Chuck Klosterman’s newest novel, The Visible Man is a fascinating look at what gets us excited. What makes humans function in the deepest and darkest parts of our brains when there is nobody else around to influence us? This is the question Klosterman asks and then attempts to answer through the writing of Austin therapist Victoria Vick.
Before we talk about the book, a little disclosure. I am an almost exclusively non-fiction guy. Reading a fiction book is a real chore for me, it feels like a waste of time. I like a few, and appreciate many others, but they aren’t my first choice at the book store or the library. I started reading Klosterman a couple of years ago after an interview with Bill Simmons on ESPN. I was hooked on him and his writing right away. Chuck knows music and pop culture and asks some of the best questions I have ever heard. I was thrilled this year when he was part of the new website for my generation, Grantland.com. I have been waiting for this newest Klosterman offering, and it did not dissapoint. I read the book in one sitting, and would not have allowed myself to be interrupted if someone had tried. The book is that good.
The story opens in the form of a manuscript from therapist Victoria Vick to her publisher. In the intro she tells how she got the information, full disclosure about her life, and the mistakes she made in the process. The story begins with her speaking with a strange new potential client. She never tells his real name, just referring to him as Y____. Mr Y_____ is indeed a strange bird and they begin an odd dance of therapist and patient.
It turns out that Y____ is a scientist who worked on a government project that allowed him to appear almost invisible (almost is a key element of the story.) His research involves sneaking into the homes of his subjects and observing them for long periods of time in their natural element. It sounds strange, and it is, but this story then takes you into some very interesting places in your own mind. I made judgements about people in the story and some of them turned out to be wrong. The end is not a place you think you are going, but it is very satisfying.
I would highly recommend this book even if you are a non-fiction junkie.
There was also a weird personal connection for me in the book. One of the episodes takes place at the Radisson Hotel in Austin that I stayed in every other week for almost a year at a previous job. It was creepy to make the association, yet it made the book pretty real.