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Stay Awake

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Stay Awake

Stories
by Dan Chaon
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"Eerily beautiful . . . [Chaon] is the modern day John Cheever."--Boston Sunday Globe "Powerful and disturbing . . . The shocks in this collection are many."--The Washington Post These haunting,...
"Eerily beautiful . . . [Chaon] is the modern day John Cheever."--Boston Sunday Globe "Powerful and disturbing . . . The shocks in this collection are many."--The Washington Post These haunting,...
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Description-
  • "Eerily beautiful . . . [Chaon] is the modern day John Cheever."--Boston Sunday Globe

    "Powerful and disturbing . . . The shocks in this collection are many."--The Washington Post

    These haunting, suspenseful stories by acclaimed author Dan Chaon feature scattered families, unfulfilled dreamers, anxious souls--lost, fragile, searching characters who wander between ordinary life and a psychological shadowland. They have experienced intense love or loss, grief or loneliness, displacement or disconnection--and exist in a twilight realm, in a place by the window late at night when the streets are empty and the world appears to be quiet. But it is not, and neither are you. And since you cannot sleep, you stay awake.

    "Chaon is able to create fully realized characters in mere pages. . . . This collection is further proof that Chaon is one of the best fiction writers working right now."--Omaha World-Herald

    "There are not many fiction writers who can do what Dan Chaon can do. . . . [He is] a literary force."--The Philadelphia Inquirer

    "Intense and suspenseful . . . a highly recommended work, not to be missed."--Library Journal (starred review)

    "Mesmerizing . . . gripping, masterful fiction."--The Plain Dealer

    "Superbly disquieting."--The New York Times Book Review

    Don't miss the exclusive conversation between Dan Chaon and Emma Straub at the back of the book.

    Look for special features inside. Join the Circle for author chats and more.

Excerpts-
  • From the book

    The BeesGene's son Frankie wakes up screaming. It has become frequent, two or three times a week, at random times: midnight-three a.m.-five in the morning. Here is a high, empty wail that severs Gene from his unconsciousness like sharp teeth. It is the worst sound that Gene can imagine, the sound of a young child dying violently-falling from a building, or caught in some machinery that is tearing an arm off, or being mauled by a predatory animal. No matter how many times he hears it he jolts up with such images playing in his mind, and he always runs, thumping into the child's bedroom to find Frankie sitting up in bed, his eyes closed, his mouth open in an oval like a Christmas caroler. If someone took a picture of him, he would appear to be in a kind of peaceful trance, as if he were waiting to receive a spoonful of ice cream, rather than emitting that horrific sound.

    "Frankie!" Gene will shout, and claps his hands hard in the child's face. The clapping works well. At this, the scream always stops abruptly, and Frankie opens his eyes, blinking at Gene with vague awareness before settling back down into his pillow, nuzzling a little before growing still. He is sound asleep, he is always sound asleep, though even after months Gene can't help leaning down and pressing his ear to the child's chest, to make sure he's still breathing, his heart is still going. It always is.

    There is no explanation that they can find. In the morning, Frankie doesn't remember anything, and on the few occasions that they have managed to wake him in the midst of one of his screaming attacks, he is merely sleepy and irritable. Once, Gene's wife, Karen, shook him and shook him, until finally he opened his eyes groggily. "Honey?" she said. "Honey? Did you have a bad dream?" But Frankie only moaned a little. "No," he said, puzzled and unhappy at being awakened, but nothing more.

    They can find no pattern to it. It can happen any day of the week, any time of the night. It doesn't seem to be associated with diet, or with his activities during the day, and it doesn't stem, as far as they can tell, from any sort of psychological unease. During the day, he seems perfectly normal and happy.

    They have taken him several times to the pediatrician, but the doctor seems to have little of use to say. There is nothing wrong with the child physically, Dr. Banerjee says. She advises that such things were not uncommon for children of Frankie's age group-he is five-and that more often than not, the disturbance simply passes away.

    "He hasn't experienced any kind of emotional trauma, has he?" the doctor says. "Nothing out of the ordinary at home?"

    "No, no," they both murmur, together. They shake their heads, and Dr. Banerjee shrugs. "Parents," she says. "It's probably nothing to worry about." She gives them a brief smile. "As difficult as it is, I'd say that you may just have to weather this out."

    But the doctor has never heard those screams. In the mornings after the "nightmares," as Karen calls them, Gene feels unnerved, edgy. He works as a driver for the United Parcel Service, and as he moves through the day after a screaming attack, there is a barely perceptible hum at the edge of his hearing, an intent, deliberate static sliding along behind him as he wanders through streets and streets in his van. He stops along the side of the road and listens. The shadows of summer leaves tremble murmurously against the windshield, and cars are accelerating on a nearby road. In the treetops, a cicada makes its trembly, pressure-cooker hiss.

    Something bad has been looking for him for a long time, he thinks, and now, at last, it is growing near.

    When he comes home at...

About the Author-
  • Dan Chaon is the acclaimed author of Among the Missing, which was a finalist for the National Book Award; You Remind Me of Me, which was named one of the best books of the year by The Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, and Entertainment Weekly, among other publications; and Await Your Reply, which was a New York Times Notable Book and appeared on more than a dozen "Best of the Year" lists. Chaon's fiction has appeared in many journals and anthologies, including The Best American Short Stories, Pushcart Prize, and The O. Henry Prize Stories. He has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award in Fiction, and he was the recipient of the 2006 Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Chaon lives in Cleveland, Ohio, and teaches at Oberlin College, where he is the Pauline M. Delaney Professor of Creative Writing.

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    Random House Publishing Group
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