Chuck, Close-Up
Mon May 9, 2022 21:24

All serious work in fiction is autobiographical - Thomas Wolfe

The unspeakable visions of the individual - Jack Kerouac

Chuck, Close-Up - A Novel

For D.C. Berman


If true, the news that a nearly-complete manuscript of Chuck Glass's lost novel "Frankenstein" has been discovered would mark a new twist in the controversial career of the reclusive writer who left the literary scene over a decade ago. Mr. Glass, the author of three other novels, was previously counted among the most exciting voices in literature.

Titled "Frankenstein" the novel appeared to be a sleek mash-up of American Psycho, The Portrait of Dorian Gray and Dead Ringers, set in present-day New York City. From the plot outline we know that it was the tragic story of a young plastic surgeon named Jerome Stein, owner of the Veritas Clinic, one of the most exclusive private practices in Manhattan, whose life and career is derailed after a consultation with Viva, the vain and beautiful teenage daughter of a wealthy hedge-fund manager. Viva's utmost desire is to become the physically "ideal" woman. The encounter with the young woman whose sphinx-like visage conceals a shocking spiritual vacancy repels the doctor but he agrees to further consultation hoping to dispel her plans. However, with each consultation, he finds his initial impression of Viva contradicted. In a surprising Gestalt, instead of seeing her hideous lack of self, Stein only sees the fearful symmetry of her iron will and cold logic. Despite his initial reluctance and the implications of taking her on as a patient, he ignores his instincts. During surgery, Viva's heart stops and after several attempts to revive her, she dies on the operating table, her mouth frozen in a slight grin. In the immediate aftermath of her death, rumours alleging various forms of misconduct surrounding the clinic emerge. Faced with legal action and charges of malpractice, Stein's personal and financial fortunes decline sharply. Guilt-ridden and haunted by the young woman's death, he becomes increasingly obsessed with the notion of reviving her. In a state of despair, Stein seeks sexual gratification from escorts who bear a resemblance to the deceased girl. Finally losing his grip on sanity, Stein begins murdering these high-priced prostitutes and assembling a patchwork corpse of his ideal Viva.

The novel purportedly ended with Stein waking up from a fevered dream to find his dismembered life returned to its previous state, his career intact and Viva not only alive but engaged to be married to him. The realization that Viva is still alive makes her personality seem all the more terrifying to him and forces Stein to question whether he could really have done the things he imagined or whether under Viva's influence his morality is merely skin-deep. Critics speculated about the meaning of the ending, who the monster was meant to be, Viva or Stein himself.

The book remains unpublished. An entire section of the novel, written from Viva's point-of-view can be found in The New Yorker. The inclusion of certain auto-biographical elements in the story fuelled rumors that swirled around the divorce of Mr. Glass and his agent and wife Heaven Evangelie. Mr. Glass could not be reached for comment.

-Terrence Halperin, New York Times, Arts Section, September 3rd, 2019

Part 1

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