by Chuck Palahniuk
Palahniuk has a distinctive style, one that is very unorthodox in its grammar, yet somehow still flowing... almost like the spoken word. It would be interesting to hear his stream-of-consciousness style aloud. One thing I thought was fairly pointless about the form of the book is that it starts with the last chapter on the last page, then moves backwards towards the beginning. The story does start at the end, but then it goes right back the beginning and proceeds fairly linearly back to the end. Or the beginning. Oh, whatever. It felt like a cheap gimmick.
The characters are a strange lot. Morbid. The main character, Tender Branson, pretends he's a suicide hotline operator for fun. He shoplifts for sexual release, and he learns to dance in a mausoleum. Branson starts his life as a humble and obedient Creedish church member, moves on to a detached and disillusioned, yet obedient, domestic servant, then finally a drugged up televangelist/con-man. The funny thing is, no matter what situation he's in, he's still got the same sort of indifferent fell to him. The book is a bit short on supporting characters, but Palahniuk does a good job with the main ones like Fertility Hollis (who can see the future and knows everything, except...) and Tender's agent, who propels him to media superstardom, complete with his very own inane television show, A 20,000-acre landfill for the nation's outdated pornography, The Tender Branson Dashboard Statuette, The Book of Very Common Prayer (which includes prayers to delay orgasm, lose weight, remove mildew stains, prevent hair loss, etc...), and a board game called Bible Trivia (see quote below).
In case you haven't figured it out yet, this is a fairly dark book, but Palahniuk's entertaining style and quick pacing make it an enjoyable read. Thematically, the story approaches similar issues as Fight Club, but from different angles with different perspectives. Like Fight Club, it doesn't really offer any answers, but it sure makes the attempt to do so sound interesting... Its a good book, and Palahniuk is a talented writer, but I would have liked to see him branch out a little more...
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Quotes: Page 269 - The shortest distance between two points is a time line, a schedule, a map of your time, the itinerary for the rest of your life.
Page 162 - What do you call a caseworker who hates her job and loses every client?
What do you call the police worker zipping her into a big rubber bag?
What do you call the television anchor on camera in the front yard?
It does not matter. The joke is we all have the same punch line.
Page 95 - The board game Bible Trivia. As if anything God says is trivial.
Further Discussion: Do the similarities to Fight Club detract from the novel? Or has Palahniuk improved on his form?
How do you get bloodstains out of a fur coat? ("The secret is cornmeal and brushing the fur the wrong way. The tricky part is keeping your mouth shut.")
Recommended:Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
Choke by Chuck Palahniuk
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