2 Book Reviews: Traumatized Midwesterners & Satan in Sweden

Posted on February 7, 2012


My examiner.com article about my NY Journal of Books reviews of Dan Chaon’s Stay Awake and Nikanor Teratologen’s Assisted Living

One of the reasons we read fiction is to experience foreign places and lives different from our own which certainly describes two new books published today.

Assisted Living book cover
New York Journal of Books
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Stay Awake book cover


In my New York Journal of Books review of Stay Awake, Dan Chaon’s book of short stories about gentile midwesterners, I write, “Highly educated solidly upper-middle class readers” (a description that fits most Jewish New Yorkers in my acquaintance) “…who have lived relatively charmed and fulfilling lives will probably find the violence in these stories shocking and disturbing. Compared to themselves and their bicoastal peers such readers may find these characters from the flyover states lack judgment, keenly focused intelligence, and have difficulty understanding cause and effect or anticipating the consequences of their actions, much less thinking two or three moves ahead on the chessboard of life.”

However, I caution my readers not to judge Mr. Chaon’s characters; I hope I’m not too patronizing when I write: “…these rustbelt characters aren’t just anyone; many of them lack the intellectual skills to thrive in our post-industrial/information age/digital economy, a handicap that increases the likelihood that they will find themselves in the path of life’s calamities and renders them less resilient and resourceful when disaster strikes.”

Jewish New Yorkers who are fascinated by anti-Semites and have very dark yet puerile senses of humor might enjoy Swedish author Nikanor Teratologen’s first novel to be translated into English. In my review of the misleadingly titled Assisted Living I describe its main character as “an incontinent, elderly (born the same day as Heinrich Himmler) yet puerile, militantly male chauvinist, female-phobic gay man who is also a pro-Nazi Aryan supremacist, an anti-intellectual bibliophile with an avid interest in European philosophy and post-modernist literature and theory, a substance abuser, an incestuous pedophile, a murderer, and a cannibal (!) living in rural northeast Sweden.”

I also write of the novel that “because it is so over the top and its horrors so exaggerated, readers who appreciate warped, gallows humor may find parts of it funny despite the pervasive evil.” See the review for examples and excerpts.

via the late examiner.com

Posted in: book reviews