Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon
I haven’t read this, and it will be weeks before I can get to it (I’m 17th on the waitlist through the library, and the single copy is still in processing). The Rumpus posted a fabulous interview with him today, and his description of his own short stories (“You know, sad people from the Midwest who are disturbed in some sort of existential way.”) reminded me of how much I loved his first novel and the collection Among the Missing.
The creepiest bird in all of literature lives in the second story from the collection, “I Demand to Know Where You’re Taking Me.” I don’t have great retention of short stories, even ones I love, but I remember nearly every scene from that one—frightening, layered, tense. Even the end scared the hell out of me. That entire book impressed me: big themes about parents who are inadequate despite their best efforts, mysterious losses, relationships that are short a piece or two that the people involved are unaware of or powerless to fix. All with taut, image-heavy writing.
Looking back at my book lists for the past few years, Among the Missing was one of the earlier story collections that I finished, and I’m thinking that it helped smooth the way to my easier and more enjoyable time with them now. You Remind Me of Me, his first novel, was also amazing: my total notes for it are “fan-fucking-tastic.” I attempt to be a little more detailed nowadays.
Chaon Twitters at @DanChaon (does that count as a double “at”?), and following him has been worth it if only for the little tidbit he dropped a few days ago: it’s pronounced “shawn.” After years of alternating between spelling it out in every book conversation he came up in or mangling it (kay-on, chown, chon), I can finally recommend his work without feeling like an idiot.