In a Where-Murakami-meets-Ogden Nash menagerie, Chuck Klosterman, in his book “Raised In Captivity”, whips up a cascade of stories that prima facie, look like an obeisance to absurdity. Bewildering, Puzzling, and irrational, these cryptic tales come careening at the reader, each one more powerful than its immediate predecessor in both velocity and bafflement. Albert Camus, once said, ‘basically, at the very bottom of life, which seduces us all, there is only absurdity, and more absurdity. And maybe that’s what gives us our joy for living, because the only thing that can defeat absurdity is lucidity.’
Yet, maybe it is in this very absurdity that Mr. Klosterman eggs us on to find lucidity. Perhaps it is his way of trying to rend asunder our moorings to the stereotypical and obsession with the banal. Mr. Klosterman also succeeds in elevating irony to the pedestal that it deserves, a pinnacle which finds itself relegated to mere nostalgia in our current world. Opaque, convoluted and dense, Mr. Klosterman’s collection is more a haphazard and random entwining than an intricate and pattern obeying latticework. A husband and wife duo spend a majority of their lives in an attic, forming part of a Russian Bar. Accessible only via a rope-ladder, the claustrophobic confine is a peculiar haven for a doubly peculiar activity. The couple, employing an algorithm, keep permanently deleting entries forming part of Wikipedia. In another short story, there is a death by stereo. A man is bludgeoned to death by using a sound system as an uncommon weapon. A singularly unique medical procedure permits pregnant women to transfer their natal pain to their spouses/partners. A stunning sight of a lightning, striking a huge whale alters both the perception and life of an accidental witness, who happens to be wandering around in a state of rumination, if not contemplation. A man – in a mind numbing fashion finds himself a confidant of a confirmed sex addict.
Then there is the puma in the toilet of an aircraft in motion, and a woman who hires a hitman to kill her husband, only to find that her choice is a stickler, not only for perfection, but methodologies too, because of which the proposed time to make the hit is a whopping four years! In story titled “If Something Is Free The Product Is You”, the reader gets to read seven and a half pages about a screw driver and nothing else!
This collection of thirty four asymmetric stories, confuse and confound in equal measure. But they are also in a queer manner, a construct of the times we found ourselves in and potentially existential crises for which we have to brace ourselves if we keep going about things the way in which we are right now.