In his latest book, The Visible Man, writer Chuck Klosterman turns away from his cultural analysis, which has made him revered amongst pop culture addicts in such best selling collections such as Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs and Fargo Rock City, and instead weaves together a tense little fictional thriller which makes readers ask the question “What do we do when we are alone…and who is watching?”
Told through a manuscript by psychiatrist Victoria Vick, The Visible Man is the story of her relationship with a patient known only as Y_. An emotionally stunted genius, Y_ has developed a special suit that helps camouflage himself to the naked eye, making him seemingly invisible (he is not “invisible” per se, which becomes a constant argument between Y_ and Victoria throughout the book). However, instead of using his invisibility powers for his own gain, Y_ becomes obsessed with breaking into the homes of strangers and watching them while they are alone. Despite the fact that his actions are both creepy and unethical, Y_ calls his activity “research” as he seeks to witness humans at their most vulnerable. As the relationship between Victoria and Y_ intensifies it becomes apparent just how deranged and dangerous Y_ is, spinning Victoria’s life into a state of excited bliss which eventually turns into claustrophobic paranoia.
In Y_ Klosterman has created a new sort of dangerous and terrifying villain. Brilliant and arrogant, Y_ doesn’t show any remorse for violating the privacy of strangers and observing them at their most vulnerable. He only shows guilt once when he accidentally causes the death of a man during one of his break-ins. But most of the time Y_ is a cold and smug genius whose manipulation of Victoria, which borders on mentally and emotionally abusive, is often painful to read.
Through a series of vignettes Y_ brings readers into the home of an exercise junkie with an eating disorder, a schizophrenic Mexican, a roadie’s studio apartment where a strange gathering of philosophizing mountain men takes place, and to a support group for people who can’t handle losing. Between Y_’s ranting narratives, Victoria’s drama unfolds as she becomes more and more obsessed with Y_’s unusual lifestyle while her already shaky marriage begins to fall apart.
However, the pure genius of Klosterman’s narrative, as he allows Y_ to take you through the series of stories about the people he has “observed”, is that he makes you think just what you actually do when you’re alone, and makes you think about what an invisible intruder would see you do. Klosterman theorizes that when we are alone we are our most natural, and once in the company of others, no matter how comfortable we may be with them, we put up a shield around us, making us “act” the way we want to be seen. Throughout Y_s observations, Klosterman’s brand of pop culture analysis manages to slip into the dialogue, reminding the reader that The Visible Man is, indeed, a Klosterman novel.
Where The Visible Man falters is that while Y-‘s rambling narratives are compelling enough to drive you through the book, it is often unclear just where the book is heading, and if Klosterman even has a point. But eventually things hit a fast climax near the very end of the book with a plot twist that seems obvious once you get there, but personally I didn’t see coming. The Visible Man is a claustrophobic tale of voyeragim, paranoia and obsession, and challenges the reader to rethink what they do when they are alone.
And guess what friends! PCA, through the generosity of Simon and Schuster Canada, is giving away four copies of Chuck Klosterman’s The Visible Man! I have four brand new copies of the book ready to be sent out to the first four people who drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org and answer the following question: If an invisible man was watching you, what would he see you do? Simple question, simple way to win a book. Makes a great Christmas gift! And for those who are to late to win a copy, but want to order The Visible Man by Chuck Klosterman, click here.