My Year in Books: Await Your Reply

by Patrick on December 21, 2009

I’ve written often and at length about Dan Chaon’s masterful novel Await Your Reply.  Someone called this book “the first great novel written about the internet.”  I think this is probably true (if there’s a better novel about the internet out there, I haven’t yet read it), and if it is true, we all have much to fear about the web.  Of course, in Await Your Reply, fear is lurking around every corner, so maybe it’s not the web’s fault.

Weaving three seemingly unconnected stories into one single narrative, Chaon pulls from a variety of sources, a kind of literary sampling act that’s as mesmerizing as it is innovative.  References and homages to Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, Hitchcock, as well as more obscure references like Thomas Tryon’s horror novel The Other, pop up throughout the book (there’s even a character named for Red House Painter’s frontman Mark Kozalek).  The end result is a novel that feels part of both the literary tradition, as well as thoroughly at home in the world of psychological suspense and horror.

A few months ago, I took part in The Millions Best of the Millennium series, which asked writers, critics and readers to submit their picks for five best works of fiction of the decade.  Await Your Reply showed up on the list more often than nearly any other novel from 2009.  It is, I think, one of the best books of the decade.  I’m confident it will endure.

On a semi-related note, kudos to whoever designed the cover of this book, as they absolutely nailed the mood and feel of the book.  (Please don’t let that stop you from reading it.  It’s actually a lot of fun.)