Not the signature, the novel by Dan Chaon, which I have been very eager to read.
Well, my hold finally came up on the one copy we have at library last week and I’ve been deeply immersed every since. I even put down DFW’s “Broom of the System” to take up Chaon’s novel. So he should be very grateful, like free autographed-copy grateful.
I blogged about this novel previously, in a post concerning this notion of people walking away from their lives. In part, Chaon’s novel explores this ….issue(?), which was partly why I’ve been so geeked to read it. The other part is that I’ve been a fan of Chaon’s work for some years now, ever since I discovered his first book, a short story collection entitled “Fitting Ends.”
Since in reply to my post, Mr. Chaon himself confirmed, to my surprise and delight, that he in fact does think of himself as a GenX writer, that is how I’m thinking about it. Although, truth be told, I probably would have even had he not considered himself a GenX writer. I mean, unless he threatened to beat me up after school or something.
Anyhoo… All the major characters in this story walk away from their lives, for one reason or another, which was intriguing enough for me, but by part two you realize that what this is leading to is a novel about identity theft, which would not have surprised me had a read the blurb on the back by Jonathan Franzen. Duh. But really, who reads blurbs. Okay. I admit it. I do.
In any case, I don’t think I’ve ever read a serious novel about identity theft. It’s a fascinating subject, and lends a kind of thriller quality to this novel, though at heart it a literary human drama.
The narrative drive is pitch perfect. And the level of invention is superb. Though it is a cliche, it is a page turner, because you’re so eager to find out what happens next, and not just in a plot point way, aka who done it, but in a character development way, aka why characters do what the do.
Not to go on too long (because that is so not like me [yeah whatever]), but an example of Chaon’s invention prowess is the part I am currently at. The character Lucy, a misfit orphaned teenager who has run away with her 32 year old Yale-educated high school History teacher, George. To of all places Nebraska and an old hotel and house that George has inherited.
What struck me first about the hotel/house, was that it made me think of the movie “Psycho.” But what ended up being even more interesting was that it was located next to what was once a vast reservoir, which long since been drained by farmers. The reservoir was originally created by flooding a kind of valley that once contained a small town. Now the town is re-exposed but of course as a kind of ghost town, a drowned ghost town of sorts. The idea, the image, is both eerie and miraculous. Love it! And there is still plenty more to read.