Chuck Palahniuk Is an Old Hat
Well, more like my favorite shirt. A shirt I will wear once a week for 10 years. One that I refuse to let go of, that has stitching resembling crooked scars to patch up the holes and it frays at the edges. One day it will have more homemade stitching than original fabric. It’s comfortable and familiar and I won’t throw it out.
Palahniuk’s newest book Tell-All uses the same formula you will find in many of his other books. Perhaps his entire catalog, save Pygmy and Rant . I’ve railed against Palahniuk’s stilted style before, and in all honesty, Tell-All isn’t much of a departure from what I found contrived and recycled in Snuff . Palahniuk’s style is unique but pervasive in most of his works: the reader is treated to plot twist after plot twist in quick succession (Survivor ), he uses obscure references and obscure facts to keep things interesting, and there’s the pitch-black comedy that’s utilized as commentary on societal ills (Snuff , Survivor , Tell-All ) or the ennui of the modern man (Choke , Fight Club ). If you like this technique Palahniuk might be one of your favorites. If you don’t, it comes across as gimmicky and one dimensional.
Tell-All mostly resembles Invisible Monsters , though the subject matter can be seen as an extension of Snuff . As in Invisible Monsters , Palahniuk simultaneously catalogs and condemns the excesses of modern society using Hollywood as the vehicle. His formula is varied but intact. The reader is inundated with emboldened proper nouns of high fashion brand names, Hollywood glitterati, film stars, designer drugs, haute cuisine, odd silverware, foreign liqueurs, European dignitaries, and other bits of sprawling minutiae that will have you consulting Wikipedia at every line break. There’s the vitriolic detail, some devious scheming, and characters who just probably aren’t who they appear to be. While Palahniuk may not hedge his bets, at least he doesn’t pretend to be a writer he isn’t. Even if I didn’t find anything groundbreaking here, I reveled in its familiarity. It was comfortable and enjoyable. If you enjoyed his early works (Fight Club , Survivor , Invisible Monsters ) that earned him a cult status, this book can be seen as a return to form.