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Oliver Serang

Oliver Serang was born in Philadelphia in 1984 and raised by very civilized wolves. He loves storms, swimming in deep water, and feeling the wind from the subway. Stay Close, Little Ghost is a woozy treatise on the nature of love and human imperfection that he wrote while finishing his Ph.D. in Genome Sciences at the University of Washington, working as a visiting scientist in Agronomy at the University of São Paulo, and starting his research fellowship in Neurobiology at Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School. He currently lives in Germany.

Blurbs

"Stay Close, Little Ghost, is reminiscent of Murakami's finest moments. It is unflinchingly honest, magically immersive and so imbued with heartache that it's like revisiting your Top Five All-Time Worst Breakups à la High Fidelity. But at all once. And completely devoid of self-pity's trappings because it's too stuffed with raw emotion's introspection to fit much of anything else."

– The Next Best Book Blog

"It slams the rigidly logical vehicle of mathematical distillation into the hallucinatory fog of magical realism... Maybe it's because I'm coated in a little residual magic from recently revisiting the similarly feverish, preternaturally dreamlike world of Haruki Murakami, or because I've been wallowing in a surfeit of 30s-onset introspection... but Stay Close, Little Ghost offered one of those fated chance encounters of crossing paths with a novel at the absolute perfect time."

– Chicago Center for Literature and Photography

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Stay Close, Little Ghost

Stay Close, Little Ghost is like the modern day fairytale, a love story of this generation.

11/04/14

The TNBBC blog is a place for every book nerd, especially the book nerds who like books written and created by Indie writers. One day, Oliver Serang took over the blog and I watched the videos, read the blog posts, participated in the giveaway contest, and that was how this book ended up in my hands. It seems like a cute, lovable book, short, and the title itself. But the book doesn’t really give you any hugs, it’s all an illusion.

The story goes like this, the narrator, who also happened to be named Oliver, failed a lot at relationships. They never lasted, his heart broke, and he broke others’ hearts. There was something missing in this equation — he was a mathematician that never seemed to find the solutions for his heartbreak. He never found the right piece that fit with his. The whole story was a letter written to a nameless person, referred to as “you” and a bunch of asterisks, which was somebody that he must’ve dated in the past. There was no clear evidence over whether or not this “you” was dead or alive or lived somewhere else. I figured that maybe she moved away and died eventually. Maybe that person didn’t exist at all, since throughout the book, this was where the magic realism kicked, the main narrator experienced these hallucinations, and these fever dreams.

These fever dreams seemed to be messages for the impending dooms of any of his relationships. The first one was Yuki, a flirty girl he met in the elevator. She was insecure, a constant crier, and couldn’t make up her mind. She loved Oliver, or claimed to, but she hung around and flirted with any man that caught her eye, including her friends. This caused him to break up with her, every time she cried, she shed her eyeliner. Eventually, while chasing after him in a train, she disintegrated into a shadow on a train station wall, becoming a sort of black silhouette stain. There was also another girl he had been with, that disappeared into a snow storm. After Oliver had broken into a room that she kept closed off, to hide a secret. A hand behind a large grate near a vending machine reached out for him. A young girl scratching messages into walls, a young boy who drowned and continues to haunt the lake. Those are some of the odd summer fever dreams and oddities that he experienced. From talking strange hobos that predict your future, that seem to move at light speed, disappearing girlfriends forced out by his betrayal, and the sparks that faded away. Then there was the wolf in his stomach or mind. For some odd reason, I imagined the wolf being in his belly, a dark cavern, hidden away from everyone. This wolf seemed to be the narrator’s repressed emotions or more like what repressed his emotions. Every whimper, howl, and growl seemed to be the wolf’s defense mechanisms, the narrator’s defense mechanisms of what he truly felt, feared, or desired.

Stay Close, Little Ghost is a novel of loneliness and that aching feeling of being betrayed, yet you feel this sort of guilt deep within you, questioning whether or not it was your fault. Even if it is, you still feel this pain that could never be put back together again; nothing can be returned or regained. This comparison seems kind of silly, but I felt like this novel was sort of the birth child of Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood and Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. I’m not sure why, but the prose sort of has this childlike, doe eyed innocence, with a sprinkle of fairy dust, combined with the drug, sex, wild youth of the 60s, that has continued on today. There’s this strange sort of feeling of isolation, where connections with others feel more like brief flashes of light. This whole story is a love story and the fever dreams are his responses to his fear or acknowledging the fact that it will indeed, all end. He seemed to accept this at some point.

Stay Close, Little Ghost is like the modern day fairytale, a love story of this generation. At first I was quite unsure of myself when reading this. In the beginning I was reading it slowly, not because I didn’t like it, but because I wanted to absorb the prose little by little, because despite its simplicity, the words were filled with a new story, a new face of the character. I felt that if I missed a word, I would miss a piece of the character. So I had to latch onto each sentence. Here’s a sentence I underlined with a pencil, it doesn’t really fit with what I am saying, but there were so many other sentences that I would like to underline, that it would ruin the book.
“Being irreplaceable confers the greatest value that anything can have. Deciding that a person will be irreplaceable to you is the greatest thing you can ever give them. Knowing that you are irreplaceable to someone else is the only way to truly feel loved.”

So I had to slow down my reading a bit and absorb it as much as possible. This prose is quite a beauty though, one of those observances of life, the words of the people who question the reason why their cells float on the universe. What’s the point of being some random mound of cells that interacts and looks for the affection of other mounds? We’re so easy to replace, yet the act of replacement is so hard to deal with, the previous can’t be erased.

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