There’s something you should know about me. You know those lovely novels and stories which neatly tie up loose ends and finish with wedding bells and happiness? Yeah, they’re not for me. Perhaps it’s because it leaves the critic in me no room for interpretation, or maybe I’m just bloody morbid, but either way, it seems I like a bit of misery. So Chuck Palahniuk, naturally, is one of my faves.
Obviously, Palahniuk is most well known for his book (film?) Fight Club, and having a really difficult name to spell. I watched Fight Club about five years ago now, and absolutely loved it. It’s just up my street, deliciously dark, and if you haven’t seen it, then well if I ran the government, you’d get prison time. But I don’t. For me, I did it the wrong way round and actually saw the film before I read the book. Now, anyone who has seen the film will know it’s quite complex, and fantastically written. So when I came to get the book for Christmas a few months later, I couldn’t believe just how skinny it was! It’s a tiny little thing, and I’d finished it by mid-afternoon on Christmas Day, and I could barely believe how much story was in so few lines. He really is an incredible writer. If you’ve only seen the film, you should read the book though. There are a few hideously black lines which were deemed too much for the film, and it’s fantastic fun spotting the differences.
After reading Fight Club, I read Invisible Monsters, and I think I maybe even liked it more, though I’m not one to have sliding scales. The book follows a supermodel who has had her face blown off by a gun and subsequently walks around with a veil disguising her weeping face. So yeah, it’s light-hearted like his other stuff, (and by the way, if you’re ever looking for a quote to have tattooed, join the masses and get one from that book). The thing for me though, is I want to be shocked. It’s difficult to do so, because I seek it out, but I want literature to push the boundaries of what is acceptable. I think one thing that literature does really well, because it is such a subjective experience, is push boundaries and shock. When you watch a film, there is one visual image right there in front of you and you have to go with that. One of the things I found the most unnerving about Invisible Monsters was that I couldn’t physically picture this poor girl with her face smashed to pieces. Instead, I’d conjured up this deformed image which was so fuzzy in my head, it barely existed in anything other than shadow form. And for me, that’s the stuff of nightmares, that images that keep you thinking and thinking, not gallons of fake blood or supernatural sheets floating on your screen.
Also, if you’ve never read anything of his and want to get an idea of just how far he can go (far, by the way) then check out his short story, Guts. Apparently he’s made 73 people faint at his book readings from reading that story. You don’t even have to purchase such immoral literature, and can have good old Chuck read it to you on this Youtube video – will you faint? See what you think. Chuck’s latest short story though, Zombie is altogether quite different (read it here). The beginning and even the middle of the six page story are everything you’d expect from him, but the ending is definitely a divergence from his usual style. I wasn’t disappointed, because I felt like I’d discovered a new writer who had elements of the Palahniuk I know and love, while an optimism altogether out of character. But it’s definitely different.
Let me know what you think of any of his work below, I’d love to hear!