Saturday, January 19, 2013

Stay Awake Review

Stay Awake - Dan Chaon

 This was sort of my re-bound book from Miss Peregrine because it had gotten me all worked up for something spooky and then didn't fill my spook-quota. I found this title on Goodread's Best Horror of 2012 list and it looked creepy enough and happened to be in the library, so I gave it a shot.

First off, it's not horror as you traditionally think of horror, like spooks and monsters and demon-children. It's a collection of short stories and while some of them  reference or hint at the supernatural, nothing is totally confirmed. Despite this, I still found it rather creepy because it's dismal and bleak, and there were overriding themes of dead babies, birth defects, widowed/ex-spouses, murdered children, etc,...but all very muted and kind of in the background of the story, such as: "The baby dies and there is a little funeral" and then the story is about the parents, which has a sad, haunting quality to it, rather than someone opening a box and finding dead babies, which is more of the shock & horror approach. These were apparently written over a period of time and published individually in journals prior to this collection, so don't be surprised if something oddly specific like...I don't know, losing your finger while falling off a ladder, happens more than once. The funny thing about collections is that you sometimes read stories in conjunction with stories that weren't meant to be together.

As a creative writing major and as an intern at a literary magazine, I've read and analyzed a lot of short fiction and I am of the camp that believes short stories do not necessarily have to have a definite, conclusive, "the butler did it" ending. I think that short stories can get away with vague, open, conclusions (as long as they are well written, of course). This book is full of those kinds of endings, so if you're the kind of person who wants to know exactly what it was all about and you want stories that end (and there's nothing wrong with that, matter of taste), you will not like this book. But I liked it.

Admittedly, I feel like some of the stories may have ended too vaguely--like I was just getting into it, and suddenly it was over. But then there were those that really worked well, such as: "To Psychic Underworld:", "The Bees," and "The Farm. The Gold. The Lily-White Hands." If you think you might pick up this book to try one of the stories, I heartily endorse that last one. It's the final in the collection and a good example why you should always leave the best for last.

 I had initially averaged this book out to 3/5, but then, the final story just blew me away and so I racked it up to 3.5/5.

No comments:

Post a Comment