Five reasons you should be reading Chuck Palahniuk:
His Books Have Wonderfully Weird Formats
Rant, which is told in the form of an oral biography, meaning the (already dead) title character is the only person who doesn’t get a voice.
Haunted, which alternates between short stories and the main tale.
Diary, which is written, well, like a diary.
Palahniuk certainly has a way of finding new methods to tell a story. It’s more than a little impressive.
His Books All Have Wonderfully Weird Subject Matter
Survivor, the story of a surviving member of a death cult who is suddenly raised to celebrity status.
Choke, the tale of a sex addict who purposefully chokes on food in restaurants.
Rant, wherein a small-town boy moves to the big city, hangs out with people who crash cars for fun, and continues to spread rabies like wildfire.
You pretty much have to go in with an open mind, no matter which of his books you choose. You’re going to go on a wild ride.
His Non-Fiction is as Good as His Fiction
Palahniuk tells good stories. It’s his gift. What amazes me is his ability to turn a completely true story into a work as beautiful, strange, and literary as his fiction.
In Stranger than Fiction, he writes about everything from meeting Marilyn Manson and a real-life testicle festival to his experiences with death and working as a hospice volunteer. The book has three parts; “People Together”, where people find interesting ways to be together; “Portraits”, interviews with famous people; and “Personal”, which are stories from his own life.
Fugitives and Refugees: A Walk in Portland, Oregon is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a travelogue about Portland, Oregon. Which, bt dubs, I lived there for years and it’s possibly the best place in America. Palahniuk manages to capture the weirdness that is Portland so perfectly. The book has personal, autobiographical stories, and mentions of his favorite places in Portland. We go to sex clubs and underground tours, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
He’s Not Afraid to Write From Any Point of View
Writing in first person, a lot of people stick to what they know. Palahniuk writes from seemingly any perspective with ease. In Invisible Monsters, it’s a model who has had half of her face eaten by birds. In Diary, a woman who tortures her husband (who happens to be in a coma). Damned, a young girl who has died and gone to hell. Rant, twenty-or-so narrators, each less reliable than the last, that range from a kinda-sorta prostitute to a run-of-the-mill car salesman.
He’s Got Guts
When Palahniuk wrote Haunted, he wanted to tell a different kind of horror story. One about everyday events and people. It really, honestly made me see the world as a much scarier place for a little while. Maybe that’s not what you need, but maybe reading (or any art) shouldn’t be about giving us what we need. Palahniuk read one short story, the first from Haunted, aloud in many a crowd. “Guts”. If you read it, you will never forget it. At the last count I’m aware of, 67 people had fainted while listening to him read “Guts”.
Here’s what Chuck had to say about it:
“My goal was to write a new form of horror story, something based on the ordinary world, without supernatural monsters or magic. Guts, and the book that contained it, would be a trapdoor down into some place dark. A place only you could go, alone. Only books have that power.
A film has to maintain a certain decorum in order to be broadcast to a vast audience. No one really gives a damn about books. No one has bothered to ban a book in decades. With that disregard comes the freedom that only books have. And Guts is by no means the darkest or funniest or most upsetting story in the novel Haunted. Some, I don’t dare read in public.”
Go out and grab a Palahniuk! I promise, you’ll never forget your first.