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Saturday, February 04, 2012

Book Review: The Visible Man by Chuck Klosterman


Chuck Klosterman has quite the reputation in my house. His novel Downtown Owl fast became a favourite and Eating the Dinosaur is one of the few books that I want to re-read over and over again.

The Visible Man falls somewhere in the range of Downtown Owl and If Minds Had Toes. The novel is philosophical in the way of If Minds Had Toes but quirky and strange like Downtown Owl.

The novel opens with Victoria Vick’s letter to the editor along with the submission of the final draft of her manuscript. The reader soon discovers that Vick’s ms is about a strange incident between her and her patient Y_____. Vick is a licensed therapist and the manuscript, which we are about to read, is a compilation of transcripts of phone, email and in-person sessions she’s had with a very strange man who, over the course of their sessions, reveals that he worked on a relatively secret government project to construct an invisibility suit. Y_____ is currently using the suit for his own “investigative” research into how humans behave when they are utterly alone. Through various means he gains access to their homes and observes them. His goal with the therapy sessions is to remove doubt or guilt that he believes society would like him to feel about these acts.

A ton of things are very wrong with the scenarios presented but Victoria goes along with it, assuming at first that Y____ is highly delusional. Then she’s suckered in. In some ways it’s like the stoner philosophical arguments you overhear and are unable to pull away from because you remember from your high school English studies that the Shakespearian fool speaks the truth. (Or, maybe that’s just me.)

According to this National Post review, The Visible Man is a fictional spin-off from the Eating the Dinosaur essay on voyeurism (titled “Through A Glass, Blindly”). In both, Klosterman explores whether we are most ourselves when no one’s watching.

I’m off now to swing pillows wildly around the room to make sure I’m alone. Just acting normal. PKS. Post Klosterman Syndrome.