Double Take: Dan Chaon’s ‘Ill Will’ is the Darkest Novel You’ll Read This Year
Halimah Marcus

Thank you both for this great discussion of Ill Will! I’ve literally been waiting (read: hounding) friends to finish it so we can discuss all the gory (literally) details. I really appreciate what you both said about the intimacy, about how we are brought so far into Dustin’s mind, and also Aaron’s world — both of these lost, lonely men. I really, really was terrified by much of the Aaron sections, and felt like it was the most terrifying portrayal about drug addiction that I’ve maybe ever read, from the entire House of Willis section to his interactions with Amy / Xzavious Reinbolt /Aqil, ending in the FREAKING SENSORY DEPRIVATION TANK, an experience I’ve always kindof wanted to try … until now. I was also terrified at Dustin’s cluelessness as a parent and that moment of him realizing his son’s problems felt like a real punch to the gut. I also agree that the Rusty sections were some of my favorites and it was such a powerful surprise to get him, and how he was funny and real and sad. I’m really interested in Sam’s idea about the lack of a moral center to the novel and how it was crushingly bleak at the end, with all the bodies piling up. I don’t know what to think about it, though I did tell my husband that he probably wouldn’t like it because of this aspect, and I was left scrambling, and the part that was most heartbreaking and horrifying, again, was Aaron. And just how the parts all fit together, like if Rusty was there, in Dustin and Aaron’s life, how maybe he could have saved them, protected them from Aqil. What I am really curious about is how people felt about Dennis and the final end to the book. Does Dennis get to escape, or are we supposed to see Dennis surviving as just another person crushed by grief, the way that Dustin was? Anyway, thanks again, and FYI, I am also a member of the Oberlin Dan Chaon former student club. Always good to interact with another person who had their formative Creative Writing classes from such a twisted mind.

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