A friend of mine gasped when I asked her “Who’s Chuck?” She was reading a book and she was in love with Chuck – Chuck Palahniuk (don’t ask me how to say the last name). Chuck is the author of such novels as Fight Club and Choke – Fight Club already being in movie form and Choke on its way, for those non-readers out there. However, my lovely NYU library did not sport either of these popular works so after reading Christopher Moore, I was on to Chuck’s Invisible Monsters.
I should have known from watching Fight Club what to expect from his work, but somehow I just couldn’t predict how twisted it would be. When I say twisted, I mean that if Tom Robbins is the Pink Flamingos of the writing world, Chuck Palahniuk is the equivalent of Jean-Luc Godard’s film Week End. I mean this in the most supportive way possible. In a symbolic sense, both works attack the bourgeois lifestyle and artistically you can’t tell where the plot line is going next.
Most paragraphs of Chuck’s Invisible Monsters start with “Jump to.” As the narrator describes the flow of the story: “What happens here will have more of that fashion magazine feel, a Vouge or a Glamour magazine chaos with page numbers on every second or fifth or third page. Perfume cards falling out, and full-page naked women coming our of nowhere to sell you make up.” This is the description you get in the second chapter – the first chapter is all about the end of the story. Who ever stories had to be consistent to be entertaining?
So we as readers “jump to” and through parts of the narrator’s life, we don’t even actually learn who she is until the last few chapters of the novel but when you read it, it makes sense that way. The narrator is a faceless anyone (literally), the fashion model that could be any one of the women that I walk past on the New York City streets. They’re the ones where you get to watch a man’s heads turn, poor boys, she’s not looking back. Its the self-interested Frankenstein of our plastic surgery world. And as you read on you find out that Mary Shelly left out the best parts and Chuck put them back in, literally and figuratively.
Getting through the novel may be hard for someone with a weak stomach, but if you can watch Nip/Tuck, which I personally can’t, then you should be able to make it. And by the time you get to the end, you realize that you should have known what sort of self-destruction was on the menu, you’ve watched Fight Club, haven’t you? So in that respect, I’m not sure if Chuck is reusing a similar recipe or if that even matters. What does matter is that this novel explodes like hairspray bottles set on fire in a garbage can. It’ll blow your mind.