, anxious soulslost, fragile, searching characters who wander between ordinary life
Kindle Edition, 272 pages
Published February 7th 2012 by Ballantine Books
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Bill Kerwin

Chaon is not a writer of weird fiction, yet many of his stories haunt you in the way good weird fiction does. When a talented writer--and Chaon is one--takes as his subject characters of limited awareness tried by extremity, and when he views those characters with both irony and empathy, something surprising and disturbing happens. The universe of the story appears to expand and distort, as if to accommodate the immensity of the pain, and--because we find ourselves absorbed in the story and
People must be warned: If you hate depressing stories, you should never, ever read Dan Chaon. I have heard him described as an author of Midwest Gothic, and I can think of no better term. This is a depressing collection, with stories that rear up out of their tragedy so that they may drag you deeper. The endings will leave you without satisfaction, either. They do not give you resolution, though they do point the way down the road where that resolution may lay (hint: you don't want to go there, ...more
Mar 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 2013
Perhaps it was the times and places in which I read these short, strange and nightmarish stories that led me to enjoy them so much. They are suited to bleak days and sleepless nights. They will remind you that sometimes there is no hope.

These people are displaced, disoriented, bogged down in loneliness so deep you wonder if they are dreaming instead of living. They tie together unexpectedly and eerily in the final story and haunted me long after the planes had landed and the dawns had broken.
Nandakishore Varma
She sighs. I know, she says. I realize that I should have told you. Butyou know. All this stuff with your mother and so on. You seemed like you were in a very fragile state.

Fraj-ile, I say, pronouncing it the way that she doesas if it might be a popular tourist destination in the Pacific, beautiful Fraj Isle, with its white sandy beaches and shark-filled coves.
- Shepherdess

If I had to choose one passage to symbolise this short story collection by Dan Chaon, I would quote the above. These are
Mar 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-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 Rashs
Mar 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was in the middle of the title story when I realized that Dan Chaon had written a collection of horror tales. In these stories, human beings perpetrate horrors such as abandonment, abuse, neglect upon each other. Relatives are left to clean up the emotional refuse after events such as a house fire, or parental suicide. I came across one review that labeled Chaon an "evil puppet master," and I suppose that is because he puts his characters through the wringer. Some stories in this collection ...more
Ben Loory
Jun 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bleakest book I've read since Simenon. The stories are close to flawless, I think, just... BLEAK AS FUCK. Couldn't really imagine reading this again. At least not straight through. Maybe a story here and there. In between dancing in the kitchen to T-Rex or visits to Pirates of the Caribbean.


"Stay Awake"
"I Wake Up"
"St. Dismas"
"Thinking of You in your Time of Sorrow"

But really, they are all pretty powerful.

This is a solid collection of short stories from an incredibly talented writer. Reading Chaon's work, you can't help but feel as though he is either consciously or subconsciously revealing parts of himself. His flaws, his fears, thoughts on family, love, and death. He is a man who has loved and lost, and you feel the depth of his experience between the pages of his books. 

This collection has a few brilliant, eerie stories. The first story, The Bees is so, so good, and so, so creepy. This
Nov 28, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dan Chaon is an excellent writer. I was absolutely mesmerized by two of his novels: You Remind Me of Me and Await Your Reply. Needless to say, I couldnt wait to get my hands on his new collection of short stories.

Yet somehow, some way, something is missing this time. The stories, all focusing on ordinary men and women who have found themselves in dire or haunting situations, have a sameness about them and a certain voice that at least for me permeates each one. It is almost as if this time,
Dustin Crazy little brown owl
I had a dream I was awake and I woke up to find myself asleep.
-Stan Laurel

This amazing collection of stories provides readers with words and ideas to promote life reflection. I absolutely love Dan Chaon's magical ability :-)

One of my favorite books ever! So far, I have read Stay Awake several times since it's publication in February 2012 - I am excited for any new work by Dan Chaon. I highly recommend Dan Chaon's books, especially Stay Awake and Await Your Reply - if you like stories that keep
Tom Baker
In the past five years, I haven't read a better novel than Dan Chaon's Await Your Reply, an utterly engrossing story of identity in a modern, digital age, at once a mystery, thriller, and much more. So I eagerly tore into his story collection Stay Awake, hoping to experience more of what made his novel so memorable for me. Unfortunately, while there is some astonishing writing on display in Chaon's short stories, the experience was ultimately only partially as fulfilling as I'd hoped.

Mar 10, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2012
This is my first time reading Dan Chaon and I was pleasantly surprisedand a little scared later that night. These stories are CREEPY and I enjoyed that, they remind me of The Twilight Zone mixed in with Tales from the Crypt. Most of the stories are not outright hit you in the face scary, but psychologically it creeps up on you scary. If you are the faint of heart, you should probably skip this book.
My favorite part about this book was that all the stories were interconnected. Youd read a line
Dec 25, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a series of short stories by Dan Chaon. These stories are not for the faint of heart/the sensitive. Themes throughout the book include [family] tragedy and death, and can sometimes be difficult to read. The first two stories, "The Bees" is a poor introduction to the rest of the book, as it is, in my opinion, one of the most depressing. Others, such as "To Psychic Underworld" were lighter and thought-provoking. The title story, "Stay Awake" is the most cerebral, literally. About a ...more
Dec 20, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc
Stay Awake is the new collection of short stories from Dan Chaon. Despite the fact that I read an ARC of these short stories, each selection felt unfinished. There was no resolution or closure to any of the stories. In many instances, sentences were left unfinished, as in, there was no period at the end of a paragraph. I'm not sure if this was intentional or not. The stories are connected in that they each focus on dismal situations with characters who are experiencing loneliness, grief, ...more
Imaginative with strong repetitive suggestions for the real time perceptions of the schizophrenic. Not weird or creepy in a esoteric way for me. But closer to listening to first person case study. Skill is honed in that particular or personality disordered observation and emotive context. He writes close to the "off" bone. Not at all my cup of tea, but that skill is rare, IMHO and as such I recognize that he owns it.
Ann Douglas
How creepy is this collection of short stories? So creepy that, when I finished the last short story (reading late at night in a cabin in the woods, by myself) I hopped out of bed and carried the book to another room so that I wouldn't accidentally spot the cover of the book if I woke in the night. Consider yourself forewarned.
Joshua Jorgensen
Feb 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is my second work of Dan Chaon's and it is safe to say that I am officially a fan. These collection of short stories are disorienting, dark, melancholic, and some of them are down right chill-inducing. I like the bizarre nature of his writing--the way that he crafts a story out of the mist--and as you read you get closer and closer to a shape, yet are never close enough to figure out just exactly what it is you are running into.
The standouts in this collection for me are: "The Bees," "Long
Mar 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This collection of short stories was very dark and melancholy. Some of them were a fair bit creepy but nothing too scary. This is not the book to pick up if you are sad or depressed. There isn't a happy story to be seen. A few were quite shocking with twists that took me by surprise. Dan Chaon is a very good writer and I will look to read more from him in the future.
This collection of short stories is about death, dreams, suicide, loss and losing your way, and trying to find your way back.
It is lifted by small hopeful bursts of humour. Their skin had a rosy, post-maternal glow, and they spoke in gently therapeutic voices as they walked around carrying their babies in expensive papooses. She, meanwhile, had the haggard eyes and quick temper of a woman who had just lived for five years with a teenager.
In Patrick Lane, Flabbergasted, Brandon notices how his
Feb 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Larry H
I was first introduced to Dan Chaon when I started getting interested in short stories in the late 1990s. I remember being blown away by several of his stories, and over the years I eagerly devoured both of his novels, You Remind Me of Me and Await Your Reply, which was one of my favorite books I read in 2009. Stay Awake is Chaon's return to short stories, and while I didn't feel that any of the stories in this collection packed the power of some of his older stories, they are still tremendously ...more
Sep 16, 2015 rated it liked it
I liked Chaon's novels a lot, this was the natural next step, his short stories. And...not so much, which is to say this is still very much Chaon's style and themes, but something about the procession of these short units of despair and sadness that made the book too relentlessly bleak for casual enjoyment. Heavy doesn't even begins to describe it, it's oppressingly so. Once again in pursuit of those invisible ghosts, the characters here (all failures in their own way, crushed under the weight ...more
Feb 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thinking of You in Your Time of Sorrow

Death and sadness in the heartland. Mortality is a constant presence in this collection of stories, sometimes crouching in a distant corner or looming over every perfectly framed sentence. This is a gallery of troubled souls, dealing with a parasitic baby, a brain-damaged husband, suicide, infanticide, various car wrecks, capital punishment and the forlorn parade shuffles on.
Spread out, through various towns and cities, from Ohio to Nebraska, these
Mar 30, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was a book of short stories that were very, very dark in tone--all of them. Which I liked because it was kind of different and almost fun to revel in the gruesomeness and in the dark aspects of the human spirit. These were unapologetically negative people and situations--car crashes, deformed babies, abandoned children, coffins, suicides, etc. Don't read this book after you've had a bad day! But in the right mood, it was interesting.

I did not, however, think it was very compelling or any
Alisa Kester
Mar 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
I was SO HAPPY when I saw this book on my to-be-processed cart at my library. Dan Chaon is an absolute master (and my personal favorite) in the short story genre. His language is like poetry - and in this collection, numerous times it literally does slip into poetry, in the most natural way possible. I find myself re-reading sections: the first and second time because they were so beautiful, and then again because I want to discover how he did that...right there. That perfect bit of writing.

Jan 10, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a collection of 12 stories and a great book. Perfectly titled, I could not fall asleep while reading this book. Each story pulls you in. You are compelled to finish a story, after which you can dwell on the emotions and thoughts that each story evoked, or you can check the time and see if you might be able to finish another story before you have to put the book down. Each story is a gem. I won an uncorrected proof, but would love to add a hardcopy of this book to my collection. This is a ...more
Feb 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book at the right time, I think. It just hit me, and I wanted to be reading it always. There is death everywhere here, but also strange little jokes and odd narrators that I can't get out of my head. I love the imagery that echoes and overlaps.
Mar 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The father with a past he wants to forget;
The teen boy who is trying to face up to an adult tragedy;
The mother who is trying to cope with her deformed child, while also dealing with the traumatic accident her husband has recently been in;
The empty nest mother who wonders if she should begin a sexual relationship with her ex-husband, the victim of a brain injury who is now very unlike his former self;
A young man, living with his recently widowed foster mother, speaks to his half sister about
Jonathan Maas
Dec 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Instead of a heavy dose of Dan Chaon, a series of small jabs

Dan Chaon is one of the most disturbing writers we have today.

He doesn't write about monsters, nothing jumps out at the characters, and there aren't that many twists to his tales.

There really isn't even that much violence in his tales.

But he lays on an undercurrent of persistent disquiet an alienation, and it gets to you.

You know that feeling you get when you did something wrong a long time ago, and there is nothing you can do to
May 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very impressive, eerie, elliptical tales of haunted lives. Particularly liked "The Bees," "Patrick Lane, Flabbergasted," "Long Delayed, Always Expected," "St. Dismas," "Thinking of You in Your Time of Sorrow," & especially the last story, "The Farm. The Gold. The Lily-White Hands." If you like the psychological suspense stories of Shirley Jackson and Joyce Carol Oates, I say give Dan Chaon a try.
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Dan Chaon is the author of Among the Missing, which was a finalist for the National Book Award and You Remind Me of Me, which was named one of the best books of the year by The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, The Christian Science Monitor, and Entertainment Weekly, among other publications. Chaons fiction has appeared in many journals and anthologies, including Best ...more

Articles featuring this book

The acclaimed author of Await Your Reply runs the gauntlet from edgy introspection to psychological horror in Stay Awake, a new collection of emoti...
15 likes · 3 comments
“A conclusion is simply the place where you got tired of thinking.” 67 likes
“There is a stage you reach, Deagle thinks, a time somewhere in early middle age, when your past ceases to be about yourself. Your connection to your former life is like a dream or delirium, and that person who you once were is merely a fond acquaintance, or a beloved character from a storybook. This is how memory becomes nostalgia. They are two very different things - the same way that a person is different from a photograph of a person.” 17 likes
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