Monday, November 28, 2011

review, of sorts, of an author I haven't read, but will

You can tell I've come straight from reading The Bloggess again, because my title is so long, and has commas, which I don't think I've ever done before. It's okay though, I love The Bloggess nearly as much as I love run-on sentences. 

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The author referred to in my unusually long title is one Chuck Palahniuk. Who, you might ask (as did everyone I invited to come with me), is Chuck Palahniuk? Well, he's the author of, amongst many other things, the short stories and novels that lead to the movies Fight Club and Choke. In the interest of full-disclosure and post structure, I will here admit that I have never read anything Palahniuk has written, but I shall soon correct that. I did enjoy Fight Club, the movie, quite a bit as a unique narrative form and creative story - one of the few that has truly surprised me in the last twenty years. But more to the point, the tickets were free. I won them on Facebook in an instinctive response to someone asking a trivia question I happened to know the answer to. And, Fight Club is one of BB1's favourite stories and I thought he might be able to use the tickets. What happened about that is a blog post in and of itself. But back to the point ... 

In the end, STG came with me to the reading, - it was his first, and pleasantly it was the best one I've ever been to. For some people that might not be saying much, but there was a time when I was the poster girl for literature studies at my tiny little university, and attended poetry and book readings what seemed like every few days. So ya, my expectation of book readings is that they are somewhat dry and redeemed only by the relative talent of the author in question ... or their willingness to buy me a glass of wine. 

Not so with Palahniuk. Somehow he manages to be creative, edgy, human, current and accessible all at once. He was refreshingly free of cynicism, despite (or maybe because of) the darkness of some of his writing. His 'reading' was an event - it included participation games that sent almost half of the audience home with an inflatable of one type or another, six people clinging to free books, and many more people munching on king sized chocolate bars during the reading. His answers to the Q & A period were thoughtful, respectful (except perhaps to the fool who asked if he was a dog or cat person - come on!), authentic, revealing, and encouraging. The two short-stories that he read very much left me wanting more, and I look forward to picking up as many of his books as I can. 

What really struck me in his answers and in discussing his stories was how autobiographical, or more accurately rooted in and springing from his life they are. I often stop myself mid-story for feeling like what I'm writing is too 'true-to-life' - even though I know that when I'm inspired by life my writing is its most compelling. So it was hugely affirming for me to hear that someone as accomplished as Palahniuk actually had to take anti-anxiety pills to tell two of his most personal stories. I'm not there yet - that goes without saying - but seeing into Palahniuk's process was enough to tell me that when I can barely stand to write or read a story, I'm likely on the right track. I started a story I really want to tell - a story I really like - early in November, and I can see now that it is the story I need to tell now. So thanks for that, Chuck Palahniuk. And for an entertaining evening. And for the Bounty bar STG shared with me.


  1. I hope you find a novel that you like to start you on your Palahniuk journey; I started with Haunted and was unimpressed enough to never pick up another title. It wasn't the subject matter (I read lots of dark, lurid, and plain nasty fiction) but the actual writing that grated for me. However, finding a new author is a joy in itself; I look forward to follow-up posts! FWIW, if you ever have the chance to go to see Neil Gaiman do a reading, he is astonishingly entertaining in person (and I don't much like his writing, either!).

  2. Thanks, Cheryl. I'm completely willing to find out that his reading is better than his writing, but figure it's worth checking out. I'm going to start with a short-stories anthology, I think.


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