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The Visible Man: A Novel Hardcover – October 4, 2011

3.9 out of 5 stars 91 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Klosterman has conjured up a novel that manages to be both wildly experimental and accessible, while making perceptive observations about privacy, human nature, and of course, the author’s forte, pop culture.”—Entertainment Weekly (A-)

"The Visible Man is a rich, fast-paced and funny novel made to entertain lovers of literary metafiction, sci-fi and thrillers.”—Dallas Morning News

“Hidden beneath The Visible Man’s kaleidoscopic structure and high-wire stunts in an irrefutable narrative logic. And like [his main character], Klosterman knows when to get out of the way.... All fiction should be so sly.” —NPR.org

About the Author

Chuck Klosterman is the New York Times bestselling author of seven previous books, including Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs; Eating the Dinosaur; Killing Yourself to Live; and The Visible Man. His debut book, Fargo Rock City, was the winner of the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award. He has written for GQ, Esquire, Spin, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Believer, and The Onion A.V. Club. He currently serves as “The Ethicist” for the New York Times Magazine and writes about sports and popular culture for ESPN.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; 1 edition (October 4, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439184461
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439184462
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #278,482 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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.
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Format: 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.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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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