Chris Adrian: Word Doc
Book: A Better Angel
For fans of: Donald Barthelme, Herman Melville, Ursula Le Guin
Chris Adrian has earned a B.A. in English from the University of Florida. He has an M.D. from Eastern Virginia Medical School. He’s earning a new degree in a pediatric hematology/oncology program in San Francisco. He’s two years from a degree from Harvard Divinity School. Oh, and did we mention the M.F.A. from the famed Iowa Writer’s Workshop?
Plus, all the honorary degrees that will inevitably rain down as Adrian adds to a body of work that now includes two acclaimed novels—Gob’s Grief and The Children’s Hospital—and new story collection A Better Angel.
Not bad for a dude three years shy of age 40. Still, he remains a
humble, likable nobody—at least in his own mind. “I guess I feel the
same way about becoming better-known as a writer as I do about taking a
trip to the moon,” he says. “I think it would be really neat, but I
also think it is not very likely to happen. Obscurity is not so bad,
and to misquote one of my old teachers—who is vastly my superior in
talent and wit—‘My insignificance is not to be questioned.’”
Modesty aside, A Better Angel centrifuges potent elements of Adrian’s fiction—the supernatural, the surreal, the metaphorical—in nine astonishing stories. His theme is suffering, often of children, and how victims handle it—or how it handles them. In one story, a girl’s soul leaves her injured body to stroll around a hospital. In another, two girls grieve by stabbing animals. Adrian plays the good diagnostician, probing membranes between life and death, good and evil, vision and reality.
Like Chuck Palahniuk, Adrian goes for the throat of his demons. His work is pockmarked by emotional and terribly physical violence. “It’s been on my mind a lot, given what’s been going on in the world the past eight to 10 years,” he says. “I’ve spent a lot of time opening up my veins as a writer, and my obsessions. I’m still horrifying myself at what pops out.”