BookBin2012: Stay Awake

Pulling back from the political speak for a little while. You come here for a variety of inane ramblings, so time to switch focus.

Stay Awake is a collection of short stories by author Dan Chaon. I’d never heard of Chaon prior to seeing this book on the “Recommended Reading” table at our local library, but he’s apparently enjoyed moderate success with previous short story collections and novels. With this collection, he examines the darker side of the emotional spectrum through a series of explorations into loss and sorrow.

His prose is at times detached, analytical, which I believe helps immensely as he tackles a series of tales that could very easily slip into the syrupy sanctuary of schmaltzy sentimentality. There’s also an inescapable shifting in his narrative that always leaves you off-balance and uncertain as to what will happen next. His tales are melancholy, morose, strange, and most often unnerving. I also found them to be deeply satisfying.

What can I say? I like the darkness.

There are 12 stories in total in this collection, and each one possesses some strange intimacy with death that I found disturbingly entrancing. I also can’t help but wonder how much loss Chaon has experienced in his life to have such an…open relationship with the many guises of the Grim Reaper. He’s either intimately familiar with it through experience or possesses a very honed morbid sensibility. Either way, his grappling with these various forms of loss is exquisite.

Final Verdict: I don’t know yet if I want this as part of my own collection, but I do believe I would like to further explore Chaon’s oeuvre. His darker sensibilities appeal greatly to my own.