A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
Therapist Victoria Vick is contacted by a cryptic, unlikable man who insists his situation is unique and unfathomable. As he slowly reveals himself, Vick becomes convinced that he suffers from a complex set of delusions: Y__, as she refers to him, claims to be a scientist who has stolen cloaking technology from an aborted government project in order to render himself nearly invisible. He says he uses this ability to observe random individuals within their daily lives, usually when they are alone and vulnerable. Interspersed with notes, correspondence, and transcriptions that catalog a relationship based on curiosity and fear, The Visible Man touches on all of Chuck Klosterman’s favorite themes—the consequence of culture, the influence of media, the complexity of voyeurism, and the existential contradiction of normalcy. Is this comedy, criticism, or horror? Not even Y__ seems to know for sure.
This was an intense read. The premise itself is compelling: an “invisible” man who goes around observing people. Yes, it sounds like he has some serious issues, but he is also the perfect anti-hero. Even if he is breaking into people’s houses, and messing with stranger’s minds, he is one intriguing guy–and he knows it well. If that’s not enough to keep you flipping those pages, I don’t know what will.
I picked up this book on a whim since I’ve read about half of Klosterman’s nonfiction book, Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto a few years ago (it was a fascinating and humorous, read but I had to return it to the library and haven’t gotten back to it since.) Even in novel form, Klosterman still delivers his unique brand of wit and insight.
Although I found the novel addicting, I had to keep putting it down to digest what I just read.
Perfect. There’s enough explaining going on so you aren’t left with a plethora of questions. But not too much scientific talk to make you fall asleep. Klosterman wrote in the perfect failsafe to counter that. Everything that sounds like a hassle to explain (such as the science behind the cloak) is gleaned over with “You won’t understand anyway, so I won’t even try.”
There are only really two characters that show up from beginning to end: the therapist Victoria Vick (aka Vic-Vick) and Y__ (the patient). It is obvious that Victoria is completely unhinged by Y__. Y__ is a genius, but also a egotistical jerk; he talks in a condescending tone, and he often disregards Victoria during their sessions. He knows he what he wants, and he sees through Victoria’s intentions to analyze his every action. He is bold, and isn’t afraid to “correct” Victoria, as if he turned the tables and he was the actual therapist in the house. He knows he is intelligent and constantly tells Victoria, that she can’t possibly understand him–and he is right.
Even though I knew this guy was committing a crime by sneaking into people’s houses, I liked Y__. Despite his questionable methods, he had a compelling motive: to observe people as they are. According to Y__, only people who live alone are truly themselves, anyone else is constantly presenting “versions” of themselves to others. Reading this made me think about myself, and I wonder what Y__ would think if he saw my “true” self, the me who sings along to embarrassing pop songs and constantly talks to herself in the privacy of my room (I promise I am not insane.) Surprisingly, none of the people Y__ observed talked to themselves…except this one delusional guy.
But while Y__’s character is developed, Victoria sounds like a stubborn therapist bent on categorizing Y__. At times, she is a frustrating character who has serious issues of her own.
There are times where I had to remind myself that The Visible Man was a work of fiction, that the characters weren’t exactly trustworthy either. Y__ is a seeing a shrink, that’s a gigantic red flag right there. I kept wondering why I wasn’t skeptical of Y__, why wasn’t I questioning the validity of this implausible situation like Victoria was, and why did I want to believe everything that spewed from his mouth. In many ways, I saw Y__ as Klosterman’s alter-ego, wit, eloquence, attitude and all. And it was irresistible.
There is a naked guy who blindly swings a hammer around.
The ending is one of the reasons that made the book excruciating; it was as if Y__ suddenly turned into a different person. He was no long the passive, composed guy I met earlier, but a stalker. A seriously creepy stalker. Imagine Edward-looking-at-Bella-sleep kinda of creepy stalking because that’s exactly what it was.
I was often conflicted when I reached the denouement.
While I wanted to finish the book to start another novel, I still wanted to devour more of Y__, his personality, his insight, everything. Every time I thought I saw the last of him, there’s also a part of me that wanted him to appear again–and he did. At that point I was mad at Klosterman, Y__ was popping in and out of the novel like nobody’s business. Although I felt Y__’s appearances a bit creepy, I also wanted him to keep showing up because he was so…interesting. I didn’t want to read about Victoria, I wanted Y__. Victoria can just stay in her office.
I am surprised how quotable this book is, I wish I read it on my Kindle so I could’ve highlighted him all instead of frantically flipping through the book as I am doing right now.
“How do I overcome the fact that real people inevitably behave more erratically than fictional constructions?…Perhaps he would seem more believable if we made him more predictable?”
“So Bruce used the Internet to normalize his abnormal existence. As long as Bruce was engaged with his computer, it was not unusual to check and recheck his in-box, or to write and rewrite a single e-mail…One can easily fold obsessive self-absorption into the process of online communicating.”
“…I think it took a mostly sad man and made him mostly happy. The degree of authenticity doesn’t matter. Right?”
“She didn’t even understand what freedom meant. There are convicted murderers with more freedom than Valerie.”
“Most of the world is invisible. I wanted to see the visible man. That’s what’s happening here. That’s really all it is.”
On the back cover, Publishers Weekly calls The Visible Man “[A] tour de force exploration of intimacy and voyeurism…Strikingly original, a vibrant mix of thriller, sci-fi, and literary fiction genres,” to which I wholeheartedly agree.
Without a doubt, this book will definitely be haunting me for at least a week, while I struggle to grasp the enormity of the situation this book just thrust upon me. If someone took a philosophy textbook and fused it with the entertainment value from a novel, and sprinkled it with wit, humor and attitude The Visible Man would be the result.
This book is easy to devour, but it also leaves the reader with much more to ponder about even after the last page is turned. This is extraordinary stuff.
And I admit to staring at the cover for a full minute, hoping to see a faint outline of Y__.