Saturday, April 12, 2014

Hell is what you make of it

It's got to be tough to have Fight Club be your first published novel. There's no getting around it - it's too big, too shiny, too startling to let any follow-up surpass it. Fight Club has had a huge part in defining my generation (which is terrifying and wonderful at the same time, just so you know) and none of Palahnuik's later books have packed the same overwhelming punch.

Now, that being said, I think that Rant is my favorite Palahnuik book and Invisible Monsters is pretty fucking good too. Damned falls somewhere between Snuff and Haunted for me, unfortunately.

I think part of the reason for that is that I find it only occasionally possible to tolerate thirteen-year-old girls and reading a novel in the voice of a tween was quite frustrating. Palahnuik did a very good job of crafting that voice, and basically what that means is that the novel is consistently irritating.

There are some cool things about it, though. I love the way that Hell is crafted and layered and complicated. There's a very funny scene that involves oral sex with an enormous demon and a punk rocker. That punk, by the way, is one of the more interesting and sympathetic characters in the book and I actually liked him quite a lot.

The book seems to be crafted as a surly response to all those fucking girl books - the books made and marketed almost exclusively to girls and young women. As a sneer, the book is a success - though I'm not sure how well that resonated because I'm pretty sure that Palahnuik's books aren't generally read by young girls, and I'm not sure that the young women who typically read the fucking girl books would be the type to pick up on the joke.

I just, I dunno. I feel like I saw a lot of this coming and was a little let down when it came. One of Palahnuik's trademarks is his ability to keep readers guessing but that breaks down when the reader guesses right too many times. There was nothing here that floored me, either stylistically or as a part of the plot, so I think I was just expecting better. This isn't a novel that would have let me down if I'd never heard of its author, which I know isn't really fair to the author, but disappointed is how I feel anyway.


Palahnuik, Chuck. Damned. Broadway Books. New York: New York. 2011.

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