Chuck Palahniuk is cool. He’s the guy people read if they’ve only read two books out of school. He’s famous. He wrote Fight Club. Yes, it’s good, and the movie is really pretty. Brad Pitt is great. Edward Norton is great. Chuck’s name is known because his book was made into a slick movie. I’m the asshole that held it against him. I thought he can’t be that cool. But he is. He writes original stories that could actually happen. That’s the true beauty of his novels; they’re insane but believable.
I read Fight Club after the movie came out and slowly started reading his books. I’d wait for them to come into paperback; I couldn’t commit to the hardbacks. If people asked me who my favorite authors were, I never thought to mention him. One day I realized I owned and had read everything he’d written. I started investing in his hardbacks when they came out.
Last year he spoke at the Swedish American Hall to support Damned. He was incredibly funny. He read a short story he had just written for Playboy. It was incredibly funny but had some racial slurs that made the crowd uncomfortable (myself included), and then in the end, the story comes full circle and you get it. His characters use these words but the authorial voice is still present. And the narrator realizes that his father made a joke out of him by teaching him to use these slurs. It’s one of the smartest short stories I have ever heard or read, or quite possibly the smartest.
I’ve seen a number of authors speak and they each have their own style. Salman Rushdie is this brilliant man that is hyper-aware of current politics, well-versed in history, and possesses the most intense understanding of pop culture. His interviews are more like conversations between two friends. John Irving speaks about style and his literary influences. Listening to him speak is like having your favorite teacher lecture on a book you chose. Chuck tells a great story. He said the reason he became a writer is because he didn’t want to forget all the stories that he hears. They are too precious to be lost forever. And the stories he tells, they’re funny, but often they’re sad, and make you want to cry. His appearances make you feel every emotion possible, and you walk out high, because he’s just that great.
He speaks slowly, using pauses for dramatic effect. He has rehearsed these stories numerous times. He has been in the same writers’ group for twenty years. His books consist of three main characters. That’s it. The best story you will ever write, he says, is the one that makes people say, oh yeah, that happened to me, but this way….His advice is to always inspire people to turn the story around onto themselves.
His latest book, Invisible Monsters, Remix is a reissue of the first book he ever wrote, Invisible Monsters. Initially they wouldn’t publish it because it was too crazy and they didn’t know how to market it. So he put the book aside and wrote two more novels. Those were published before Invisible Monsters. When it was finally published, he had to tone it down, take things out, and change things he didn’t want to. This book is how he originally intended it to be. He’s added new things to the original story and it can be read in a linear fashion, or you can read it in the ‘choose your own adventure’ style. There are directions that take you to different sections of the book. He wanted to alter the reader’s perspective of time. When you’re reading a book you know that the plot has to be tied up within 20 pages. This way, you’re unaware of how much you’ve actually read. There’s also a section where the words are printed backwards. It’ll be tricky to read but I’m excited to try it.