Thursday, August 20, 2009

"Stranger Than Fiction: True Stories" by Chuck Palahniuk

"Stranger Than Fiction: True Stories"
by Chuck Palahniuk
Published by Anchor Books 2004

After a long run with reading some serious hardcore science fiction and fantasy novels I had to take a break and read some non-fiction. This tells you what genre my next book review will fall under. Anyway, I decided to ease into the Non-fiction by reading this book by one of my favorite authors, Chuck Palahniuk. Chuck is the author of some pretty strange pieces of fiction, many of you know of "Fight Club" and maybe "Choke" both of which were made into pretty decent film adaptations. The reason I consider this book easing into the non-fiction genre is that,well, to put it bluntly, reality in Chuck Palahniuk's world can be surreal.

This book is a collection of essays, stories, and interviews written for various magazines and newspapers. Some of the pieces had also been previously published on the internet. The stories cover 3 main categories: "People Together", articles about people who find unique ways of achieving togetherness; "Portraits", interviews and short essays mostly about famous individuals; and "Personal", autobiographical pieces. The introduction to the book is Mr. Palahniuk talking about the world of writing and what it takes to be a fiction writer, very interesting, indeed. The book then breaks into the first story, "Testy Festy," which covers the immoral and deviant behavior that happens at the Rock Creek Lodge Testicle Festival in rural Montana. From the opening line of that story I thought, uh oh, what have I gotten myself into? Well he is merely reporting the goings on of this raucous festival and it is definitely "Stranger than Fiction."

There are several stories in this collection that range from the bohemian activities of the Testicle Festival to celebrity interviews with Juliette Lewis and Marilyn Manson to some autobiographical essays in which the reader learns more details behind the murder of his father by the father's girlfriend's psychopathic ex-boyfriend.

Some of the stories are very funny and some are quite poignant. One of the funnier ones is his coverage of the Lind Combine Demolition Derby in Lind, Washington. Rednecks crashing combines seems like it would be fun. One of the stories is "The People Can" where chuck is reporting on the life of the crew on board the submarine USS Louisiana. Being an ex-Navy man myself I found the civilian insight on this story very interesting. One of the saddest stories is when he tells of his life as an assembly-line drivetrain installer by day, hospice volunteer driver by night.

So if you are a Chuck Palahniuk fan you will find this collection of true stories very interesting told from his point of view. If you have yet latched on to the writings of Palahniuk check this one out, it will prepare you for the world that is in Chuck Palahnuik's novels.

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posted by Gil T. @ 8:26 PM Comments: 0

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

"Diary: A Novel" Chuck Palahniuk (pub. 2003)

I'm not sure what I really expected out of this book, but I got a really good read, that much is certain. Many people know Chuck Palahniuk as the author of "Fight Club" and "Choke" and expect some really interesting social commentary and this book provides more views of society through the cynical eyes of Chuck Palahniuk. Keep in mind though, he has also written some good horror like "Lullaby" and "Haunted." When he does write the horror it also contains some social commentary/satire, and this book contains all that with what starts out as in interesting view of society through the eyes of a failed artist to a horror novel of a woman held hostage by a community.

Before I run through the gist of the book, I would like to point out that this is book is told through the view of a woman, this is rare for a Palahniuk novel (in fact, it is the only one I've read so far) and he pulls it off well. Another aspect is that this book is not the typical non-linear storytelling Palahniuk uses, but there are some aspects of the non-linear through some flashback sequences.

The book begins as a "coma diary," in which Misty Wilmot is keeping because her mother-in-law, Grace Wilmot, insists on her keeping because Misty's husband, Peter Wilmot, is in a coma after a failed suicide attempt. As the book progresses more is learned about the community of Waytensea Island where Peter calls home and he and Misty moved back to after Peter's father's death.

Waytensea Island is a tourist based community that has fallen on some hard times. The hard times though, are part of a 4 generation cycle in which every 4th generation a famous artist creates art on the island and draws tourists and the money is back. The catch is that this artist is a reincarnation of the previous artist that brought fame and fortune to the Island. Misty learns all about this from clues left behind by her husband, Peter.

Peter and Misty met at art school when Peter found she was "attracted" to the cheap costume jewelry he would wear and that the paintings by Misty were of landmarks on Waytensea Island, which Misty had never seen. After Peter's father's death they move back to the Island to help his mother. Peter becomes a contractor and remodels peoples homes and Misty becomes a waitress at the Island's hotel/restaurant. Peter however leaves clues in the form of "missing rooms" from the summer tourists homes he's remodeled. Some of the summer homes are missing closets, kitchens, dining rooms. Peter has sealed up the rooms but before sealing up the rooms he paints graffiti on the walls warning Misty, "You will die, when they are done with you."

The people return to their homes and discover the missing rooms, one Angel Delaporte has an interest in graphology (handwriting analysis) has a missing kitchen and upon discovery of the warnings and rantings of Peter he goes with Misty to try to solve the mystery of the warning. It is later discovered that Angel is more than he lets on to be as are many of the characters in this book.

Misty is soon held captive by her mother-in-law, Grace Wilmot, and forced to paint. Misty becomes bed-ridden thanks to the drugs from the island's doctor and is fitted with a catheter and has her eyes taped shut. The paintings then flow out of Misty like automatic writing and after she has completed 100 paintings the full story of the island's dark secret kept by all the families on the island.

In a haunting story of reincarnation, betrayal and greed Chuck Palahniuk has created a very intriguing novel that is very hard to put down. Each chapter ends with something new revealed and a new puzzle to solve.

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posted by Gil T. @ 8:22 PM Comments: 0

Thursday, July 17, 2008

"Choke" by Chuck Palahniuk (pub. 2001)

I don't know what it is about nonlinear storytelling, but I seem to have a weak spot for it. Give me a good book or movie that is nonlinear and well you've got me hooked. Non-linear, for those who have yet to experience it, is when the story pretty much jumps around from past to present and back with no particular order. Chuck Palahniuk is one author that can pull this off and does so with his books, remember "Fight Club"? Either the book or movie "Fight Club" was a great example of nonlinear storytelling. Other Examples include; the movie "Pulp Fiction," Joseph Heller's Catch-22 (1961), Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five, and, Takashi Shimizu's Japanese horror series, Ju-on, brought to America as The Grudge, is also nonlinear in its storytelling.

This book, "Choke," by Chuck Palahniuk, is yet another nonlinear story. Told in first person (as was "Fight Club") the story captures the life of Victor Mancini and his friend Denny through a few months of their lives with frequent flashbacks to the days when Victor was a child. Victor grew up while going from one foster home to another. Victor's mother was found to be unfit to raise Victor. Several times throughout his childhood his mother would kidnap him from his various foster parents. They would eventually be caught and he would again be remanded over to the government child welfare agency. This part is all told/revealed as we go through Victor's modern life where, to say the least, he's a little screwed up in the head.

Victor's mother is dying in a retirement home and before she goes he wants to know more of who he is. With the help of Dr. Paige Marshall, Victor can help his mom live by creating a baby and harvest the cells to cure his mom. When Victor visits his mom he has to pretend to be various attorneys that represented her in the past because when he says he's himself she ignores him. Through the "attorney's" Victor discovers his mom kept a diary and it is revealed who victor is, but the catch, she wrote the diary in Italian. Paige Marshall says she can read Italian and proceeds to tell Victor that he is the son of Jesus. (Very interesting story in that one...but you'll have to read it to find out how.)

Also Victor is a recovering Sexaholic and attends meetings but can never get past step 4, which is where he needs to write in a journal all his past "exploits." The problem here is twofold, one that he is still writing and has numerous events to keep track of and two that his meetings are also great places to hook up with chicks.

Victor is out to save the world by creating heroes, also a good way to make extra cash. The heroes are folks that save Victor's life. Every night Victor forces himself to choke in a restaurant and the heroes that save his life are forever heroes with a story to tell their grandchildren. Yes, he intentionally chokes on food.

Throughout the book there are many hilarious moments between Victor and his many friends and foes, so with a strange mystery to solve, although the reader doesn't realize there's a mystery until the very end of the book, and the strange flashbacks, this book is a great read.

If you're interested the book was recently made into a movie and debuted at the Sundance Film Festival (2008) with rave reviews. The movie stars Sam Rockwell as Victor. Sam Rockwell is the one that portrayed Zaphod Beeblebrox in the 2005 film "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." You can check out the trailer below.

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posted by Gil T. @ 8:52 PM Comments: 0