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Old 25th Jan 2006, 13:46   #1
maxivida
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Default Chuck Palahniuk

As far as I can see, there's no official Palahniuk thread, so this might as well be it.

I didn't read 'Fight Club', although I thought the movie was pure genius and I think it's very true to the book, because I could feel the same spirit (in lack of a better word) of Fincher's movie while I was reading 'Choke'. Maybe someone else could share their impressions of Fight Club, the novel, if they feel like it.

Anyway, Choke is a dark and funny story about Victor, who earns the money needed to support his Alzheimer-stricken mother in an expensive asylum by pretending to be choking on food in different restaurants. Whoever saves his life consequently feels as a hero and sends him money for his birthday (the money comes in regular intervals, because he gives each saviour a different date). At the same time, Victor frequents sex addict group therapy meetings (typical Palahniuk moment!) - the easiest way to quick and uncomplicated sex - and after a while becomes a real sex addict himself. He works in a reconstructed 18th century colonial village, surrounded by deformed chickens (the children on school trips tend to shake the eggs for fun and chickens are born blind, wingless, legless...) and stoned cows (all the milkmaids are drug addicts). His best friend Denny, whom he met in the sex addict group, collects a stone for each day he spends without having to compulsively masturbate once each half-hour, and dates a stripper with skin cancer. Victor's love interest is Dr Paige Marshall, in charge of his mother at the asylum - she proposes to cure his mother's Alzheimer by conceiving a child with Vincent, aborting the foetus, and injecting the scrambled genetic material into his mother's brain. Mother is a former anarchist and multiple convict; frequent flashbacks into his childhood reveal her attempts to break the rules of social acceptability and etiquette - stealing school buses, working as a role-playing prostitute etc.

Victor is an emotional cripple who becomes paranoid and impotent when faced with genuine emotions. Although the scene Palahniuk sets is utterly grotesque, in between caricaturised people and situations, we are faced with our own, very realistic and very contemporary problems and fears. Social alienation, hypochondria, the futility of anarchism in the modern world, and the gloomy future of a humiliating old age in dreary old people's homes, a future without memories or emotions.

Living for the present is the only way out - that is why Denny uses his stones for a building that has no purpose - no one can tell if it is going to be a house or a church or something else, because the result is irrelevant - it is the process, the doing, the action that makes us feel more alive than any aim, because in our world aims are banal, ridiculous, senseless and even tragic - we are all destined to meet the same end: a life sustained on chocolate puddings, on linoleum floors, forever smelling of pine-scented disinfectant.
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Old 25th Jan 2006, 13:53   #2
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Default Re: Chuck Palahniuk

Eow! I must read one of these. I saw the movie of Fight Club, and I kind of recognise Victor in the protagonist at the start of the movie, but I had no idea Palahniuk was quite so far out in left field.
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Old 25th Jan 2006, 13:55   #3
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Default Re: Chuck Palahniuk

I remember reading the blurb on the back of Choke and this was the part I couldn't, ahum, swallow:

Quote:
Whoever saves his life consequently feels as a hero and sends him money for his birthday
I always felt this was frankly implausible (particularly as the engine for the book) - surely it would be the other way around, that the victim feels an obligation to the rescuer?

Anyway, I am trying to remember if I've read any Palahniuk, and I don't think I have. I have an untested impression of him as a writer who's keener to shock than to delight.
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Old 25th Jan 2006, 13:58   #4
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Default Re: Chuck Palahniuk

Ah, well, just a small anthropological (ahem) comment here, in that there are numerous pre-literate societies where if you save a person's life you're then responsible for that life for all time, or until they save yours. It may have something to do with that?

Anyway, carry on...sorry
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Old 25th Jan 2006, 14:03   #5
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Default Re: Chuck Palahniuk

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Self
I always felt this was frankly implausible (particularly as the engine for the book) - surely it would be the other way around, that the victim feels an obligation to the rescuer?
This struck me, just reading the review.
I have read that short story Guts about the protagonist interacting with a *very* strong swimming pool pump - that was in the Indy or Grauniad a year or so ago. That was so grotesque, it put me off reading anything else by Palahniuk. Fight Club is an interesting film though.
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Old 25th Jan 2006, 14:34   #6
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Default Re: Chuck Palahniuk

Quote:
Originally Posted by amner
Ah, well, just a small anthropological (ahem) comment here, in that there are numerous pre-literate societies where if you save a person's life you're then responsible for that life for all time, or until they save yours. It may have something to do with that?

Anyway, carry on...sorry
Yes, that's what Palahniuk mentions in the novel as well, trying to explain why the emotions these people feel towards him are the only 'real' thing in the otherwise emotionally numb world - call it an atavism if you like. Just like in Fight Club, where the hero frequents cancer group therapy groups to feed on their pain in order to feel alive, the 'saviours' in Choke gain more from the choking incident than Victor - he gets money, they become life-givers and feel god-like.
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Old 25th Jan 2006, 14:51   #7
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Default Re: Chuck Palahniuk

I saw Fight Club and thought it was brilliant, and then when I saw my oldest daughter toting around a couple of his books, I decided to give him a shot. So I read Diary and thoroughly hated it. I also read Guts and hated that too. Ever the fair minded reader (ha!), I then readed Survivor. Yuck. He has been compared to Irvine Welsh and Douglas Coupland, two authors I find detestable, and so I'm not surprised at my reaction.

I will admit that he has a page turning prose style and is searingly funny at times, but his subject matter and what he spins with it is incredible, distasteful and, as Coly pointed out, grotesque.
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Old 25th Jan 2006, 15:03   #8
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Default Re: Chuck Palahniuk

Coupland? Detestable?

BAN ORYX, QUICK!
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Old 25th Jan 2006, 15:27   #9
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Default Re: Chuck Palahniuk

Gotta get this in before I'm banned!

Now Wavid, I know you're a BIG fan, and admittedly, I haven't read Hey, NOstradamus! which was glowingly reviewed here.

But I think his writing style is cliche (cowering) and paragraphs so packed full of similes that I have to go back to the beginning sentance just to figure out what the original thought was. I have read Generation X, Miss Wyoming, Girlfriend in a Coma and All Families are Psychotic to make sure my original impressions were solid (after all, I was feeling somewhat unpatriotic) and just couldn't like any of his characters.

Sorry...
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Old 25th Jan 2006, 15:35   #10
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Default Re: Chuck Palahniuk

Don't worry Oryx - I expressed ambivalence towards Hey Nostro. and I think I got away with it (well I'm still here). Not sure I'd lump Coupland in with Palahniuk, fair enough with Irvine Welsh though.
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