Editor’s note: Palahniuk is pronounced PAUL-AH-NIK (Paula Nick).
Chuck Palahniuk is best known as the author who wrote the book Fight Club. A movie of the same name, starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton, was released in 1999. I first saw this movie
about six months after the original US release and hated it. I later learned to like it. It wasn’t until several years later that I even realized it was a book and was curious to see if it followed the movie. It did, quite nicely, and I became hooked on the dark, graphic stories slightly inspired by Palahniuk’s real life experiences. (Fight Club is said to be inspired by Palahniuk’s involvement in the Cacophony Society while at the University of Oregon. The Cacophony Society was dedicated to experiencing things outside of the mainstream and performing large-scale pranks in public places, like Project Mayhem in the novel.) There also seems to be great psychological twists that accompany each of Palahniuk’s novels that make the context of the whole story change as in Fight Club.
Fight Club may be his most popular novel, but it’s not his first. Palahniuk began his writing career trying to emulate, of all people, Stephen King (who I love) in his first novel, If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home Already. After failing miserably at being Stephen King, Palahniuk took his writing style, darkened it even more, and wrote Manifesto, which would later become Invisible Monsters. From there came Fight Club, Survivor, Choke (which also became a movie starring Sam Rockwell–and, by the way, the book is better), and Lullaby. Palahniuk has written a book a year since the release of Choke in 2001.
I love Chuck Palahnuik for being his own genre of psychological thriller/comedy/mystery/human interest/supernatural writing. His characters are interesting, twisted, and slightly off but completely human. He makes you care about these people who are self-loathing, narcissistic, disturbed, whiny, compulsive, psychotic, and disillusioned. And he is not afraid to be gruesome and graphic, two things I rather enjoy in my reading. Palahniuk’s graphic nature is not provided for shock value or for attention; rather, these explicit depictions enhance the depravity and humanity of his characters. Many of his novels and short-story compilations, including “Guts” from Haunted, have induced fainting at readings. In fact, “over seventy faintings have been reported, one of the most severe occurring during a reading at Columbia University, where a man fell to the ground and awoke screaming. The incident was caught on tape and is featured in the Postcards From the Future documentary” (http://chuckpalahniuk.net/author/bio). That’s quite an impact to have on readers and listeners.
I encourage any of you who have not yet read Palahniuk’s work to begin with Fight Club and follow with either Survivor or Lullaby. I believe these are the novels to best get your toes wet. Feel free to proceed from there. With caution. Happy Reading!
For a complete list of Chuck Palahniuk’s books, visit http://chuckpalahniuk.net/books.