Reviewed by Amy Gruzesky
Raised in Captivity is the latest work by Chuck Klosterman, author of eight non-fiction books and two novels. It is described on the bottom of the book’s title page as “Fictional Nonfiction,” and it probably is the most accurate way to describe this particular work. The stories are indeed short but intelligently and concisely written, as well as impactful. Klosterman doesn’t need overly wordy sentences, long paragraphs, or a lot of pages to make an impression.
In fact, not only do these pieces make an impression, many of them will touch most readers personally because you will most likely recognize some of the characters’ traits, doubts, and insecurities as your own, or that of someone you know. I actually found myself wondering what I would have done or how I would have reacted in some of the ‘fictional non-fiction’ situations Klosterman conjures up.
Another unique perspective in this collection is that they all take place in modern times, i.e., the 21st century, with some pieces referring to the ’80s and ’90s in a historical sense. Klosterman’s use of pop culture and famous people sprinkled throughout these stories also help to anchor the reader in the present day.
The author explores the deeper, darker parts of human nature in such stories as “Not That Kind of Person,” in which a wife seeks out a professional assassin to kill her husband, and “Cat Person,” in which a man, who may or may not be a serial killer, uses cats to spread a deadly toxin to unsuspecting victims. “Experience Music Project” deals with the killing of a clerk at a bodega and the prime suspect’s last conversation with another clerk at the store, in which he compares the victim to the lead singer of Depeche Mode, a popular ’90s band, and which is now being scrutinized by the police investigating the crime.
There are also stories in which Klosterman has the main characters doubting their own reality and questioning if what they are seeing and experiencing is real or imagined, such as first and title story “Raised in Captivity,” in which a man is sure he saw a live puma in an airplane bathroom, but can’t imagine how such a thing could be true, and “Every Day Just Comes and Goes,” in which a man out for a jog encounters a stranger from the future who says he knows the jogger and needs him to come with him into the future, the jogger finding himself believing the stranger, while at the same time questioning his own sanity.
Yes, some of the pieces are strange; others end ambiguously, which can be frustrating, but all of them make you think on different levels and take you out of your comfort zone. I personally found this book to be addictive, opting to read ‘just one more story’ before putting it down after each sitting. Each time, I was curious to see where the next story would take me and what new set of extraordinary circumstances I would get to experience through the unique characters and situations Klosterman created.