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The Visible Man: A Novel [Hardcover]

Chuck Klosterman

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Product Description


“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.” —

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.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

I was physically introduced to Y____ in the most standard of ways: There was a knock at my office door, and I told the knocker to enter. The entrance swung open and a man stepped into the room. I knew who he was before he told me. There were no surprises.

He was a man. A strange-looking man, but nothing more.

He was tall and he was thin. Cadaverous. Perhaps six feet five or six feet six, but no more than 175 pounds. His head was a skull on a stick; it was shaved to the skin, but I could see a subtle shadow where his hair would sprout. The hairline was receding. He wore an oversized black T-shirt, khaki pants, and garish white tennis shoes. His arms were wiry and unnaturally long. His nose was large, as were his Adam’s apple and his ears. His teeth were jagged and yellow. “Ichabod Crane,” I thought to myself. “He looks like an actor auditioning for the role of Ichabod Crane.” It was a sweltering day in May, but he was barely sweating. I can recall this because I asked him where he had parked his car (at the time, I was in the midst of a minor parking dispute with a neighboring office building and lived in constant fear that my patients might get towed). He mentioned that he had arrived on foot. I could not imagine how a man in a black T-shirt could walk any distance in the 90-degree Texas heat without perspiring, but Y____ was immune. When he shook my hand, it was cool and dry, like a brick from the cellar.

I turned on the tape recorder.

When I treat patients in my office, I never sit behind my desk. The desk creates a barrier, and barriers are the enemy. Instead, I sit in a white Eames chair. My patients have the option of sitting in an identical black Eames chair or on the couch. No one ever takes the couch, particularly during their first session (too overt). Y____ looked at both options and requested that he sit in my chair. I said, “No, that’s not how things work here.” I don’t know why I used those specific words. Y____ asked, “Does it matter where I sit? Can’t I sit in the white chair?”

“If it doesn’t matter,” I responded, “then why not sit in the black chair, like everyone else who comes here?”

“Because I have a preference,” said Y____. “I prefer white objects. If I express a preference for white objects, why not allow me to sit in the white chair?”

“Perhaps I have my own preference,” I said.

“Do you have a preference?”

“Yes. I prefer the white chair. The white chair is my preference.”

“Then by all means, take the white chair,” said Y____. “I would never interfere with your preference.”

We both sat. I smiled. He smiled back, but only for a moment.

“So here I am,” he said. “You wanted to see me, and now you have. This is your office, and I am here. I’m in your office.”

“You are,” I said. “Thank you for coming in. It’s really nice to see you.”

“Yes, yes. Of course. Of course it’s nice. Let’s talk about how nice it is. This is a wonderful office—you have plants, carpeting, a relatively quiet air conditioner. It’s contemporary in a classic way, or perhaps vice versa. Can we get to work now? Or do we still need to have a pretend conversation about how much your rent is?”

“We can absolutely get to work,” I said. “That’s a good attitude. I’ve really been enjoying our work thus far. The progress has been, you know—progressive. But let me ask you something, before we get going: You mentioned that you liked white objects. That’s an interesting thing to like.”

“No it isn’t.”

“Well, what if I think it’s interesting?”

“What if I think it’s not? There’s no meaning here, Vicky. My affinity for the color white doesn’t say anything about me. Look, we’re not going to do this. You need to accept that. I already understand the process. We both understand the process. I don’t need to slowly grow comfortable with the conceit, and you don’t need to understand why I like white objects. Let’s get to the provocation. Let’s start with what matters: You think I’m telling a fictional story. Your stomach tells you that I’m telling the truth, but your mind insists your stomach is crazy. I’ve been thinking about this all week. When we last spoke on the phone, I realized I misspoke. I said that I didn’t care if you believed me. That’s not accurate. That was my mistake. What I meant to say is that I don’t care if you think I’m an honest person. I don’t care if you think I’m a good person or a bad person. But I do need you to believe the specific things I’ve told you. If you don’t believe I’ve done the things I’ve done, it will derail our conversation. You will hear everything I say as an extension of a delusion, and the content will get ignored. I will say things like, ‘I once saw Event A happen to Subject Zed,’ and you will wonder, ‘What is his inner motive for telling that particular story about this particular fabrication? What does this story represent?’ But that won’t be what’s happening. Anything I elect to tell you won’t be theoretical or metaphorical. It will be something real that happened in my life. So I need you to believe that what I’ve said—and what I will continue to say—is not untrue.”

Y____ stood up from the chair, jarringly, throwing himself upward by pushing down on the armrests. It was like watching a giraffe awaken from a tranquilizer. “May I walk about,” he asked. He began to pace around the room, erratically, looking down at the floor while gesturing with his hands. This behavior is what I’d come to classify as “the Y____ Character.” Whenever Y____ became “the Y____ Character,” his dialogue would feel rehearsed. It was like watching a one-man show. Though I’d already experienced several of these moments over the phone, this was the first time I witnessed it with my eyes. Over time, I’ve come to accept that the Y____ Character was (probably) the real Y____. It was everything else that was (probably) the show.

“So how can we do this?” Y____ continued. He loved semirhetorical questions. “How can I make you believe me? What could I do, short of being cloaked in front of you, to make you accept my words at face value?”

“That’s an intriguing question,” I said. “Maybe it’s an impossible thing for me to accept. So if I never accept this, how will it make you feel?”

“Vicky, we’re not doing this,” he said. “We’re not doing some kind of exercise where I make a declarative statement and you ask me how I feel about that declaration. We’re not going to talk about my development or my primal memories. Maybe we will eventually, but not today. Right now, today, I need you to tell me how I can make you believe I’m not like other people. That I can do things other people cannot.”

He stopped pacing and looked at me, frozen, waiting, saying nothing. The moment I began to respond, he commenced his pace.

“If there were some witnesses to this partial invisibility,” I said, “and those witnesses came in here and verified what you had said, honestly and scientifically, I might believe you.”

“There are no witnesses to my life,” Y____ said. “That’s one of the keys to being unseen: If there are witnesses, something went wrong. So what else?” His pacing continued.

“Video evidence,” I said. “A videotape of you doing something that only an invisible person could do.”

“That would prove nothing,” said Y____. This was a game to him. “I could fake that with any computer. And even if my video was perfect—even if it was so seamless and unimpeachable that it couldn’t be faked by a moviemaker—you’d still assume it was somehow unreal. You would merely think it was the best fake you’ve ever seen. You’d believe I was David Fincher before you’d accept who I actually am. Try again.”

“Any reported evidence that this could be done. A Wall Street Journal article that describes your research. A textbook about the process.”

“There is no such article or textbook,” said Y____. “I would be the only person who could write it.”

“Maybe you should do that.”

“Not my thing. Not anymore. I hate writing.”

Y____ returned to the black chair. He was smirking. I asked if he wanted coffee. He said he didn’t want coffee or need coffee. He seemed calm, smug. Not very adult. More like a high school senior in the final days of May.

“Well, what about this,” he finally said. “What if you just considered everything I’ve told you and weighed that information against the degree to which I seem credible?”

“That’s what I’ve been doing,” I told him. “From the first day you called me on the telephone, I’ve been calculating that very equation. I’ve taken what you’ve said at face value, and I’ve considered the source. I’ve tried to be as open-minded and nonjudgmental as possible. I’ve taken all your statements seriously and professionally, and I’ve come to a conclusion. Do you want to know what that conclusion is?”


“Are you sure? Do you promise to be as open-minded and fair with me as I have been with you? Because that’s essential.”
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