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30 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I tend to fall in love with debut novelists...
Lauren Groff, Glen David Gold, Audrey Niffenegger--the list goes on and on. An author writes an exceptional first novel that rockets them to the top of my favorites list. Then commences that eternal wait for the follow-up; the wait to see if it was a fluke or what.

I LOVED Chuck Klosterman's debut novel, Downtown Owl. I laughed until I had tears in my eyes,...
Published on October 4, 2011 by Susan Tunis

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Intersting Premise but
The Visible Man has an interesting premise, is an easy read, and holds your interest throughout. But when I finished the book, I felt like I had eaten an extra-large Cinnabon - lots of calories, fat, and sugar, but no substance. Much of the book consists of the ramblings of a total jerk. What was the point? And why would I (or any reader) want to read such a narrative?
Published on February 11, 2012 by Rob


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30 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I tend to fall in love with debut novelists..., October 4, 2011
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This review is from: The Visible Man: A Novel (Hardcover)
Lauren Groff, Glen David Gold, Audrey Niffenegger--the list goes on and on. An author writes an exceptional first novel that rockets them to the top of my favorites list. Then commences that eternal wait for the follow-up; the wait to see if it was a fluke or what.

I LOVED Chuck Klosterman's debut novel, Downtown Owl. I laughed until I had tears in my eyes, and until he genuinely brought me to tears. Awesome. I've been awaiting his sophomore effort and hoping for more of the same. And I was fortunate--not only because I was handed an advance galley of this book by the man himself--but also because he warned me that this second novel is radically different in subject matter and tone than the first.

The Visible Man is a short novel in the form of an unpublished manuscript being submitted to Simon & Schuster, complete with cover letter and parenthetical notes to an editor. The author of the supposedly non-fiction manuscript is a therapist named Vicky Vick. The book she's written details the therapeutic and other interactions she had with the most extraordinary patient she will ever treat. Identified only as Y___, their initial sessions occur over the telephone. Y___ is very reticent to provide personal details, including the issue that has brought him to seek treatment.

Ultimately, the story comes out; supposedly, he's a scientist who designed, on his own, a suit that allows him to remain unseen by others. Effectively, he can become all but invisible. He has issues regarding "the sensation of guilt" brought about by actions he's undertaken when cloaked. Namely, he's been observing strangers alone in their homes without their knowledge. The story of both patient and therapist is relayed through her professional notes and observations, through transcripts of recorded therapy sessions, answering machine messages, and so forth.

On the one level, this is just plain, old-fashioned good story telling. You've got a psych patient who says he can become invisible. Is he delusional? What--if anything--that he says is the truth? Where is this story going to go? On another level, Mr. Klosterman, speaking in the voice of the enigmatic and troubling Y___, gets to engage in all sorts of interesting social and philosophical commentary, and to share the fascinating and bizarre stories of those he spies on:

"My earliest memories all involve staring at people and wondering who they actually were. Staring at my mom, for example, and wondering who she was and what she really felt, and how her mother-centric worldview compared to mine. I didn't know the definition of the word worldview, but I still had one. My mom was a different person around my brother and a different person around my dad and a different person on the telephone--why would I be the one exception who saw the real her?"

Or, "Our world is really backward, Victoria. It's backward. Look what society does. It takes the handful of people who know how to succeed and makes them feel terrible for being different. Everyone is supposed to be mediocre, I guess. Everyone is supposed to be dragged into the middle--either down from their success, or up from their self-imposed malfunction. These people didn't need a support group. These people needed someone to tell them they were okay."

This is not a comic novel as Downtown Owl was, but there is plenty of humor within the pages. "Men who talk about the details of their sex life are not real people. I'm not a rapper. I'm not a Jewish novelist." I don't think Mr. Klosterman knows how to be not funny. He does, however, know how to write. The benefit of having only the two principle characters in this story is that they become fully fleshed, even through this non-traditional narrative. Their relationship is a strange and intimate one.

Ultimately, this novel worked for me on many levels. It wasn't the book that I was hoping for, perhaps, but kudos to Mr. Klosterman for highlighting the diversity of his talent. Sophomore novels are so very often a let-down, but Chuck Klosterman remains near the top of my must-read list.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's Klosterman non-fiction, January 11, 2012
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This review is from: The Visible Man: A Novel (Hardcover)
So you know what you're getting from the start: Chuck Klosterman fiction is almost indistinguishable from Chuck Klosterman non-fiction.

Klosterman's other work of fiction, Downtown Owl, had this same characteristic. In both books, most of the text takes the form of dense musings that is unmistakably in Klosterman's voice. All the characters speak in Klosterman's voice as well. Plot is, at most, a small framing device for the dense musings... until Chuck starts running out of ideas that fit into this framing device, so he conjures a major event out of nowhere and uses that as an excuse to end the book.

This is even more transparent in The Visible Man. There are two main characters. One of them is a blatant author self-insert: he speaks in Chuck Klosterman essays. The other has barely any agency -- she's essentially a stand-in for someone reading Chuck Klosterman essays. The book is written from the audience stand-in's first-person perspective, and her narration amounts to Chuck Klosterman telling you how he thinks, or wishes, other people react to his philosophy. It gets irritating after a while. For about four-fifths of the book, nothing actually happens. The Visible Man's book-ending major event fits the rest of the book better than Downtown Owl's does, but it, and the perfunctory progression leading up to it, feels like an afterthought. The book would actually be better served without this ending, I think -- it contains little or none of the musings that make the rest of the book interesting, and it's thoroughly unsatisfying. There's no reason for it to be there other than that the book is intended to be fiction.

All that said, however, a book of Chuck Klosterman non-fiction with a bit of window-dressing is still an enjoyable thing to read. Even though his writing style seems deliberately obtuse at times, it's still fun to read, and his thoughts are still interesting to hear. I just wish he'd stop pretending his non-fiction is fiction. If he's going to write something and call it a novel, it should have a plot that stands on its own.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chuck Klosterman's first real novel?, October 18, 2011
By 
M. LeFevers (Phoenix, AZ, USA) - See all my reviews
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I don't think Chuck Klosterman has written a book that I didn't read in a single day. His narrative voice is labyrinthine, prone to odd tangents, but (to me, at least) fiercely addictive. I love his essays and I didn't not love his first novel, Downtown Owl. But I'm not sure I ever bought the concept of Downtown Owl as a novel, per se. It had the same aimless, armchair-philosopher feel of his nonfiction, and really struck me as more a handful of essays through the mouths of invented characters.

I was pleasantly surprised, then, by how much The Visible Man IS actually a novel. As other reviewers have noted, there is still some philosophical heft here, revolving mainly around questions of self and whether the person that we are around others is ever in a real sense the person we truly are at our core. The invisible-esque man is convinced that only observations of people when they believe they are alone are valid glimpses at their true self, and whether or not you agree, it's a fascinating conundrum.

But unlike Downtown Owl, I really felt like this was a story, and not an essay with characters in it. The semi-unreliable narrator (or rather, narrator who is very aware of her own shortcomings) is likeable and reads as a character with her own personality, and her nameless client is a wonderfully written balance between charisma and total sociopathy. You can see how our therapist becomes fixated on him and his bizarre worldview, but we never quite lose sight of his disturbing undercurrents, and the ending feels both surprising and inevitable.

I was hooked on this right away, and almost resented the interruptions of daily life that kept me from finishing it in one sitting. I'm pleased that Klosterman has finally made the jump to writing fiction that stands on its own two legs, and I'm excited to see what he'll do next.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Intersting Premise but, February 11, 2012
This review is from: The Visible Man: A Novel (Hardcover)
The Visible Man has an interesting premise, is an easy read, and holds your interest throughout. But when I finished the book, I felt like I had eaten an extra-large Cinnabon - lots of calories, fat, and sugar, but no substance. Much of the book consists of the ramblings of a total jerk. What was the point? And why would I (or any reader) want to read such a narrative?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unique Novel For The Invisible Man Genre, December 13, 2011
By 
James N Simpson (Gold Coast, QLD Australia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Visible Man: A Novel (Hardcover)
The main character in this one constantly tells the narrator he is not an invisible man but I still classify a guy who can't be seen due to a suit and cream he has developed as invisible. I've read most of the invisible man genre and this one is unique in that it is being told by a therapist who is trying to get her notes and experiences with a patient who she calls Y____ published. Y____ insists on no face to face meetings with Victoria Vick, and doesn't want to go into details, claiming Victoria isn't intelligent enough to understand, about his scientific work which has resulted in the invention of a suit and cream that allows him to be in a room with someone and they are oblivious to the fact he is there. Y____ enjoys observing people and that's what he wants to talk about, the behaviour of the people he has observed and the results of the occasional intervention into their lives by his actions. However Victoria initially doesn't take Y____'s claims as fact, assuming he has a mental disability and is trying to get him to meet her so she can take him to the appropriate facility if she can convince him to go.

This unbelief of the invisible man's claims does take up a large section of the novel's word count meaning there's huge potential for the storyline that we never delve into much. Y____ is also a bit of boring invisible man, he doesn't get up to much exciting stuff at all, content to just study random strangers. The fact he never goes into details about how the suit and cream actually works due to the therapists intelligence level does work, but it does also mean issues such as how does he eat and remain unobserved, use the toilet, avoid casting a shadow etc, only really briefly covered. I would have liked a lot more substance on that as well as non mentioned stuff like dust settling on him. Although you'd think a non traditional format of transcripts and letters replacing the usual written novel style wouldn't work, it actually does.

There's the brief moments of humour every now and then such as pigeons flying straight into his face as well as important trivia stuff you'd probably never thought of such as an invisible person would be totally blind since a transparent retina wouldn't register colour.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't let it get lost in the Shuffle., February 6, 2012
By 
This review is from: The Visible Man: A Novel (Hardcover)
I have really liked the work of Chuck Klosterman in the past. He made his name writing pop-culture essays that had fun footnotes. They were also smart, funny, incredibly insightful, and displayed a wide range of knowledge. The last book that made me stay up all night reading so I could finish it was his book _Eating the Dinosaur_. It was several years ago, and a hot summer night.

Lately though, Klosterman has taken to writing fiction. His first novel, _Downtown Owl_, was one of those autobiographical novels that it seems that a beginning fiction writer has to write. Even if he's been writing for years. Heck, even if he's been essentially writing about himself for years. Perhaps it was just too hard a transition. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't memorable. I could pick it up off my shelf and read the dust-jacket to spark my mind, or if you're curious you could click on the link that I am sure is around here somewhere.

With _The Visible Man_, Klosterman is more ambitious. This book must have got caught in the shuffle in the wake of some of the other big names releasing new books in the fall of 2011, since I wasn't aware of it until I saw it on the shelf of my local library. It didn't fully deserve to get lost though. Or maybe it did.

You see, I'm torn. In multiple times of thinking about this book I've thought of separate references to Dostoevsky. I've also thought of bad undergraduate writing: my own. First off, the book isn't told as a straight narrative. The conceit is that the book you are reading is a draft copy of a book that the narrator is submitting to her editor. It is largely in the form of emails and case notes, as she is a therapist explaining this case. It is a creepy echo of a story I wrote years ago and buried that was the case notes of a doctor in a psych ward and I tried to get the reader to question who was sane, the doctor or the patient. Finding these echoes made me think and wonder if I was being cutting-edge, or if Klosterman was being juvenile and derivative here. My vote is against my own creativity.

The thing is, Klosterman does it much better than I ever did or could do. It took me a while to move past the framing device as a reader, but once I was able to accept it, it became fairly transparent. The other problem is that he created a deep, complex, and interesting character - whom I couldn't stand. The action centers around a character identified as Y____, a scientist who comes to the therapist with a story about inventing a suit that renders the wearer almost invisible (but not quite). He uses this power to observe people as they are alone; the time Y_____ claims people are the most themselves. Stuff happens and eventually resolves, but I couldn't get over the character. That's where the references to Dostoevsky fit in. I see Y____ as a new Underground Man, a new Rashkolnokov. He has a bit of Toole's Ignatius Riley in there too. I just didn't like him.

I didn't like him until I realized something. The plot of the book didn't matter. Y_____ is just Klosterman in another world. Klosterman just lacks the suit, which is the dividing line. If you've read his earlier work, you know that Klosterman knows what we're like when we're truly alone. Maybe what I didn't like about Y___ was not the character, but what he showed me about myself.
But really Chuck, please put out more essay anthologies when you get the time.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wild Romp through "Reality"...Deserves to be a cult hit.., November 26, 2011
By 
Gary C. Marfin (Sugar Land, Texas USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Visible Man: A Novel (Hardcover)
VM is an interesting, wide-ranging, entertaining novel and worthy, if you will, of a very serious look.

Chuck Klosterman's fast-paced novel, Visible Man (VM), asks readers to consider the possibility that a scientist, Y_, has "built the suit" and "developed the cream" that renders Y_ not invisible, but incapable of being perceived. Y_ is not, he insists, "an invisible man." He does not "drink a potion and disappear...I was never invisible. I was always there." While there, but not discernible, Y_ spends his time observing the private lives of everyday people.

Why be non-visible? Y_ maintains that "the unseen reality of human behavior" can only be detected when those being observed are unaware of it. Why not deploy a hidden a camera or some other such device? Not adequate. Y_ asserts there's no substitute for being in the room with the subjects.

What we know about Y_ comes exclusively from the notes and recollections of his psychologist, Vicky (note the y) Vick. VM is itself the compendium of Vicky's recollections about treating Y_. Initially, Vicky Vick is convinced that Y_ is delusional, that he has pathologically fabricated the life of a visible, but not discernible man and arrived at a point at which he can no longer distinguish the fabricated from the real. Not long into the therapy, however, Vicky discards that assessment. Y_ , we are led to believe, makes a believer out of Vicky Vick. Encased in his suit and cream, he makes before her a non-appearance.

VM points readers in a number of directions. At one level, it's about Heisenberg's uncertainty principle applied to human relations (see footnote on p. 21) -- the modern entertainment version of which is reality TV. Some of the novel's most compelling scenes involve Y_`s inability to remain aloof -- to keep from intervening in, and thus altering the lives he observes.

At another level, VM is about the distinction between the true and the delusional believer. It was, I believe, William James, in Varieties of Religious Experience, who talked about religious believers and the reality of unseen things. Here the unseen thing, Y_, appears explicitly to have identified himself to Vicky Vick. One challenge Klosterman puts before us is to determine whether Vicky Vick is herself a delusional believer. More precisely, Klosterman urges us to ask: On what basis is such a judgment rendered? Klosterman, in other words, invites us to entertain the problem of making distinctions among the varieties of belief.

The richness of the novel stems from the quality and multiplicity of questions asked, and issues raised.

That said, make no mistake about it: VM is not an arid philosophical treatise masquerading as a novel. This is one very entertaining read.

Take, for example, the age-old question of whether and to what extent material goods provide happiness. The VM's answer: you bet they can. "You know who seemed happiest alone? Consumers. It wasn't people who read the best books or had the most hobbies. It was the people who bought the most b...t."
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Visible Man, September 18, 2012
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Could not put it down. People are so disturbing. I find myself looking at a corner twice sometimes when I'm alone and hear a noise or a bump!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Klosterman's strongest work, March 20, 2012
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Let me start by saying that I LOVE Chuck Klosterman's pop culture dissections (Sex, Drugs, & Cocoa Puffs; Killing Yourself To Live; Fargo Rock City). I think that he's got a voice when he's discussing the minutiae of music, movies, and popular culture that I haven't heard matched by any other pop-culture critic.

However, I've been less impressed with his attempts at original works of fiction (this novel and Downtown Owl). While his voice is still present in both books, the stories themselves aren't particularly compelling. His characters don't draw me in, plain and simple.

The Visible Man seemed to be mainly a vehicle for Klosterman to discuss his fascination with voyeurism and understanding how people *really* are (when no one's looking). While I think that it's an interesting topic to discuss, I wasn't overly impressed with the way that it was packaged in this story. If you're looking to read Klosterman and haven't before, I'd recommend you start with the aforementioned Sex, Drugs, & Cocoa Puffs or Fargo Rock City - they are much better representations of Klosterman's unique talents.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinarily Entertaining and Very Well Written, December 16, 2011
This review is from: The Visible Man: A Novel (Hardcover)
This book is five stars easy. Sample the first chapter and expect the rest to be just as good, if not better. Klosterman maintains exceptional intellectual coherence while being funny throughout. I never read Klosterman before this, and I'm ashamed. It's not a long book, and it's a quick read, but deeply satisfying. This book belongs on all Best of 2011 lists. No joke.
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The Visible Man: A Novel
The Visible Man: A Novel by Chuck Klosterman (Hardcover - October 4, 2011)
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