In "Safety Man," a young widow and her children become increasingly attached to an inflatable protector-doll, as the world outside seems to grow ever more threatening; "Big Me" follows a lonely, imaginative twelve-year-old boy who believes an older (slightly creepier) version of himself has moved in next door; in "I demand to Know Where You're Taking Me," a man blinded by love for his imprisoned brother ignores the warnings of his distant wife and a talking parrot who both witness things he's never seen; and "Among the Missing" explores how the death of a family, found buckled in their car a the bottom of a lake, casts a shadow on a small town and intrudes upon the narrator's relationship with his aging mother.
A writer of enormous talent and emotional depth, Dan Chaon mines the psychological landscape of his characters to dazzling effect. Each story radiates with sharp humor, mystery, wonder, and startling compassion. Among the Missing lingers in the mind through its subtle grace and power of language.
Executive Producer: Karen Dimattia
Producer: Garet Scott
Original cover design by Min Choi
Original cover photography by Alexa Garbarino
©2001 Dan Chaon
(P) 2001 Random House, Inc.
"One of the best short story writers around...Dan Chaon's stories are funny, heartbreaking, beautifully written, and intelligently conceived." (Lorrie Moore, author of Birds of America)
Dan Chaon emulates the off-center situations and attitudes that make T.C. Boyle's writing so compelling. On this front, he succeeds. But he fails to turn those situations into anything approaching drama, and that's a shame because even Chaon's frequent contributor to the N.Y. Times have more life than his short stories.
That being said, I was most disappointed that while living and working in Cleveland, Chaon didn't see fit to include more of the flavor of the area in his writing as he does when writing for the Times.
These stories are about characters who are, in one way or another, dealing with the absence of someone who used to be in their lives. In some cases the absence is welcome, in others not, and in still others, the loss is ambiguous. What is pretty consistent is the dreariness of the characters at the center of each story, the negative and pessimistic world-view that is described by the author, and the droning, monotone narration by both of the readers. A significant number of the stories just stop, making me re-wind the audio to see if I had skipped something. If I were reading a real book, I would have counted the pages to see if some had been torn out. No such luck - the stories are just essentially pointless narrations of someone's wandering thoughts about people that we are given no good reason to care about, or even be intrigued with. Did not hold my interest.
I found it filled with distant bleak characters that had no purpose or meaning. It was very difficult to empathize with them. Meandering subplots confused and distracted me. A bit too cutsy with literary devices. Read in a snarky and sarcastic tone. Yet refreshing because it was different from so many happy ending novels
Dan Chaon pens some very appealing passages in this collection of eerie stories. His viewpoint seems to be that detached and dysfunctional people are under the influence of various supernatural
essences. I'll go along with his premise, but I can't go along with the way his stories don't end. They simply stop. It was like being back in high school Creative Writing Class, where you're dropped into the middle of a plot and forced to make up an ending. I felt cheated; if I was creative enough to come up with good finishes, I'd be a writer instead of a reader.
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