David Means: Hystopia

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After four acclaimed short story collections, David Means' first novel, Hystopia (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) takes on the Vietnam War. As a boy in Michigan, Means was too young to have served in Vietnam. But he felt its trauma through media and in returning veterans. He invents a vet who is writing a novel about Vietnam. The vet's novel imagines four attempts on President John Kennedy's life. His JFK creates a Psych Corps to treat traumatized vets with a drug called Tripizoid – which may or may not succeed in dissolving their memories. This labyrinthine counter-factual novel addresses what happens when our stories are forgotten. Is it for possible for individuals – or for a society – to leave trauma behind?

Photo: Alex Pieros