Saturday, April 02, 2005

a fighting, choking lullaby

Greetings, friends.
It's been awhile, I know, but if its any consolation, while I was away I was thinking of you constantly. Okay, that's an utter lie, but the fact is I was thinking about the fact I still have this space out in the world, and no matter how many times I checked it from time to time, I hadn't posted anything new without my knowledge. So to speak.

In any case, here I am now, slowly recovering from a wicked bout with a stubborn and still present sore throat/cough combo. While I was out of comission I took some time to read a little Chuck Palahniuk (and yes I had to look that up to spell it correctly), who for awhile occupied a space slightly below Dave Eggars among those authors that self-respecting indie-minded snobs really need to read in their late twenties.

In my (and perhaps his) defense, I purchase it in my late twenties, but didn't read it until my early thirties. This seems significant.

At any rate, I liked Fight Club, and I like a lot of people who had pointed at me with their hairstyles askew and said "You really need to read Choke/Lullaby/Survivor." So, Lullaby it was when I sifted through a charity booksale at work. I hate to say it, but his book did not inspire me to read more, wander the U.S. and break down our consumerist systems with withering satirical pranks, or even move to Portland (though that has its merits).

It was an interesting read, granted, with its tale of a cynical journalist who stumbles upon a children's song whose reading results in instant crib death. There are a few familiar elements: Nihilistic youths, clever scams undermining upper-crust restaurants, talk of thinning the herd, etc., but nothing particularly engaged me. I was there, watching the words run by me, but I really didn't give a damn what happened. Chuck has his style, among which are plenty of self-referential callbacks to earlier dialogue (which also popped up in Fight Club), and those can either be amusing or, rather quickly, tedious. Dead text that doesn't really add anything to the story or, most distressingly, add much to the mood. At least for me, that is. Also problematic is the fact none of the characters, even the main one, the journalist, is particularly fleshed out beyond a certain type. Yes, the lead is a weak man with anger issues, yes the woman he teams with is a somewhat bloodlessly ambitious status-whore. But I never got a sense of who these people were, other than dark and sometimes amusing Palahniuk characters.

Maybe if I'd stumbled upon the book at 25 or 27, and I had a full complement of facial ornaments dangling from my flesh, it would've struck me differently, but when it comes to subversive satire, I'm thinking George Saunders does it a lot better.


At 11:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bravo! Nice review. And F the Palahniuk. He needs to stay in Portland. -- Patrick


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