It's paula-nick, not pala-nu-ick
During uninspiring days, I retreat to a place of safety and comfort: my books. They accompany me everywhere I go: to suffocating train rides home, dull trips to the house ware section and lunch dates devoid of conversation. Even if I abandon them for some time, they remain loyal allies. A good book takes me to a multitude of dimensions when I have to stay where I am. I become part of the story and when it’s over, it feels like I’m suctioned violently from what has been home to me. Then, I look at my stack and realize that I have more worlds to enter.
Coming from a very conservative background, reading Chuck Palahniuk in my early 20s was a (subtle) way of rebelling—with endless profanity, vulgar themes and tales of eternal damnation. The author of Fight Club fame is the literary genius recognized for his twisted, obscene storylines. With a roster of bestselling titles, here’s where to get started.
Damned and Doomed
“Every unkind remark or crude gesture by others is a blessing, an opportunity to exercise our own capacity to forgive.”
It’s interesting how authors have mastered detachment; as readers, we can no longer distinguish fact from fiction. I admire Palahniuk’s bravery; his daring choice of subjects is limitless. For a masterfully crafted story of an angst-filled, witty 13-year-old girl narrating her adventures in Hell, he’s done exactly that.
Madison Spencer is one of the most unforgettable fictional characters I've encountered. If you’re a fan of Judy Blume's It’s Me Margaret or C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters, you may be able to appreciate Damned and its sequel Doomed. Bluntly put, these are not for the weak and the wavering in faith. These books will leave you spiritually and mentally exhausted. Palahniuk’s descriptions of Hell, though make-believe, are mind-blowing and creatively thought out that this book may just be your road to salvation.
“Yes, terrible things happen, but sometimes those terrible things—they save you.”
Disclaimer: This is not for the faint-hearted; this must be his most obscene title yet. Think Battle Royale and the Hannibal series combined. It’s an anthology of (correlated) short stories from a group of writers who divulge their darkest secrets in a mysterious retreat.
The first story entitled Guts made me want to stop reading it all at once because it was brutally graphic and nauseating. It’s actually his most infamous work especially after a number of reported fainting incidents during his book tours. I’ve never felt so conflicted over a book.
He shared in his afterword, “The first time I read Guts, nobody fainted. My goal was just to write some new form of horror story, something based on the ordinary world—without supernatural monster or magic. The would be a book you wouldn’t want to keep next to your bed. A book that would be a trapdoor down into some place dark. A place only you could go, alone, when you opened the cover. These are the places that only books can go. This is the advantage that books still have. This is why I write.”
P.S. Did I mention that the cover is glow-in-the-dark?!
“Nothing of me is original. I am the combined effort of everyone I've ever known.”
Invisible Monsters could have been Chuck Palahniuk’s first novel but publishers found it too disturbing. The unnamed narrator—a has-been supermodel—used to have it all: a thriving career, an über hot boyfriend and a devoted BFF. After an accident, she is now disfigured and resentful. Enter Queen Supreme, Brandy Alexander, who helps reinvent her and take revenge on a community who ostracized her.
There will be moments where you will feel like you missed something, but go on and you will see the bigger picture. With one mad plot twist after the other, it will leave you speechless—or have nothing to say but profanity. It gives you a different understanding of beauty and life as it is, which will make you think about how you view your own.
“Maybe you don't go to hell for the things you do. Maybe you go to hell for the things you don't do. The things you don't finish.”
If you’re squeamish, Lullaby just might be for you. This is tamer—I say this loosely—than most of his other novels. Carl Streator is a journalist who investigates a rare occurrence of Sudden Infant Syndrome. He discovers the cause: an ancient African lullaby—a culling song—which kills anyone who is read to. Now, he must venture out and find all copies of this book.
Chuck Palahniuk crafts these eccentric stories, which are all unique, never making use of the same story flow or character, surprising his audience with a new take on reality every time.
Art Alexandra Lara