"One of the best
short story writers around . . . Dan Chaon’s stories are funny,
heartbreaking, beautifully written, and intelligently conceived."
Bestselling author of Birds of America
"An important collection of stories. A genuinely literary
National Book Award-winning author
"With a story like [‘Big Me’] from the marvelous writer Dan
Chaon, I am confronted not only with an unfathomable mystery such as
that of the endurance of a single human identity over time, but also
with new proof of the enduring value of telling tales in the ongoing
struggle to understand those mysteries."
Pulitzer Prize-winning author
stories are filled with a wicked innocence, a wonderful way of seeing what
is new in the way we live the lives we've grown used to. He makes us feel
the fearfulness available--given the right light, the wrong music--from
the ordinary. He honors his readers and his characters with direct
language, compelling moments, and a chance to see clearly what is coming
"Dan Chaon writes
with superlative craft and compassion about people who step out of their
ordinary lives and into mysteries. These are wonderful stories: tough,
spooky and full of heart."
--Jean Thompson, author of National Book Award Nominee Who Do You Love?
"With searing tenderness and astonishing grace, Dan Chaon
conjures the magical worlds where a young widow may glimpse the divine in an inflatable doll or a flamboyant macaw may repeat
a rapist's mocking words. These are stories with dark edges, peopled by characters who face the limits of rage and despair.
But in the midst of turmoil, Dan Chaon holds fast to his own sense of the whimsical and the absurd. He sees his people with delight;
he offers us visions of hope and awe through his own fearless compassion."
---Melanie Rae Thon
"In AMONG THE MISSING, Dan Chaon movingly parses the omnipresence of absence in our lives. Among the missing in these stories are: a brother-in-law imprisoned for serial rape; the children of a lonely sperm donor; a family mysteriously drowned in a car; a runaway mother; a lost son; a dead husband; a stillborn daughter; and the million imaginary inhabitants of Beck, Nebraska. And, most importantly, the many missing persons that comprise a self, those versions of ourselves that we abandon over the years and that "end up nearly forgotten, mumbling and gasping for air in some tenement room of our consciousness." Among the found is Dan Chaon, a brilliant and important new voice in American fiction. We will all be reading his mysterious and beautiful stories sooner or later. I suggest sooner."
(author of BLACK MAPS)
"Within these pages Chaon's lonely protagonists struggle to invent or erase themselves. Their histories are disordered, their futures uncertain. But for the reader the pleasures involved are indelible. These are memorable, mighty stories told by a master. An asbolutely stupendous collection! I recommend it with all my heart."
Karen Joy Fowler,
author of Sarah Canary, The Sweetheart Season and Black Glass
THE MISSING is moving, powerful, clear-eyed and compassionate. Dan Chaon can
compress grief, rage, passion and forgiveness into a page, a paragraph, a sentence--the palm of a hand.
This is a terrific book."
Leigh Allison Wilson,
author of Wind and From the Bottom Up
THE MISSING is a startling glimpse into Dan Chaon's strange fictional world. In tight clean prose he renders story after story brimming with equal parts menace and grace. His stories haunt and amaze
lingering like great fiction should."
author of If I Don't Six and What Salmon Know
(for Among the Missing)
"In Dan Chaon's unforgettable, if
unnerving, new collection of stories, ''Among the Missing,'' the leaving
never stops...In the very fine title story, a car has mysteriously
sailed off the road into the largest lake in Nebraska....Despite their
grim uncertainties, the stories in ''Among the Missing'' sneak
resolutely up on you, like new weather that hits before you know
it....Most of his book hums with life and wry humor. The trick he has so
aptly pulled off here is to write with certainty about people who have
little of it themselves. If his characters feel, as Sean puts it when
describing the drowned Morrisons, that they have ''a kind of dreamy blur
around the edges,'' Dan Chaon most certainly does not."
--The New York Times
Here to read the full review)
In the 12 quietly accomplished stories of his second collection, Chaon
explores the complicated geography of human relationships, from the
unintentional failures and minute betrayals of daily existence to the
numbing grief caused by abandonment, disappearance or death. Specific
and disquieting absences an uncle who killed himself, a mother who
vanished, a friend who was kidnapped haunt the protagonists, and a
series of metaphoric and literal stand-ins take the place of what's
missing. In "Safety Man," a dummy intended for crime
deterrence propped in the passenger seat, it looks like a male companion
becomes a kind of surrogate husband for a young widow, and for her
daughters, an inflatable father; in "I Demand to Know Where You're
Taking Me," a woman caring for her incarcerated brother-in-law's
macaw comes to loathe the bird, its ugly talk transforming it into a
symbol of everything wrong and incomprehensible about him. By and large,
Chaon's characters are citizens of the emotional hinterlands, lonely
even when surrounded: "How did people go about falling in love,
getting married, having families, living their lives?" Even those
who think they know the answers recognize their powerlessness, such as
the father who, looking into his son's eyes, thinks, "I am aware
that hatred is a definite possibility at the end of the long tunnel of
parenthood, and I suspect that there is little one can do about
it." And yet these stories are neither morbid nor even particularly
melancholic. Singularly dedicated to an examination of all the
profundity and strangeness of the quotidian, they are, in their best
moments, unsettling, moving, even beautiful. (July 3)Forecast: A jacket
blurb by Lorrie Moore and a five-city author tour may help sell this
understated collection, which will be respectfully reviewed but may be
overlooked on bookstore shelves.
2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
People go missing both literally and figuratively in Chaon's beautiful
and insightful stories, most of which are set in small, muffled Midwest
towns. In "Passengers, Remain Calm," 22-year-old Hollis,
reflective and immensely kind, tries hard to let F. D., his 8-year-old
nephew, know that he loves him without making F. D.'s father, who has
inexplicably disappeared, look bad. Another expressive narrator is
haunted by a long-held secret associated with the vanishing of his
boyhood friend. As each of Chaon's profoundly thoughtful characters
discovers, missing selves are just as distressing as missing people. A
young father is astonished at how quickly he becomes a caricature dad,
and he mourns the loss of his "real" self. In a curious
reversal, the lonely boy in "Big Me" becomes obsessed with a
boozy neighbor who, he fears, embodies his future. Riveting and
unpredictable, each pristine tale of absence looms like the proverbial
tip of the iceberg as Chaon succeeds brilliantly in suggesting the
immensity and mystery floating silently below the surface of everyday
life, shadowy compressions of all the complicated and contradictory
thoughts and feelings that humans conceal from each other out of fear
and love. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Short stories don't usually get this much hype a two-page spread in the
catalog, no less but Chaon has done well with his works: they have
appeared in the "Distinguished Stories" section of The
Pushcart Prize six times and in Best American Short Stories three times.
These pieces focus on people just trying to get by in America today.
2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Best of 2001
Dan Chaon opens his new collection of stories with an epigraph from
Raymond Carver: "Whatever this was all about, it was not a vain
attempt--journey." This is pretty opaque stuff from Carver, a
writer not much given to mystification. But it strikes just the right
note for Chaon's assembly of characters, a group vaguely unsettled by
life, trying to make the best of it. First and foremost, this is a book
beset by moms. You get the feeling that the characters in Among the
Missing never really had a chance to figure out the world, with
these cryptic, uncommunicative women to care for them. In the title
story, for example, a car is discovered at the bottom of a local lake,
with an entire family drowned inside. The college-age narrator, however,
is preoccupied by the more mundane puzzle of his parents' relationship.
"Somehow," he recounts, "they'd stayed married for twenty
years, and then, abruptly, somehow they'd decided to give up. It didn't
quite make sense, and I looked at them, for a minute aware of the other
mystery in my life. 'Do you want some soup?' my mother asked, as if I
were a customer."
about as much as you'll ever get out of one of Chaon's mothers: soup.
When not fielding their aging parents' passivity, these characters seem
to spend a lot of time grappling with ghosts. The "missing" of
the title story are, literally, gone. In "Safety Man," a widow
comes to rely on one of those inflatable dolls meant to intimidate
intruders. In "Prosthesis," a young wife and mother falls for
a stranger with a missing arm; meanwhile, she watches her son grow up
and away from her, "disappearing into his own thoughts and
feelings." In the end, Chaon is the rare writer who deserves
comparison to Carver: both write an affectless prose that takes on a
surprisingly emotional life of its own. --Claire Dederer
From Publishers Weekly
Anyone who has ever toyed with the idea of staying in school an extra
year in order to delay the sobering responsibilities of adulthood will
identify with the people in Chaon's first collection. Familial burdens,
sexual confusion and unchallenging jobs are just a few of the
impediments to the happiness of these 20-something characters, leaving
them disillusioned and powerless to move on. It is especially poignant
in ``Rapid Transit,'' when the transition from fair-haired collegian to
entry-level lackey stirs up some scary emotions. In ``Fraternity,'' a
party-boy rejects reality even as ``the music faded, the lights came
up.'' Many seek constancy from family members, only to find that they
too are changing beyond their control. One man looks to his ailing
grandmother for some order, while another hunts down his biological
mother to provide ``whatever's missing'' in his life. Mired in the
present, the characters often glorify the past: ``Scott had felt ashamed
to have such fond memories, and so little desire to start over.'' The
stories are deftly written and brilliantly structured, with titillating
beginnings and somewhat cryptic endings. The prospect for this
generation is not grim, Chaon seems to say; it's just uncertain.
Copyright 1995 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
News reports from small towns on the Nebraska prairie tend to dwell on
the greying of a way of life, but Chaon's first collection of short
stories is more concerned with the life still taking place that passes
underneath the radar of public regard. Thus, "Transformations"
tells of the homecoming of a newly uncloseted homosexual from the point
of view of his younger brother; "Dread" is the story of a
young man living with his brother and sister-in-law in Chicago who
spills the beans about his brother's affair. Most of the stories deal
simply with simple themes (the exception being "My Sister's
Honeymoon: A Videotape," a more experimental piece about a brother
reflecting on the changes brought about by his sister's marriage that is
organized by the time tag of a video camera). It is in the telling, the
subtle shifts of perspective, and the transformation of character in a
short space that distinguish Chaon as a writer to watch. Though most of
his stories seem suspended rather than concluded (an unfortunate
trademark of university writing programs, of which Chaon is a product),
this is a very respectable first effort; it's unfortunate that the high
hardcover price might keep this work out of smaller libraries. For
collections of literary fiction.
In this haunting, bracing new collection, Dan Chaon shares stories of
men, women, and children who live far outside the American Dream, while
wondering which decision, which path, or which accident brought them to
this place. Chaon imagines today's family instinctively trying to stay
together, only to find itself lost in the throes of a chaotic, modern
Man," a young widow and her children become increasingly attached
to an inflatable protector-doll, as the world outside seems to grow ever
more threatening; "Big Me" follows a lonely, imaginative
twelve-year-old boy who believes an older (slightly creepier) version of
himself has moved in next door; In "I Demand to Know Where You're
Taking Me," a man blinded by love for his imprisoned brother
ignores the warnings of his distant wife and a talking parrot who both
witness things he's never seen; and "Among the Missing"
explores how the death of a family, found buckled in their car at the
bottom of a lake, casts a shadow on a small town and intrudes upon the
narrator's relationship with his aging mother.
A writer of
enormous talent and emotional depth, Dan Chaon mines the psychological
landscape of his characters to dazzling effect. Each story radiates with
sharp humor, mystery, wonder, and startling compassion. Among the
Missing lingers in the mind through its subtle grace and power of
Rights: Contact Ballantine