Popcultureboy’s #CBR5 Review #99: Tell-All by Chuck Palahniuk



For me, Palahniuk has been off his game for a while now. The heights of Survivor are a very long time ago. But I thought I’d give this a whirl, since it sounded crazy and fun and silly. It’s incoherent and tiresome, utterly devoid of merit. The full disappointed review is on my blog here

Travis_J_Smith’s #CBR5 Review #109: Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk


Of all the books I’ve read lately that I’d seen the movie of first, Fight Club was the last one I expected to disappoint. There are only eight movies I would put above the Fincher directed Fight Club, and I know Chuck Palahniuk, for all his flaws, is good for the occasional book where his style actually works, instead of seeming tired. And for about the first half of the book, all was going as expected. I couldn’t not hear Edward Norton’s voice in my head narrating, or stop picking apart all the differences between the book and the movie, but I could still enjoy it as a separate work.

Then the twist came, which isn’t a twist for someone who’s seen the film, andFight Club turned into something even more preachy, in my opinion, than the film, which is saying a lot considering that’s always been one of the most popular complaints people have had about the film. If I’d read this first, perhaps the effect would’ve been dulled as it is with the film, thanks in large part to the twist being, well, a twist. Although I think I would’ve seen it coming no matter when I read the book, since Palahaniuk does a worse job of hiding it than Fincher, with the defining line between the narrator and Tyler Durden unclear from the beginning, another aspect of Fight Club which I found bothersome.

Mostly, I think my disappointment with Fight Club is a side-effect of my becoming disillusioned with Palahniuk. In high school, I thought for a time that he was both hilarious and profound. At some point, I stopped reading him, but continued to enjoy his work through the movies Fight Club and Choke. The past couple years, I’ve started, and very quickly stopped, three of his books:PygmyHaunted, and Survivor. The first two were unspeakably bad, and the third one was, to put it simply, dull. I thought they were exceptions, but it would appear now that they’re the norm. If I were to re-read the books of his I loved back in high school (Choke and Lullaby, namely), I’d probably be no more pleased with them than I was with Fight Club. Palahniuk’s just no longer my style of writer, and I don’t really plan on testing out that assertion. I’m sure I’ll read one of the two aforementioned books at one point or another, to see if they hold up, but that will be the extent of my relationship with Palahniuk from now on.


Travis Smith’s blog, containing this review, as well as others, photography, and more, can be found here.

Lisa Bee’s #CBR5 Review #29: Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk

Invisible MonstersChuck Palahniuk has some pretty interesting and insightful ideas about humans and the world we live in, but they are also pretty grotesque. “Maybe he should lighten up a little?” I think to myself. But then again, there is a demented humor to some of the biting things he writes and shows, which makes me wonder if the perversions experienced in this book aren’t strictly limited to these specific and wildly outlandish situations. Because I mean… they aren’t the crazy situations just heighten them or make them seem all the more dramatic.

Invisible Monsters is a story told by a young woman who is identified by various names throughout the novel. In the opening scene, we see a house burning down on the wedding day of a woman named Evie Cottrell, who has apparently just shot a friend of the narrator named Brandy Alexander. Brandy asks the narrator to tell her her story as she lies dying in the narrator’s arms, and from there the tale of the narrator (as well as Brandy) unfolds in a non-linear fashion, essentially jumping from memory to memory to get back to where the first pages start.

My surprisingly spoiler-free full review of this book can be found here.

bonnie’s #CBR5 Review #40: Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

I know, I know. The first rule of fight club is we don’t talk about fight club. But I’m going to break it anyway, because I really, really liked the book, and I just read it for the first time.

I watched the film adaptation of Fight Club several years ago, and there was a very strong motivation for doing so in the first place. I think we can guess what that might have been.


Brad Pitt was a majestic beast, Edward Norton brilliant, and Helena Bonham Carter spectacular, but for some reason, I neglected the original book. But, since I’m on a great quest for American authors (especially men), it seemed to make sense to include Chuck Palahniuk. And I’m glad I read Fight Club.

In short: the narrator is living a rather dull existence, and he can’t sleep. He goes to several terminal illness support groups to feel something (and ultimately to find the nothingness he hopes death can bring him). But he meets a woman named Marla Singer, as well as Tyler Durden, a mysteriously compelling figure who starts a fight club with him, as well as a soap-making industry that turns its eye to more anarchistic endeavors.

It would be oversimplifying the novel to say that it’s about anarchy. Rather, I saw Palahniuk examining our relationship to authority, and the male perception of masculinity, masculine hierarchies, and gender, using violence as a rather extreme means to suss out how men feel about themselves and each other. I think for that reason, especially considering its publication in the 90s, Fight Club is a must-read for anyone interested in contemporary American fiction, masculinity and fiction, or responses to violence in literature. This is my academic perspective.

My reader’s response was sheer enjoyment. Yeah, it’s not a super polished text. But I’m okay with that. It’s entertaining and at the same time a little uncomfortable. And I think that’s great. If you liked the movie, you should definitely try out the book. Or if you’ve been avoiding the book because you think it’s immature or overhyped, I’d really urge you to give it a chance.

iamnothamlet’s #CBR5 Review #21: Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk

Cannonball 21

Tender Branson is the last surviving member of a cult famous for it’s mass suicide. He’s hijacked a plane and dismissed the passengers and crew. Now he’s recording his life story on the flight recorder before his engines blow and he and his plane crash into the ocean.

Tender’s story involves his narrow escape from the fate that befell his entire family and everyone he knew. Sold out of the cult’s compound into domestic servitude, Tender becomes obsessed with suicide, going so far as to pose as a suicide hotline and encourage others to kill themselves.  After one of his callers actually goes through with it, Tender meets and befriends the man’s sister, a nasty woman with prophetic dreams.

As the remaining members of the cult kill themselves off, Tender becomes a celebrity for being the last one alive, attracting the attention of marketers and flim-flam men. As his handlers expertly craft his message for maximum efficacy, Tender’s life becomes a meaningless parade of empty cliches and phony mysticism.

If all that sounds appealing, at this point I should tell you that Palahniuk’s writing is just as empty-headed and pointless as the cultural decay he decries. Survivor reads as though it were written by a 17-year-old who has been reading a lot of anti-establishment literature and thinks he can write it too. The “insights” Palahniuk offers up through his vehicle of a narrator are shallow, trite, and uninteresting.

Palahniuk doesn’t care about his characters enough to explore their motivations or beliefs. Tender Branson’s religious faith, which is so central to the plot, is vague and tough-to-define. The other players are mere plot devices which show up and exit whenever it’s convenient to Palahniuk.

I weep for the idea that they are 17-year olds who might read Palahniuk and try to imitate his shalllow anti-corporate screeds. This isn’t the real thing, and a copy would be even worse.



Lady Cordelia #CBR5 Review #35: Damned by Chuck Palahniuk

UnknownI read a blurb describing this novel as The Breakfast Club set in hell instead of high school and was instantly sold.

Told from the perspective of thirteen-year-old Madison Spencer (the Ally Sheedy of the group), Madison is a newly arrived inhabitant of hell.  It’s a combination of her diary entries, “Are you there, Satan?  It’s me, Madison”; an essay on the topic of ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’; and fair warning to the rest of us of the unlikely and surprising things that automatically land you in hell (peeing in swimming pools, not covering your mouth when you cough, blowing your car horn too many times…)  Madison and her gang decide to set out to find Satan, and the resulting journey through hell is just as horrific as you would imagine, though perhaps a lot more mundane.

The humour of the story, the gross-out factor and the mix of religion, mythology, history and the a classic 80’s movie make this a very enjoyable read.

Julia’s #CBRV Review #12: Damned by Chuck Palahniuk

damned-us-1Chuck Palahniuk is weird. He wrote a Tarantino-esque revenge epic for chubby 13-year-old girls that 13-year-old girls should never be allowed to read. Damned is Judy Blume meets Dante Alighieri meets The Breakfast Club, and it is delightful.

Madison Spencer was the daughter of a movie star mother and producer father. She was never quite skinny enough or perfect enough for them to take her to award shows. But Madison was never bitter, she loved her parents. Even when they started adopting disadvantaged children for the  media attention, even when her mother would tell the tabloids she still 8 years old, Madison remained positive, she is nothing if not an optimist. Madison Spencer died at the age of 13 from a marijuana overdose. It is only then that Madison starts to enjoy her life, even if she is in hell.

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