Friday, June 10, 2011

The Visible Man

    There was a moment, while reading Chuck Klosterman's newest novel, The Visible Man, when I had the rather disconcerting feeling that Klosterman was writing about me. As in, had somehow witnessed an evening of my life and then written about it. And it unnerved me. I had to take a moment to remind myself that this is what good writer's do, they write about a specific experience in such a way as to make it feel universal. Or vice versa. Klosterman tapped into something universal in such a specific way that even though it hadn't happened to me, it felt like it had.
    Klosterman has written essays about this sort of thing before. How does it feel to be watched? How does it feel to watch? What do we risk when we let someone truly see us as we truly are and can such a thing even be done?
    In The Visible Man, Klosterman writes about a man who has managed to make himself unseen to the naked eye, a man who has used this discovery in order to sit in on private spaces and observe people who are sure they are alone. But what Klosterman doesn't do (thankfully) is simply turn this into a creepfest (although it has its creepy moments, to be sure) where a seemingly mild-mannered Kevin Bacon suddenly starts murdering/raping everyone in sight. Instead, he deals with his subject with more subtlety, showing us why someone might do this sort of thing and who that someone might become. While the end result is still disturbing, it's also far more believable for such an unbelievable premise. What would it do to you to be one who watches? What would it do to those who discover that you're watching? In a culture that has all but given itself over to the voyeuristic nature of reality television, one that is obsessed with the idea of an audience; Klosterman's story is not only interesting and engaging, it's also straight up important. And funny. Klosterman's almost always funny.
    A bad story forces you to think by thinly disguising diatribe as dialogue. A good story invites you to think, by simply setting the scene in a thoughtful way. Chuck Klosterman's The Visible Man is a good story and one that I highly recommend you read. 
    It is available in stores October of this year.

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