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Raised in Captivity: Fictional Nonfiction


Raised in Captivity: Fictional Nonfiction

Are you a short story aficionado? I admit that I usually stick to novels or longer fiction works. However, I was intrigued by the description of Chuck Klosterman’s RAISED IN CAPTIVITY and the stories contained in it. I didn’t know exactly what to expect from a book subtitled “Fictional Nonfiction.” But the word pictures (finding a feline predator in a bathroom; an odd football story; a shocking interview with an assassin) drew me away from my customary reads and toward this highly unusual collection. Klosterman’s book of 34 stories astonished, astounded, shocked and sometimes confounded me.

Imagine that you’re sitting down with someone you don’t know too well, and this person is sharing an account of an experience they’ve had or an event they’ve lived through. Imagine that you can vividly see not only what this individual is relating, but also what they’re thinking. And imagine that their storytelling is succinct, filled with clarity, with mystery or enigma hovering around the outside edges of the story. Then imagine that the story is over, and you’re feeling stunned, satisfied, full of wonder or even a little frightened. That’s what you’ll experience as you read RAISED IN CAPTIVITY.

"If you’re looking for an intelligent book that will bring a different tone to your reading, I’d recommend this one."

Klosterman’s clever stories (even down to their titles, which you’ll fully appreciate as you complete each one) are told as if they actually occurred. Chance happenings (or are they really chance?) alter a life; set a person on a different course; or bring full understanding to a person searching for meaning or inspiration. You’ll read them. Then you’ll stop --- thoughtful, perhaps questioning. Later, something about the stories will pull you back again. Upon rereading them, you’ll see things you missed the first time. You’ll feel satisfied, but sometimes with a twist of horror. In fact, there was something I caught as I wrote this review, in a story I’d read twice already, that was crucial to its meaning --- a clever aside that brought both delight and a little shiver.

So what will you find in RAISED IN CAPTIVITY? The puma story contains this morsel: “His father had once told him that the key to life was an ability to ignore other people’s imaginary problems. But he wasn’t sure to whom this particular problem belonged, or if it was real or imaginary, or if his father had ever considered what that advice actually implied.” What exactly is someone supposed to do if they discover a wild predator hidden away on their flight?

There’s also the account of the football coach in “Execute Again” who makes his players repeat the same play over and over and over again. Indeed, it’s the only play the team will use in every practice and every game the entire season. Inexplicable…until it begins to make a certain kind of sense.

In addition, there's the tale of the runner who discovers an odd man during his run around the lake; the detective investigating an attacker (a serial killer?) who’s assaulting people with a toxic bacteria; and Logan’s failsafe new method for breaking up with his girlfriend. You have all of these, plus 29 other clear, cryptic and captivating stories.

I have never read a book quite like RAISED IN CAPTIVITY. Klosterman is a highly unusual storyteller, unlike any other author I have ever read. If I described him as a mixture of Stephen King, poet T.S. Eliot and journalist Meyer Berger, with a dash of J.D. Salinger and Flannery O’Connor, you’d get the general idea. But I’d still be missing something to describe this man and his writing. If you’re looking for an intelligent book that will bring a different tone to your reading, I’d recommend this one. You’ll come away from it having had an unusual yet thoroughly satisfying experience --- one that you’ll want to repeat by rereading.

Reviewed by Melanie Reynolds on September 13, 2019

Raised in Captivity: Fictional Nonfiction
by Chuck Klosterman

  • Publication Date: July 14, 2020
  • Genres: Fiction, Short Stories
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books
  • ISBN-10: 0735217939
  • ISBN-13: 9780735217935