Narwhal Party

02/01/2010, 8:11 pm
Filed under: Books | Tags: , ,

Await Your Reply
Dan Chaon

Await Your Reply is meticulously built around the complications of our concepts of identity. In Dan Chaon’s second novel, identities are stolen, invented, and deliberately left behind, leaving the characters to wrestle with the resulting affects. Throughout this taught novel, told with focus on three separate characters who are pulled closer together with each chapter, the reader is forced to confront their concept of identity—who we truly are and where the boundaries lie. It would be hard to detail too much of the story without hinting or spoiling what unfolds, so I won’t try. The book is often eerie, constantly hinting at madness (whether feigned or otherwise, we’re never quite sure). It opens, abruptly and without explanation, on an empty highway in rural Michigan, with a severed hand in a cooler. Similar images combine with troubling uncertainty to create a sense mystery and suspense that is often absent from popular literary fiction. The three seemingly separate stories end in cliffhangers, and hints and clues are skillfully (even menacingly) dropped throughout. Though this is the first book of Dan Chaon’s I’ve read, I know that he works in short fiction (his first pursuit) as much as he does in novels, and the serialized format employed here seems to lend to his experience with smaller-scale stories, quite successfully. The book holds up as beautiful prose, as well as a thoroughly entertaining read. Certainly recommended.

Upon reading the character name Jay Kozelek, I immediately thought of Red House Painters/Sun Kil Moon frontman, Mark Kozelek. Upon further investigation, his music is included on a “soundtrack” for the book, found on Chaon’s site. In honor of the shared surname, here is a song from the equally eerie/beautiful singer-songwriter.

Mark Kozelek, “Cary Me Ohio”

Mark Kozelek covering the Bonnie “Prince” Billy song, “New Partner”

Visit Chaon’s official site here.


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