Nebraska Center for Writers

Chimney Rock What the Critics Say
About Dan Chaon


Among the Missing
Copyright © 2002
by Dan Chaon
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 world.
In "Safety 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 language. — from the jacket

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

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

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. — Publishers Weekly

People go missing both literally and figuratively in Chaon's beautiful and insightful stories, most of which are set in small, muffled Midwest towns. — Chicago Tribune

"A major talent." — New York Newsday

Chaon is the rare writer who deserves comparison to [Raymond] Carver: both write an affectless prose that takes on a surprisingly emotional life of its own. — Claire Dederer,

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. — Booklist

In his splendid second collection of short stories, the past always remains a huge presence. Chaon's contemporary stories intimately reveal modern life and the secrets people keep. — Library Journal

Twelve new fictions, notable for their stylistic grace and captivating selection of incident. .... Here, dreams do not waft up out of idle enchantments and lazy afternoons; they struggle forth, life rafts offering rescue to mauled and sinking adults, usually in their 30s, who recall the genesis of their dreaming in troubled childhoods. ... Chaon's work is especially notable for his casually precise prose and deep intelligence for the resonant scene. A gem of a second collection from an immensely promising writer of unmistakably original — and distinctively rewarding — literary gifts. — Kirkus Reviews

Chaon's prose is unassuming yet precise. He avoids stylistic tics and experimental writing in favor of important stories, well told. His landscapes are Midwestern; his characters are Midwesterners, down to earth and leery of causing scenes. In the hands of a lesser writer they might become caricatures, but Chaon's compassion and understanding result in credible, three-dimensional human beings. — Amy Knox Brown, The Missouri Review

Riveting … Harvey Grossinger, Houston Chronicle

Twelve stories — filled with compassion, sensitivity and a quirky brand of humor — so pleasurable to read. — Washington Post Book World

Dan Chaon knows things. As evidenced by his second short-story collection, Among the Missing, he’s one of those writers who possess an uncanny and seemingly otherworldly understanding of the human condition and the world of muted emotions. These 12 stories further establish Chaon as a remarkable chronicler of a very American kind of sadness, much in the tradition of Richard Yates, Raymond Carver and Denis Johnson. These stories are to be savored despite, and perhaps because of, their unrelenting bleakness. Like the blues, they have a cathartic quality: You might feel worse but then you feel better. And then you want to read them again. — San Francisco Chronicle

Chaon's work achieves a blend of tenderness and slate-black melancholy: family suicides and boozy fathers and a boy protagonist who invents imaginary hometowns to make the real one recede a little. These stories tell you the bad news first and then let you find your own way out of the cave. They also contain an elegance of form — shifting narrative perspectives and clean, brutal language — that accumulates into something splendidly trustworthy. By the end of Among the Missing,' you believe in the ache at their center, and that simple confidence softens the blow a bit. — Boston Globe

What makes these characters (and their stories) rise above the ordinary is Chaon's willingness to do justice to their inherently comic nature and fate while, at the same time, treating them with exquisite compassion. This is storytelling of a very high order. — The Nebraska Center for the Book News

Await Your Reply
Copyright © 2009
by Dan Chaon
Random House
From the award-winning author of Among the Missing, Fitting Ends, and You Remind Me of Me, comes an ambitious, gripping, and beautifully written new novel about identity and identity theft — in the tradition of The Talented Mr Ripley and Case Histories. Three strangers who are trying to find their way in the wake of loss become entwined in an identity theft scheme, which has a resounding impact on them all. At once a gripping pageturner, a gorgeously written psychological study, and a meditation on identity in the modern world, this is a literary novel with the haunting momentum of a thriller. — from the publisher

This novel's structure echoes that of his well-received debut — also a book of threes — even as it bests that book's elegant prose, haunting plot and knockout literary excellence. — Publishers Weekly

This novel is unrelenting, like the scene of an accident: we are repulsed by the blood, but we cannot look away. For fans of pulse-pounding drama, Chaon never fails to impress. — Library Journal

Ohio's Dan Chaon, whose two collections established him as one of America's most promising short story writers, returns this fall with a second novel, Await Your Reply, easily his most ambitious work to date. … It's a tribute to Chaon's narrative command that each of these parallel narratives sustains the reader's interest, even though there's little indication through two-thirds of the novel that these stories will ever intersect. And when they do, the results are so breathtaking in their inevitability that the reader practically feels compelled to start the novel anew, just to discover the cues that he's missed along the way. — Kirkus Reviews

... a novel that succeeds as brilliantly ... — The Washington Post

... the real pleasure in reading Mr. Chaon is less in finding out where he's headed than in savoring what he accomplishes along the way. ... Mr Chaon succeeds in both creating suspense and making it pay off, but Await Your Reply also does something even better. Like the finest of his storytelling heroes, Mr. Chaon manages to bridge the gap between literary and pulp fiction with a clever, insinuating book equally satisfying to fans of either genre. — The New York Times, Janet Maslin

Readers be warned: Before sitting down with Dan Chaon's ambitious, gripping and unrelentingly bleak new novel, you might want to catch a "Seinfeld" rerun or two. Jerry and the gang's quips will be the last laugh-lines you'll get for a while…Chaon is a dark, provocative writer, and Await Your Reply is a dark, provocative book; in bringing its three strands together, Chaon has fashioned a braid out of barbed wire. — The New York Times Book Review, Lucinda Rosenfeld

In the end, Await Your Reply is a story that unfolds with chilling precision. You'll be spellbound from start to finish. (4 stars) — People

Fitting Ends
Copyright © 2003
by Dan Chaon
Hap, that is, chance, swings through the lives of these characters like a wrecking ball. Death, disease, mental illness have already truncated most of the families here before we begin reading. The repetitive rituals of guilt, bitterness and recrimination that operate in the happiest of families are, in Chaon's suffering heartland, relentless, compulsive and deadly. And those who suffer most are the lost adolescents who tilt and teeter through these domestic minefields as if the flat landscape is unreeling beneath them. The pathos of their attempt to wish their families and themselves back to health is piercing: "He had a fantasy, back then, that if he could somehow trap his father in a room for a week without alcohol, that he'd be cured." "I tried not to be afraid of the city. I tried to believe the world was a gentle place." "He liked to imagine her [an absent mother] as someone with quick things to say, a party-giver. Perhaps she was known for her moods." — Boston Book Review

Often, these characters share the feeling that having made mistakes, their only sensible course is to make even more mistakes — and even bigger ones. In "Rapid Transit," a man who steals his boss's coat later mugs the boss in an alley, using the coat as a weapon. In "Ultrasound," a man who discards his wife's personal belongings asks to be hypnotized in her presence, knowing he'll reveal "how empty he was at his center." — New York Times

Chaon's stories are about families, and the characters in these stories stare into the white hot center of these families and tell what they see. ... Clouds and ghosts hover over and around these families. What has already come to pass is often dark (a brother's death, a mother's institutionalization, a car wreck, etc.). The present is usually gray, and the future is as ominous and threatening as the storm depicted on the book's cover, approaching across rolling fields. — Ted Roggenbuck, Nebraska Territory

You Remind Me of Me
Copyright © 2004
by Dan Chaon
You Remind Me Of Me is one of the strangest, most beautiful, most compelling books I've read in a long time. Unnerving and real, intricately plotted, wonderfully written, it's a Chinese box of a novel, full of hidden pleasures and surprises. — Elizabeth McCracken, author of The Giant's House and Niagara Falls All Over Again

Dan Chaon's novel You Remind Me Of Me is nothing short of brilliant. The novel is haunting me and I can't stop thinking about it — both as a reader and as a deeply admiring writer. I wish I had a better adjective than superb. — Caroline Leavitt, author of Girls in Trouble

One of Dan Chaon's many gifts is his ability to probe deeply and delicately into sorrow. This gift serves him beautifully in You Remind me of Me, a novel about adoption, about the quiet sadness that lies at the bottom of all his characters' troubles. — Jane Hamilton, author of A Map of The World

Beautiful, painful, and sure-footed, You Remind me of Me tracks the delicate connections between a handful of l ost and poignant lives, in the process giving them the radiance of a stained glass window. What a writer. Dan Chaon is going to have a breathtaking literary career? —

Three lives viewed through a kaleidoscope of memories and secret pain assume a kind of mythical dimension in Chaon's piercingly poignant tale of fate, chance and search for redemption. ... Chaon's clarity of observation, expressed in restrained, nuanced prose, coupled with his compassion for his flawed characters, creates a heart-wrenching story of people searching for connection. — Publishers Weekly

Acclaimed storywriter Chaon (Among the Missing, 2001, etc.) affirms his matchless skill in crafting the small sketch. ... powerful, promising writer. — Kirkus Reviews

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