by Dan Chaon

:  Ballantine

Pub Date:  Fall 2002

Format:  Trade Paperback

Brief Description
The debut story collection by New York Times Bestseller and National Book Award Finalist Dan Chaon.  A new edition, including one new story.

(for Among the Missing)

"One of the best short story writers around . . . Dan Chaon’s stories are funny, heartbreaking, beautifully written, and intelligently conceived."
–Lorrie Moore

"An important collection of stories.  A genuinely literary accomplishment."
–Ha Jin
National Book Award-winning author


Buy it on Amazon

"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."
–Michael Chabon
Pulitzer Prize-winning author


(for Fitting Ends)

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.

From Library Journal
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.

(for Among the Missing)
From Publishers Weekly
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.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist *Starred Review*
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

From Library Journal
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.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.'s 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."
         That's 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

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