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Dan Chaon

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Description de l'ouvrage

7 février 2012
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
The Washington Post • San Francisco Chronicle
 
Before the critically acclaimed novels Await Your Reply and You Remind Me of Me, Dan Chaon made a name for himself as a renowned writer of dazzling short stories. Now, in Stay Awake, Chaon returns to that form for the first time since his masterly Among the Missing, a finalist for the National Book Award.
 
In these haunting, suspenseful stories, lost, fragile, searching characters wander between ordinary life and a psychological shadowland. They have experienced intense love or loss, grief or loneliness, displacement or disconnection—and find themselves in unexpected, dire, and sometimes unfathomable situations.
 
A father’s life is upended by his son’s night terrors—and disturbing memories of the first wife and child he abandoned; a foster child receives a call from the past and begins to remember his birth mother, whose actions were unthinkable; a divorced woman experiences her own dark version of “empty-nest syndrome”; a young widower is unnerved by the sudden, inexplicable appearances of messages and notes—on dollar bills, inside a magazine, stapled to the side of a tree; and a college dropout begins to suspect that there’s something off, something sinister, in his late parents’ house.
 
Dan Chaon’s stories feature scattered families, unfulfilled dreamers, anxious souls. They exist in a twilight realm—in a place by the window late at night when the streets are empty and the world appears to be quiet. But you are up, unable to sleep. So you stay awake.
 
Praise for Stay Awake
 
“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
 
“Chaon is able to create fully realized characters in mere pages. . . . This collection is further proof that Chaon is one of the best fiction writers working right now.”—Omaha World-Herald
 
“There are not many fiction writers who can do what Dan Chaon can do. . . . [He is] a literary force.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer
 
“Intense and suspenseful . . . a highly recommended work, not to be missed.”—Library Journal (starred review)
 
“Mesmerizing . . . gripping, masterful fiction.”—The Plain Dealer
 
“Superbly disquieting.”—The New York Times Book Review
--Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Relié .

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Extrait

The Bees

Gene's son Frankie wakes up screaming. It has become frequent, two or three times a week, at random times: midnight-three a.m.-five in the morning. Here is a high, empty wail that severs Gene from his unconsciousness like sharp teeth. It is the worst sound that Gene can imagine, the sound of a young child dying violently-falling from a building, or caught in some machinery that is tearing an arm off, or being mauled by a predatory animal. No matter how many times he hears it he jolts up with such images playing in his mind, and he always runs, thumping into the child's bedroom to find Frankie sitting up in bed, his eyes closed, his mouth open in an oval like a Christmas caroler. If someone took a picture of him, he would appear to be in a kind of peaceful trance, as if he were waiting to receive a spoonful of ice cream, rather than emitting that horrific sound.

"Frankie!" Gene will shout, and claps his hands hard in the child's face. The clapping works well. At this, the scream always stops abruptly, and Frankie opens his eyes, blinking at Gene with vague awareness before settling back down into his pillow, nuzzling a little before growing still. He is sound asleep, he is always sound asleep, though even after months Gene can't help leaning down and pressing his ear to the child's chest, to make sure he's still breathing, his heart is still going. It always is.

There is no explanation that they can find. In the morning, Frankie doesn't remember anything, and on the few occasions that they have managed to wake him in the midst of one of his screaming attacks, he is merely sleepy and irritable. Once, Gene's wife, Karen, shook him and shook him, until finally he opened his eyes groggily. "Honey?" she said. "Honey? Did you have a bad dream?" But Frankie only moaned a little. "No," he said, puzzled and unhappy at being awakened, but nothing more.

They can find no pattern to it. It can happen any day of the week, any time of the night. It doesn't seem to be associated with diet, or with his activities during the day, and it doesn't stem, as far as they can tell, from any sort of psychological unease. During the day, he seems perfectly normal and happy.

They have taken him several times to the pediatrician, but the doctor seems to have little of use to say. There is nothing wrong with the child physically, Dr. Banerjee says. She advises that such things were not uncommon for children of Frankie's age group-he is five-and that more often than not, the disturbance simply passes away.

"He hasn't experienced any kind of emotional trauma, has he?" the doctor says. "Nothing out of the ordinary at home?"

"No, no," they both murmur, together. They shake their heads, and Dr. Banerjee shrugs. "Parents," she says. "It's probably nothing to worry about." She gives them a brief smile. "As difficult as it is, I'd say that you may just have to weather this out."

But the doctor has never heard those screams. In the mornings after the "nightmares," as Karen calls them, Gene feels unnerved, edgy. He works as a driver for the United Parcel Service, and as he moves through the day after a screaming attack, there is a barely perceptible hum at the edge of his hearing, an intent, deliberate static sliding along behind him as he wanders through streets and streets in his van. He stops along the side of the road and listens. The shadows of summer leaves tremble murmurously against the windshield, and cars are accelerating on a nearby road. In the treetops, a cicada makes its trembly, pressure-cooker hiss.

Something bad has been looking for him for a long time, he thinks, and now, at last, it is growing near.

When he comes home at night everything is normal. They live in an old house in the suburbs of Cleveland, and sometimes after dinner they work together in the small patch of garden out in back of the house- tomatoes, zucchini, string beans, cucumbers-while Frankie plays with Legos in the dirt. Or they take walks around the neighborhood, Frankie riding his bike in front of them, his training wheels squeaking. They gather on the couch and watch cartoons together, or play board games, or draw pictures with crayons. After Frankie is asleep, Karen will sit at the kitchen table and study-she is in nursing school-and Gene will sit outside on the porch, flipping through a newsmagazine or a novel, smoking the cigarettes that he has promised Karen he will give up when he turns thirty-five. He is thirty-four now, and Karen is twenty- seven, and he is aware, more and more frequently, that this is not the life that he deserves. He has been incredibly lucky, he thinks. Blessed, as Gene's favorite cashier at the supermarket always says. "Have a blessed day," she says, when Gene pays the money and she hands him his receipt, and he feels as if she has sprinkled him with her ordinary, gentle beatitude. It reminds him of long ago, when an old nurse had held his hand in the hospital and said that she was praying for him.

Sitting out in his lawn chair, drawing smoke out of his cigarette, he thinks about that nurse, even though he doesn't want to. He thinks of the way she'd leaned over him and brushed his hair as he stared at her, imprisoned in a full body cast, sweating his way through withdrawal and DTs.

He had been a different person, back then. A drunk, a monster. At eighteen, he married the girl he'd gotten pregnant, and then had set about slowly, steadily, ruining all their lives. When he'd abandoned them, his wife and son, back in Nebraska, he had been twenty-four, a danger to himself and others. He'd done them a favor by leaving, he thought, though he still feels guilty when he looks back on it. Years later, when he was sober, he even tried to contact them. He wanted to own up to his behavior, to pay the back child support, to apologize. But they were nowhere to be found. Mandy was no longer living in the small Nebraska town where they'd met and married, and there was no forwarding address. Her parents were dead. No one seemed to know where she'd gone.

Karen didn't know the full story. She had been, to his relief, uncurious about his previous life, though she knew he had some drinking days, some bad times. She knew that he'd been married before, too, though she didn't know the extent of it, didn't know that he had another son, for example, didn't know that he had left them one night, without even packing a bag, just driving off in the car, a flask tucked between his legs, driving east as far as he could go. She didn't know about the car crash, the wreck he should have died in. She didn't know what a bad person he'd been.

She was a nice lady, Karen. Maybe a little sheltered. And truth to tell, he was ashamed-and even scared-to imagine how she would react to the truth about his past. He didn't know if she would have ever really trusted him if she'd known the full story, and the longer they have known each other the less inclined he has been to reveal it. He'd escaped his old self, he thought, and when Karen got pregnant, shortly before they were married, he told himself that now he had a chance to do things over, to do it better. They had bought the house together, he and Karen, and now Frankie will be in kindergarten in the fall. He has come full circle, has come exactly to the point when his former life with Mandy and his son, DJ, completely fell apart. He looks up as Karen comes to the back door and speaks to him through the screen. "I think it's time for bed, sweetheart," she says, and he shudders off these thoughts, these memories. He smiles.

He's been in a strange frame of mind lately. The months of regular awakenings have been getting to him, and he has a hard time going back to sleep after an episode with Frankie. When Karen wakes him in the morning, he often feels muffled, sluggish-as if he's hungover. He doesn't hear the alarm clock. When he stumbles out of bed, he finds he has a hard time keeping his moodiness in check. He can feel his temper coiling up inside him.

He isn't that type of person anymore, and hasn't been for a long while. Still, he can't help but worry. They say that there is a second stretch of craving, which sets in after several years of smooth sailing; five or seven years will pass, and then it will come back without warning. He has been thinking of going to AA meetings again, though he hasn't in some time-not since he met Karen.

It's not as if he gets trembly every time he passes a liquor store, or even as if he has a problem when he goes out with buddies and spends the evening drinking soda and nonalchoholic beer. No. The trouble comes at night, when he's asleep.

He has begun to dream of his first son. DJ. Perhaps it is related to his worries about Frankie, but for several nights in a row the image of DJ-age about five-has appeared to him. In the dream, Gene is drunk, and playing hide-and-seek with DJ in the yard behind the Cleveland house where he is now living. There is the thick weeping willow out there, and Gene watches the child appear from behind it and run across the grass, happy, unafraid, the way Frankie would. DJ turns to look over his shoulder and laughs, and Gene stumbles after him, at least a six-pack's worth of good mood, a goofy, drunken dad. It's so real that when he wakes, he still feels intoxicated. It takes him a few minutes to shake it.

One morning after a particularly vivid version of this dream, Frankie wakes and complains of a funny feeling-"right here"-he says, and points to his forehead. It isn't a headache, he says. "It's like bees!" he says. "Buzzing bees!" He rubs his hand against his brow. "Inside my head." He considers for a moment. "You know how the bees bump against the window when they get in the house and want to get out?" This description pleases him, and he taps his forehead lightly with his fingers, humming, "Zzzzzzz," to demonstrate.

"Does it hurt?" Karen says.

"No," Frankie says. "It tickles."

Karen gives Gene a concerned look. She makes Frankie lie down on the couch, and tells him to close his eyes for a while. After a few minutes, he raises up, smiling, and... --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Relié .

Revue de presse

“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
 
“Chaon is able to create fully realized characters in mere pages. . . . This collection is further proof that Chaon is one of the best fiction writers working right now.”—Omaha World-Herald
 
“There are not many fiction writers who can do what Dan Chaon can do. . . . [He is] a literary force.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer
 
“Intense and suspenseful . . . a highly recommended work, not to be missed.”—Library Journal (starred review)
 
“Mesmerizing . . . gripping, masterful fiction.”—The Plain Dealer
 
“Superbly disquieting.”—The New York Times Book Review --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Relié .

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Amazon.com: 3.9 étoiles sur 5  72 commentaires
17 internautes sur 18 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Dark, mysterious, engrossing 7 janvier 2012
Par Malfoyfan - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
I've read most of Dan Chaon's work and completely enjoyed all of it, including this new collection of short stories. On the surface the stories don't appear to have much in common, but after reading for a while, you notice that many of them feature people who have been in car accidents - hospitals and funerals also seem to appear regularly. This probably sounds like a turn-off, but not really. If you have a taste for the darker side, you'll enjoy this book. I hasten to point out, when I say "darker" I don't mean blood and guts or violence - just a sense of being unsettled or a little disturbed.

Chaon has a gift for writing about very odd things happening to very ordinary people. It's easy to feel a kinship with his characters; they could be me or my friends and neighbors. What makes his stories unique is the mash-up of the "regular folks" and the weird and sometimes terrifying situations that Chaon drops them into. These stories include such scenarios as parents dealing with a newborn baby with a parasitic twin; a father experiencing a prophetic nightmare; a woman whose ex-husband has a brain injury which makes him like a child; a young man whose estranged sister starts calling him, bringing up repressed memories of a horrible childhood incident; a widower who finds himself a "magnet" for odd notes and a man who realizes he's made a big mistake when he kidnaps his former girlfriend's son.

Like Chaon's previous story collection, Among the Missing, Stay Awake is a book I could not put down. I felt the same about his novel Await Your Reply. He's one of the few authors whose books I would buy without checking the reviews on Amazon first. His work reminds me a little bit of Chuck Palahniuk - not that he goes as far into the darkness as Palahniuk - but in his weird, nightmarish vision. Highly recommended - if you haven't read Chaon's work before, give it a try. If you are like me, you'll be totally hooked and find yourself back online ordering all of his other books.
6 internautes sur 6 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Great author, vivid details 4 mars 2012
Par eyecore - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
After reading a couple of these short stories, you'll know one thing for sure: Dan Chaon is a very talented author. His characters are done well, the descriptions are amazing, and the knack for showing rather than telling is wonderful. With that said, however, the stories themselves leave a bit to be desired.

The stories, while not interconnected, generally follow a similar theme throughout the book. Trouble is, the stories don't really leave the reader all that satisfied. I understand these are short stories, but regardless of length, I still expect a full story. At best, these felt like 1-2 chapter "preview" to stories. At worst, when the stories end, it felt like the story itself was a less than overt attempt by the author to make you think "wow, that was a real mind bender." Trouble is, they aren't mind benders. Then as multiple stories all have the same feel, it starts to wear a little thin.

For me, it's equally difficult to recommend and NOT recommend this book. The writing is very well done; the stories are interesting but grow old before the book is even done. Overall: combine the good and bad, and this is about average for the genre.
6 internautes sur 6 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Memories and Nostalgia 8 février 2012
Par Gary Severance - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
Dan Chaon is an Ohio based writer who has published three novels and many short stories. In this collection of short stories, Mr. Chaon explores the theme of deaths of loved ones and how these events change our relationships with others and change our self-interpretations. Each story is unique but has a common factor of the death of a child, father, mother or some other person close to the characters. The deaths are either current events or are part of the personal histories of the characters. The recent or distant memories of loss haunt the characters and emerge from unconscious storage unbidden or are deliberately retrieved. The focus of the narratives involves showing the cues that bring the ghosts of the past into consciousness and how the characters deal with them.

The uniqueness of each story causes the reader to become involved with the action described. The thread of death in the stories strengthens as the reader progresses through the book. Awareness develops about the thread and ideas that the stories are continuous, with secondary characters perhaps branching off from the action of earlier stories. Like the memory of a person who has experienced loss of a loved one, the reader's memory of loss in an early story is triggered by unexpected cues presented in a later one. Much like a person who has lost a loved one and repressed some of the memories surrounding that person, the reader must search her memory for connecting details of an earlier story. A hint of something may arise and the reader wonders is this what happened to the brother, friend, lover?

The stories also trigger memories of the reader's own losses of people who were important to her. She may look up from the book and recollect faces, events, clothing, photos, as do the characters in the stories. The characters have to face the distinction between memories and nostalgia, the difference being that the former can be reinterpreted looking back with wisdom. The latter are fixed by the initial interpretation given of the event and cannot be reworked. Fixed interpretations offer little in the way of emotional growth that would normally occur with maturity. I went so far as to skim back through all 12 stories to look for connections much like one of the characters in a story, who looks for hidden messages in random notes. I found in some cases, my own experiences with death interfered with my memories of the fictional experiences of the characters, showing the complexities of any life review that mixes memories with nostalgia.

I thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Chaon's collection of stories. He takes the reader through a process of tension in the lack of closure in the stories, discovery in the emotional reactions of the characters and in ourselves, and a resolution of tension in bypassing nostalgia to examine true accounts of memory with the original emotional impact. A conclusion might be to "stay awake" to the memories of lost loved ones to prevent the second loss of them through fixing them like lilacs in plexiglas.
5 internautes sur 5 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A collection of beautifully written but creepy short stories 2 mai 2012
Par Leslie - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
If you can call a collection of creepy stories beautifully written, then that is how I would describe Stay Awake by Dan Chaon. Each of these dips gracefully into sci-fi, horror and supernatural, but with a literary bent. The reader is drawn into each eerie tale, caught up in the suspense and unable to put the book down until the haunting conclusion.

This is a short volume which I read over a period of a week. A story here or there, savoring each before moving on to the next. The stories are not connected or related, yet they have a recurring theme. In each, the characters are suffering an acute loss. These are unhappy people, often in crisis. There are broken families, deaths, divorce, violence and in an eerie similarity, characters in two different stories fell off ladders and lost a finger in the accident.

There are twelve stories and most of them worked for me. There were a couple that I just didn't get, with the endings left open to interpretation. Others were quite clear but all were haunting.

I had to read the title story, Stay Awake, twice to fully grasp what happened. A couple, after years of infertility treatment, finally have a baby only to end up with conjoined twins. Only one is viable. Shortly after their birth the husband is in a horrible car accident. Reading it a second time I picked up the subtle foreshadowing of the conclusion.

In Slowly We Open Our Eyes, one that I found particularly disturbing, the powerful moment of realization after a truck hits a deer, or does it, comes at the very end. That one stayed with me. In Bees a now happily married father who has concealed his past from his family has nightmares about the wife and child he abandoned years before. The shocking ending was reminiscent of an episode of The Twilight Zone.

These are not fun, happy stories. They will make you think. They will chase you like a bad dream. You will see shadows in dark corners. They are wonderfully written. This is a book I'll want to read again for I'm sure I'll see more in each story the second time through.
3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Wel Written, But Very Disturbing 24 janvier 2012
Par Scott William Foley - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
I'm a Dan Chaon fan. His unusual ideas and interwoven plots are typically a pleasure to read. It's true that his work characteristically tackles difficult subject matter, but I've never been outright disturbed by his stories ... until now.

For me, Stay Awake proved a grueling read. Not because it's badly written - that's not the case at all. Chaon is an excellent writer. No, it's because this book is dark - extremely dark. Chaon's too classy to go for the gratuitous. It's the suggestiveness within the book, those horrific details stated matter-of-factly that put me on edge. Babies die. Mother's die. Children die. People get hurt. People suffer. And it's not just one of the stories where these things happen ... it's all of them.

Perhaps it's testament to Chaon's skill that he consistently ravaged my nerves. I've read stories such as these before, but they never felt so real ... so ... personal. Chaon's characters, though we barely know them at all, are living, breathing people that easily could live next door to us. Maybe it's because his characters are so universal that his writing dug so deep. For an entire book, he reminds us that tragedy can strike at anytime to anyone.

So did I like the book? No, quite honestly, I did not. However, I like Dan Chaon very much, and I like virtually everything else he's written very much. For me to say I didn't like Stay Awake is not an attack on the book itself, for I admit I am not being objective. I admit the subject matter disturbed me and agitated my own fears. As a result, I truly didn't want to finish it (though I obviously did).

Stay Awake is well written. It does everything from a technical standpoint that you would expect from a writer of Chaon's caliber. Its characters are identifiable and interesting. Its plots are unusual and provocative. It will probably trouble you.

~Scott William Foley, author of Andropia
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