Rubbed on Palahniuk (I)

«Imagine what it’s like to have your eyes rubbed raw with broken glass. This is what reading Chuck Palahniuk is like. You feel the shards in your eyes, yes, and then you’re being punched, hard, your nose broken. Like the world is broken. Livid because there’s violence, but there’s sex, there’s the bodily fluids that accompany violence and sex. Eyes rubbed in broken glass, first, then in blood and lymph, and you want more. That’s just the plot. Don’t even get me started on the characters. You should stop listening right now. Ok, they’re nameless dual personality sadomasochistic anarchist neo-fascists turned rescuers. Or they’re the last surviving member of a suicide cult turned domestic servant turned steroid-pumped Hollywood messiah turned rescuers. Or they’re sexually addicted self-loathing hypochondriac medical school dropout con artists who pretend to choke in restaurants turned rescuers. Not counting the one about the mangled-formermodel-and-the-transsexual-who-is-really-her-brother-but-shedoesn’t-know-it, or the one about the mysterious crib deaths, or the one about the hidden rooms and human sacrifices. Don’t count those. Count on fragments. And fragmentation. But, somehow, you keep reading. And after you wipe the pulp from your eyes, you realize something. That the world is not broken. Somehow, the world feels more together than before you started. This is what it feels like to read Chuck Palahniuk. Broken, but something disturbing and beautiful recreated in its place. And when you’re done, you realize that everything really is all right. When you’re done, you find yourself thinking about the books. And, maybe, if you’re lucky, sounding like them.
This essay will focus on the ways in which beauty, hope, and romance remain Palahniuk’s central values throughout his seemingly ugly, existential, and nihilistic works, particularly in the novel and film Fight Club, Palahniuk’s most widely recognized work, and Survivor, which I believe to be Palahniuk’s strongest, most fully realized creation. That Palahniuk’s harshest critics and most deferential fans mutually fail to notice these concerns becomes, I hope to show, central to the novels’ aesthetic and moral imperatives.»
in "The Fiction of Self-destruction: Chuck Palahniuk, Closet Moralist" by Jesse Kavadlo
Stirrings Still • The International Journal of Existential Literature • Fall/Winter 2005 • Volume 2 • Number 2


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