“The Visible Man” Defies Classification

I have to admit that “The Visible Man” by Chuck Klosterman is the first book by him I’ve read. He has a few other books out there, most notably, “Fargo Rock City” and “Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs.” Although they have intriguing titles, I doubt I’m going to use my Amazon gift certificates on even an e-book version of them.

“The Visible Man” was the book club selection for September and we met Tuesday night to discuss it. I was only 82 percent done with it, so I put in a couple of hours of reading before and after supper to finish the novel. One thing I agreed on that one of the book club members said, “It is original.”

Yes, it certainly doesn’t fit into any one genre. But I can’t say that it’s literary fiction either. It’s a little sci-fi and a little … um, something else. While some of the blurbs talk about how “The Visible Man” is a commentary of life absurdities, we at book club thought it was more about relationships.

Vicky is a therapist with an unusual patient: he can make himself invisible. He wants to talk to Vicky about his perceived guilt at some of the things he’s been doing while unseen. From the outset, he hijacks the therapy sessions, telling her at first he only wants to talk over the phone. She finally gets him to come in for face-to-face sessions because she figures he needs more help than what she can provide if he’s truly psychotic and believes he can become invisible.

Knowing only a little about Klosterman — that he grew up in North Dakota and worked at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead — I didn’t know what to expect. Would the ability to become invisible be real or just a part of this fellow’s psychosis? At one point, I asked myself, “Where is this book heading?”

The answers? Yes, the fellow had a suit and a spray that rendered him invisible, and the book concludes open-ended. Vicky was excoriated by book club members for being a therapist without ethics, since she meets the man outside of therapy and begins a personal relationship with him. She lies to her own mentor and lies to her husband about this mysterious man.

Meanwhile the man, referred to throughout the book as Y__, carries on his storytelling with Vicky. He talks about all the people he’s observed in order to get to know them better. His theory is that one can’t really know another person unless you’ve observed them when they’re alone.

I was half-expecting to learn that Vicky was the one with the mental illness and that Y__ was a figment of HER imagination. Alas, that might have made the book more interesting to me. Oh, well, maybe I’ll have to write that book.

The book’s redeeming quality? It made for some great discussion at book club.


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