Tuesday, May 27, 2008

So, just finished Chuck Palahniuck's new book, Snuff, and, yeah, it's okay. Funny, sure, and more than a little disturbing and he sure did a lot of research on porn, but that's kind of it. And that seems to be the way he's trending, really. There's a lot of surface goo to deal with, but very little beneath.

I guess I'm just feeling as though Palahniuck maybe owes us a little more, y'know? Fight Club, Survivor and Invisible Monsters were brutal examinations of a society's faults, critiques of a country that could only get it up for glamor, gore and God. And, man, we ate it up. Well, at least we ate it up after Brad Pitt showed us who Tyler Durden really was.

But that societal critique streak ended with Choke, and the gore, the blood, the shivery details that had helped to outline our collective faults were turned to just grossing us out. Gross us out and make every book "controversial".

Not that Choke is a bad book. It's not; it's a fun read, Vic Mancini is human enough for us to root for him (not root hard, mind you, but root nonetheless) and there's enough salvation in there to feel good when all is said and done. And maybe that last part is the problem.

Look at the first three books that he published: Fight Club, Survivor, Invisible Monsters. All very fine books turned out by an author who had little to lose and nothing to fear. When he wrote Fight Club he was a line worker at a Freightliner plant. He installed truck drivelines all day long. The book flops, what the fuck does he care? There's always more trucks to build, right? Same with Survivor and Invisible Monsters. It was still early in his writing career and he was fighting the world with his words, either still naive enough to think that he could change things or just angry enough to rant and rave without really caring what happened.

And then what? I don't know. 9/11, maybe. Survivor is told entirely from a 747 that's doomed to crash into the Australian outback, the space monkeys in Fight Club are nothing more or less than domestic terrorists targeting fat, comfortable middle-class Americans. Chuck got scared, I think. He'd gone from grease monkey to man of letters, and those letters were going to put him on the wrong side of the new, ultra "Patriotic" America. His kind of writing, in that kind of enviroment, well, shit, publishers are cowardly fucks, right? Hell, show me any media that isn't craven at the core.

So he moves away from true societal critique and into, what? I don't know what to call it, really. Adult gross-out fiction. Urban psychological horror. Choke has Vic Mancini blasting a week's worth of pent-up shit all over a police detective (and never mind the idea of metaphor; that was played for the disgust factor), Lullaby shows us the main character going down on his dead wife, Haunted we're treated to the sight of a woman being served a hunk of her own microwaved ass cheek for supper. And, yeah, Fight Club has endless descriptions of the narrator's ripped-open cheek, Invisible Monsters goes on and on about the main character's missing jaw, both of which are as disgusting as anything else in Chuck's canon, but I'd argue that those come naturally out of the deeper issues in the story. In Fight Club, the narrator's cheek is ripped open because he can't stop tonguing at it -- he's wearing his scars for everyone to see, hoping that someone will stop him. In Invisible Monsters, the fashion model main character has to blow off her own jaw -- destroy her ability to speak -- before she can get anyone to listen to her.

I dunno. He still writes entertaining books, and I'm sure I'll keep on buying 'em. Rant was an excellent read. By far his best-written of the more recent books. I dunno. I guess I just keep hoping for a bit more from a guy who started off so strong. Ah, well. There's always Bukowski, right?

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