by Stona Fitch


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781569473061
Publisher: Soho Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 07/28/2003
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 160
Product dimensions: 6.38(w) x 8.02(h) x 0.49(d)

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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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What People are Saying About This

Russell Banks

. . . a chilling psychological thriller . . . It's masterful and should be situated on the literary map between DeLillo and Coetzee.

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Senseless 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.'
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.