Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Chuck Palnichuck

I have never quite been able to keep Chuck Palahniuk's name quite straight, so I always think of him as Chuck Palnichuck. It's a little embarrassing, but there it is. It reminds me of my friend Becky, who used to make up normal names for all the characters when reading a Russian novel. This makes total sense to me--even in your head, don't you call them "R-somebody" and "the B guy" when you can't pronounce their names?

This is neither here nor there. I'm listening to Survivor as an audiobook, and I was really liking it till it got all Palnichuck on me. The only other book I've read of his was Fight Club, and I liked it. This book seemed somewhat different at first--not a lot, but enough. The story was interesting, and the weird, disaffected main character hadn't totally alienated me yet.

But now we've hit the point where he's reciting long, long lists of factoids that somehow relate to the particular nature of his disaffectation, and it's reminding me very much of the little indignities Tyler Durden inflicted on the world. And of all the violent chemical knowledge he had, and all of the gritty details that he likes to give to make a clear impression of the world. This staccato recitation of how to clean up the remnants of violence with common household substances is...well, it's tedious. It's so stylized, so self-aware. And it's so much more about the author than the narrator.

I guess that's what it comes down to. How much of a book should be about a book, and how much should it be about the author? Not that an author has to do something different every time. But if what I'm watching is the author create something, instead of a story unfold, I have to love the author. And I just don't love Palnichuck. Sorry.


Michael said...

It's funny that my copy of "Choke" shows up so prominently over this post on your fancy new banner.

I remember the cleaning tid-bits part of Survivor -- and I agree that this is very Palahniuk-y -- but I feel like the book justifies it eventually, as you learn more about the character.

It is interesting that Palahniuk does seem to think that characterization can be achieved through lists of trivia. My recollection is that this character grows beyond that, though, through his actions.

Claire said...

I've only ever read his book Diary which was good but did try so very hard.