Tuesday, November 17, 2009

review: Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon

Await Your Reply
by Dan Chaon
Ballantine Books, 2009

Have no idea about how the differences between say, thrillers and literary fiction came to be about, but it's nice for someone to bleed into each Chaon has "capital L" credentials, but this book is plot-driven without being predictable.

Twins Hayden and Miles have an inventive childhood to say the least, causing Hayden to confuse the real with the imaginary and Hayden takes that wonder to its fullest ends. It's not giving anything away to say this is about identity theft, but it goes deeper than just theft, it becomes identity inhabitation.

As fanciful as that sounds, Chaon constructs a world of vignettes about modern gangsters, guys that do not intimidate with guns or knives, but with pieces of self-scrap that all modern day humans are leaving behind. It's not a case of electronic presence vs. a non-electronic presence, but our personal identity is distancing itself farther and farther from the physical person.

Await Your Reply is compelling because it fully utilizes what literature does best--unknown faces, hidden personas and untraceable physical features manifest itself best in the written word. In other words, Await Your Reply is not ready-made for a movie, serious reconfigurations would be the only way it's possible, eviscerating it for what it is. As our society is now almost all visual, it's refreshing to read such a thoroughly modern book with modern subject matter that can only be told in a old-fashioned way, so to speak.

Await Your Reply reminded me of William Gibson's two later works, as they try to deal also with modern conundrums of travel and electronic presence. Chaon is not so heavy-handed in wonder about the technology, instead its presence is leveraged rather than just admired. Fascinating read.

Also check this review from Three Guys One Book.

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