A ranking master among neo-pulp stylists (his 2001 story collection, “Among the Missing,” was a finalist for the National Book Award), Chaon adds to the book’s disorienting effects by playing with the physical text. Some chapters take the form of parallel columns, two or three to a page. White spaces and uneven alignments push words, sentences — and thoughts — apart. Dustin’s utterances frequently are unpunctuated, true to his tendency to drift off before completing a thought.
While such touches underscore the author’s playful approach, the writerly stagecraft keeps the reader off guard and sometimes on edge, in a kind of altered cognitive state. There’s a lot going on under the surface of “Ill Will” — more than one reading will reveal. Going back and reading this oddly compelling book again will only provide more pleasure.