Senseless

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Overview

A man finds himself in a Kafkaesque nightmare when he is inexplicable kidnapped.

Elliott Gast is married, an ex-government bureaucrat, and enjoying himself in Brussels, networking with tech executives, when he is unceremoniusly snatched from the street--kidnapped. He is taken to a high floor in a deserted highrise somewhere in Belgium and confined in a totally empty, white apartment. Even the windows are ...
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Overview

A man finds himself in a Kafkaesque nightmare when he is inexplicable kidnapped.

Elliott Gast is married, an ex-government bureaucrat, and enjoying himself in Brussels, networking with tech executives, when he is unceremoniusly snatched from the street--kidnapped. He is taken to a high floor in a deserted highrise somewhere in Belgium and confined in a totally empty, white apartment. Even the windows are painted over in white.
Like an Orwellian torture chamber, it is always light because, as Elliott will learn, the black cables dnagling from the ceiling and elsewhere, are cameras broadcasting his ordeal worldwide on the boundless internet. Anyone can tune in at will. He is a digitized castaway., a lonely survivor watched by millions as he is dealt with by his captors who are convinced he is to blame. For what, he asks, as they come for him.
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Editorial Reviews

Philadelphia Inquirer
Senseless combines the taut plotline of a made-for-TV thriller with the ruminations of a sophisticated literary novella.
Publishers Weekly
Small like a stick of dynamite, Fitch's second novel delves into the horrific experience of a hostage forced to endure torture that ultimately deprives him of his five senses. Eliott Gast, an American trade representative, is kidnapped in Brussels by a group of terrorists who oppose the European economic union. At first, Gast finds his captivity comfortable. He's housed in a clean, three-room apartment, is fed regularly and receives plenty of books to occupy his time. That all comes to an abrupt end on day seven, when the terrorists storm in and mutilate Gast's tongue. As he recuperates, Gast notices a network of black cables that frequently drop from the ceiling and seem to track his every move. The terrorist leader, nicknamed Blackbeard because he always wears a pirate's mask, tells Gast the cables are cameras used to broadcast his ordeal around the world on the Internet. Millions of people are watching. Blackbeard tells Gast that when enough of them donate money to the cause, he'll be released. Over the next several weeks, as described in highly disturbing detail, Gast is made to lose his hearing, his touch, his smell and part of his vision. Fitch's otherwise grim, one-sitting novel, his first in nine years (after Strategies for Success), has many moments of poignant reflection as Gast ponders his past and future. He also wonders about the gruesome use the Internet is being put to an issue that Fitch resolves with brevity and ingenuity. (Oct.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Mild-mannered American economist who loves fine dining gets kidnapped by terrorists seeking revenge for the evils of the European Union. After growing up in Roanoke, Virginia, and studying economics at Princeton, protagonist Elliott Gast finds himself in middle age an analyst for the International Business Interest Sector (IBIS). Though Gast claims that he has never done "anything to raise anyone's hackles," one night in Brussels he gets attacked, shoved into a car trunk, and transported to a small apartment where his masked kidnappers rail against globalization, the EU, and other alleged manifestations of American hegemony. Here's the twist: Elliott Gast becomes the world's first "online hostage": his imprisonment and subsequent torture are broadcast via the Internet to millions of PC-users across the world, who can vote for him to be tortured further or spared. Second-novelist Fitch (Strategies for Success, 1992) endows Gast with would-be pithy observations on his peculiar plight: "They gave people a window on my prison, and they had flocked to it like voyeurs to a women's dorm. The advent of the first online hostage seemed as inevitable as it did evil." When he learns that most of the online crowd has voted for the torture to continue, he notes, "Much had happened in the world to inure it to suffering. Still, I had expected that most people retained a sense of right and wrong." That is the furthest extent of insight in these pages. It all reads like something Don DeLillo might have written when a sophomore in high school. As the title hints, Gast's captors have a particularly mean way of torturing him: they take their captive, who loves food, wine, and music, and deprive him of hissenses-literally. This initially interesting idea is merely played out to its logical conclusion, without any surprising swerves. Slight and uninspired.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781569473061
  • Publisher: Soho Press, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 7/28/2003
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 6.38 (w) x 8.02 (h) x 0.49 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


Picture the room where you will be held captive. You know there is one—everyone carries this room with them. A basement room from your childhood, shelves cluttered with forgotten toys and yellowed files. A classroom from your student days, each wall lined with blank blackboards. A bright apartment with a view of the city, the night avenues glistening with rain. The corner room of an old hotel, the glass transom over the door half open. Any room can become a prison. All it takes is a key and someone to turn it. Perhaps you will do the turning yourself.

    My father spent his days in the cell of his choice—a fine office in a sandstone building on the outskirts of Roanoke. My mother was high-strung and had trouble staying in the house for long. The sight of one insignificant item missing from our household would send her on a series of interlocking errands that could last all day. As a boy, I was a poor student and painfully shy, a combination that sent me into hiding with ailments more imaginary than chronic. I often found myself at home, reading in my bed, soup cooling on a wooden tray next to a tall glass of flat Coca-Cola laced with brandy, my mother's universal remedy.

    I would close the door to my room and imagine myself confined not by illness or false illness, but by someone else. Bart, the blond bully from school with his huge hands and dead gray eyes. Or my father, perpetually frustrated with the laziness he found in me and my brother Darby. It could be him behind the door, turning the key and holding me in my room until I learned to respect all the blessings that we hadbeen given. The captor wasn't important. It was the prisoner who concerned me.

    I had read tales of pioneers held by Indian tribes, soldiers imprisoned in Andersonville, criminals stranded on the rock island of Alcatraz. The small scale of their lives entranced me the way that lead soldiers had when I was younger and that astronauts would when I was older. It fascinated me that an entire world could be confined to a small place, that the Battle of Culloden Moor could be reenacted on the living-room rug, that three men could live and work in a capsule even smaller than my room. Through these boundaries I learned the virtue of restraint, always the quiet boy's excuse for not hurtling headfirst into the world.

    When the light faded, giving way to the slow gray winter afternoon, I would leave the lamps off, waiting in the dark to see who would be the first to come home. My father returning from the office. My mother back from her errands. My brother done with football practice. Each would enter our house with footsteps of varying strengths. My father's boots thumped along as he went from room to room turning on lamps. My brother's cleats stayed only in the kitchen, where he stood in front of the open refrigerator and scanned its contents. My mother's heels clicked like a metronome. Eventually, one would climb the stairs to my room and twist the knob to find it locked.

    In my room, I would stare, paralyzed, at the rattling brass knob. My captor had arrived, bringing food and water, a scolding, presents, further confinement. Which would it be this time? Then I would break the spell and walk slowly toward the door, reaching up to throw the deadbolt that would let them in, let me out. As the door swung open, the prison walls would vanish as quickly as they had been created and I would be set free. But on another day, behind another door, a new captor waited along the golden horizon, for fear attracts its object as surely as desire. With my imaginary confinements, I set the stage for another, more peculiar imprisonment.


Excerpted from SENSELESS by Stona Fitch. Copyright © 2001 by Stona Fitch. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


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Copyright © 1996 Shmuel Katz. All rights reserved.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2001

    Can I give it less than one star?

    I finished 'Senseless' yesterday. It was interesting to me that I watched 'Fight Club' for the first time the night before and drew a parallel: Each came off like it was trying to say something deep and meaningful, yet I was left wanting at the end. To me this book was born when the author (who hadn't written anything in nine years) was sitting at the bar one night with his pals and the topic of conversation became, 'Hey, what's the worst torture you could imagine that would take away each of a person's senses?' Once he and his pals had come up with a definitive list, the author realized his writer's block had lifted. All he had to do is then come up with a measly 150 pages to wrap around his five torture scenes. Sure it's a page turner - but not because the story is interesting - but instead because the reader can't turn away in the same way people can't turn away from auto accidents. 'Senseless?' I think a better title would be 'Pointless.'

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 1, 2001

    Don't know about 'Orwellian,' but certainly great.

    Not to focus too much on the Book Description (see above), but to call this novel 'Orwellian' misses the point, I think. Certainly a publisher can¿t be blamed for trying to characterize its books in accessible terms. But having read the bound galleys of 'Senseless,' I can say that it's far removed from Orwell on at least a couple of counts--and all the more astounding for that. First of all, the universe that protagonist Eliott Gast inhabits is no totalitarian superstate, but rather a recognizable--if extreme--version of our own world. Granted, Gast finds himself in horrifying circumstances that have some of the schematic feel of, say, '1984.' But in the novel's apparent focus on global capitalism and the latter-day culture of ¿reality-based¿ entertainment and instantaneous information-transfer, Stona Fitch addresses a thoroughly contemporary set of concerns that even Orwell didn't quite anticipate. And in any case, ¿Senseless¿ is not ¿about¿ these subjects, exactly--or at least not in the way in which ¿1984¿ and ¿Animal Farm¿ were most definitely about the nightmares of 20th-Century totalitarianism. In the face of his intractably painful, terrifying, and ultimately numbing predicament, Eliott Gast finds himself slipping further and further into a sort of meditative reflection on his past--and particularly on the joys and deceptions of his sense-saturated life before captivity. Rather than offer a simple cautionary tale on the Orwellian mold, Fitch would have his audience consider the personal foundations of a globalized reality: this seemingly universal society that is in fact based on the interconnectedness of billions of individual appetites, in which the individual is as vulerable to the appetites of others as he is responsible for his own. To say that ¿Senseless¿ is both hard to read and hard to stop reading is the highest compliment I can offer it, and one it richly deserves. As with the most compelling ¿reality show¿ yet unimagined, you want to know what will happen next--even as you suspect that the answer will horrify. But if the action is at times wince-making, the writing never is: Great writing never is, and that¿s what the author offers here. Great writing, in a great, unforgettable, and singular work of art.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 25, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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