Quo Vadimus

Sunday, July 11, 2004


I think everyone needs their own dark cave.

The Believer has an interview (online exclusive) with Dan Chaon. Here's Tom Barbush's intro:

Dan Chaon's terrific first book Fitting Ends came out with a university press and quietly disappeared. Not so with his second, Among the Missing, which was a finalist for the National Book Award and has drawn a near cult following. Dan, married to the writer Sheila Schwartz, is the father of adolescent boys, and a professor at Oberlin College, where his students worship him. "Dan rocks," one said to me. He does. He is one of the oddest, smartest, most psychologically astute writers working today. His stories manage to be dark and often beautiful, unnerving and revelatory. He is an extraordinarily wide reader and consumer of contemporary culture, activities done mostly from his paper-strewn attic in Cleveland Heights.

I'll dive into You Remind Me of Me soon.

Chaon on putting together his first novel:

BLVR: But you still had to pull it all together.

DC: Yeah. Ha, ha. It took me a very long while before I really got a sense of how novels work as architecture. Ultimately I tried to control it in an artificial, structural way. I sat down with a piece of notebook paper and made up three sections of twelve chapters, thirty-six in all - which gave me at least an illusion of order. I ended up setting up a skeletal structure for myself to work with. I had some of the chapters already written - and I began to juggle them around in the thirty-six slots I'd made for myself. I broke up pieces of what I had and started with Chapters 3, 5, 6, 7, 13, 14, and 36. And then once I had those in place - like support columns - I started to fill in the spaces between them. It's a structure, I suppose, that's a little akin to contemporary serial television (Six Feet Under, The Sopranos, E. R., etc.) with the idea of "episodes" that make up a "season" - and it also riffs on the structure of some of Robert Altman's or Paul Thomas Anderson's movies. (It occurs to me that Carver might very well have written a novel if he'd taken the approach that Altman did in his adaptation of Carver's stories, Short Cuts.) In terms of books, I think I learned some things from Michael Cunningham's The Hours, Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections, and Jennifer Egan's Look at Me, to name a few contemporary novels, as well as Dickens, but I don't think anyone else will see the connections. I'm actually very curious to hear what people compare this book too, since I'm not really sure how to describe it.

posted by Linus | 4:22 PM