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Authors: Dan Chaon

Among the Missing

BOOK: Among the Missing
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“BRILLIANT … AN OUTSTANDING COLLECTION … EVERY ONE OF THESE STORIES IS A GEM.”

The Plain Dealer
(Cleveland)

“Rewarding … Chaon is a writer who can convincingly squeeze whole lives—the ones we lead and the more alluring ones we so eagerly imagine for ourselves—into a mere twenty pages or so. He writes beautifully.… His repeated grappling with questions of choice and chance in ordinary people’s lives, far from feeling repetitious, yields rich rewards in its every variation. Chaon’s seriousness of purpose and gifts of observation are enough to suggest that when any roster of skilled practitioners of the American short story is drawn up, he should definitely be counted present.”


Chicago Tribune

“These 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. [Chaon] 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 toward them.”

—F
REDERICK
B
USCH
Author of
Girls
and
The Night Inspector

“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 absolutely stupendous collection!”

—K
AREN
J
OY
F
OWLER
Author of
Sarah Canary
and
Black Glass

“Captivating … 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
(starred review)

“[A] SOULFUL, PITCH-PERFECT COLLECTION …

Chaon’s characters confront their own self-deceptions and strive for truer, more heartfelt existences. Like Ethan Canin and Lorrie Moore, Chaon understands that our lives are the sum of decisions both grand and small. Most important, he conveys how the toughest choice of all is the one to keep moving.”


Time Out New York

“Masterful … Chaon’s work achieves a blend of tenderness and slate-black melancholy.… They also contain an elegance of form—shifting narrative perspectives and clean, brutal language—that accumulates into something splendidly trustworthy.”


The Boston Globe


Among the Missing
clearly establishes [Chaon] as one of the most eloquent story writers of our time. Falling naturally into the traditions of John Updike, Raymond Carver, Tobias Wolff, and Richard Ford, Chaon tells lean, elegant stories of boyhood, rural life, and existential journeys through modern family life with precision, wry humor, and surprise.… Chaon writes with a lyricism and structural logic that turn each story into art so carefully crafted it becomes invisible behind the familiar but startling tales of human hope, loss, disconnection, and survival.… Chaon’s wisdom evolves so seamlessly from realistic situations precisely wrought, and with such freshness and compassion, that even as the dramas and conclusions unsettle, the reader feels grateful for the confidence shared, the understanding provoked.”


The Providence Journal


Among the Missing
is one of the best story collections I’ve read this year. Chaon’s eloquent, finely crafted tales probe the depths of loss and absence with heart-wrenching particularity. Whether it’s with sweet regret or heartfelt despair, a sense of loss weaves through these stories like a fine binding ribbon. Chaon knows how to take his characters to the very edge, and sometimes, luckily for the reader, he brings them back.”


Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Beautiful and insightful stories … 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.”


Booklist
(boxed and starred review)

“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 people with delight; he offers us visions of hope and awe through his own fearless compassion.”

—M
ELANIE
R
AE
T
HON
Author of
Sweet Hearts
and
First, Body

“A startling glimpse into [a] strange fictional world. In tight, clean prose Chaon renders story after story brimming with equal parts menace and grace. His stories haunt and amaze, lingering like great fiction should.”

—E
LWOOD
R
EID
Author of
If I Don’t Six
and
Midnight Sun

“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.”

—J
EAN
T
HOMPSON
Author of
Wild Blue Yonder

“A brilliant and important new voice in American fiction … Dan Chaon movingly parses the omnipresence of absence in our lives.”

—D
AVID
J
AUSS
Author of
Black Maps

A Ballantine Book
Published by The Random House Publishing Group

Copyright © 2001 by Dan Chaon
Reader’s Guide copyright © 2002 by Dan Chaon and The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc.

All rights reserved.

Published in the United States by Ballantine Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, and simultaneously in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto.

The following stories have appeared, sometimes in different form, in the following magazines:

Triquarterly:
“Among the Missing” and “Falling Backwards” (originally published under the title “Seven Types of Ambiguity”);
Mid-American Review:
“Prosthesis”;
Witness:
“The Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Animal Kingdom”;
Ontario Review:
“Safety Man”;
Other Voices:
“Here Is a Little Something to Remember Me By”;
Cut Bank:
“Passengers, Remain Calm”;
Gettysburg Review:
“Big Me”;
Epoch:
“I Demand to Know Where You’re Taking Me”; P
USHCART
P
RESS
: “The Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Animal Kingdom: also appeared in
Pushcart Prize 2000: Best of the Small Presses
, edited by Bill Henderson.

Ballantine and colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.
Random House Reader’s Circle and colophon are trademarks of Random House, Inc.

www.ballantinebooks.com
www.randomhousereaderscircle.com

Library of Congress Control Number: 2001119902

eISBN: 978-0-307-48144-3

v3.1_r1

Whatever this was all about,
it was not a vain attempt—journey.

—R
AYMOND
C
ARVER

C
ONTENTS

S
AFETY
M
AN

S
afety Man is all shriveled and puckered inside his zippered nylon carrying tote, and taking him out is always the hardest part. Sandi is disturbed by him for a moment, his shrunken face, and she averts her eyes as he crinkles and unfolds. She has a certain type of smile ready in case anyone should see her inserting the inflator pump into his backside; there is a flutter of protective embarrassment, and when a car goes past she hunches over Safety Man’s prone form, sheilding his not-yet-firm body from view. After a time, he begins to fill out—to look human.

Safety Man used to be a joke. When Sandi and her husband, Allen, had moved to Chicago, Sandi’s mother had sent the thing. Her mother was a woman of many exaggerated fears, and Sandi and Allen couldn’t help but laugh. They took turns reading aloud from Safety Man’s accompanying brochure:
Safety Man—the perfect ladies’ companion for urban living! Designed as a visual deterrent, Safety Man is a life-size simulated male that appears one hundred
eighty pounds and six feet tall, to give others the impression that you are protected while at home alone or driving in your car. Incredibly real-seeming, with positionable latex head and hands and air-brushed facial highlights, handsome Safety Man has been field-tested to keep danger at bay!

“Oh, I can’t believe she sent this,” Sandi had said. “She’s really slipping.”

Allen lifted it out of its box, holding it by the shoulders like a Christmas gift sweater. “Well,” he said. “He doesn’t have a penis, anyway. It appears that he’s just a torso.”

BOOK: Among the Missing
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