by Alexander Castiglione aka STIGZ
Take a bowl. Now throw in some violence, a little sodomy, a dash of drug use, absolute degradation, and a hint of nihilism. Then take a spoon, and mix it together. Now you have any novel by Chuck Palahniuk. His newest satire, Pygmy, is no different.
In comparison to his other works, the book still screams Chuck, but it has subtle nuances that make it different from his earlier work. This deliciously degrading and delightfully disgusting satire of American society paints a picture of American society from the view of an outsider.
The outsider: A pygmy from nameless communist/fundamentalist/anti-American nation X, and he takes us on a first person account of the decadence of American culture. During these adventures his goal is to solidify a plot to destroy America, aka Operation Havoc. This should sound vaguely familiar for Fight Club fans.
Actually though, this piece is vastly different from his early endeavors, like Fight Club or Choke, as it is told in “Pygmy-speak,” a language devoid of prepositions, verb tense, or even articles. This makes it slightly harder to speed through than other prose, as you have to stop and decode what he means, however, it is spectacularly written because he keeps this tone throughout the book. This only furthers his effectiveness in his sarcastic assault on our society, as it makes the reader look at life from outside our own air conditioned, high-def, and made-to-order American comfort zone.
Lines like “Ancient sentinel rest gray cloud eye upon operative me, roll eye from hair and down this agent, say, ‘Welcome to Wal-Mart.” Say, ‘May I Help you find something?’” make this book hard to read at first, but soon the pages turn, and the satiric sarcasm drips from the pages. Soon you’ll be reading quotes from some of history’s undesirables like Marx, Hitler and Mussolini, rattled off by the narrator. The frightening part: some of the quotes make great insight, and would be widely used if it wasn’t for their monstrous authors. For example “War is to man what maternity is to women,” or “He alone, who owns the youth, gains the future.” Trust me, you’ll be scratching your head saying “Well I guess he wasn’t that crazy.”
As with every other Palahniuk masterpiece, there are no holds barred and nothing is sacred. Religion is under fire, consumerism and corporate influence on the chopping block, sexuality and pornography are thrown in your face, and the dysfunctional family portrait is painted; all the while making you feel like you’ve been beat to a literary pulp.
From the Pygmy’s porn addicted brother to the masturbation addicted parents to the pedophilic preacher, not one character in this book is safe, nor is one group of American society. I would call this the best example of “Anti-Americana” we’ve seen since Vonnegut. However, you have to take Kurt, hit him with some steroids, a little acid, and a whole lot of disdain for the “culture of us,” throw in some Pygmy speak, and you have this novel.
Don’t worry, Chuck fans, this book still gets into the deep seated and horribly accurate truths of life. There’s violence teeming from the every chapter, with made up kung fu moves, like “striking cobra quick kill,” and “flying giant stork death kick,” but also jabs at every institution and practice. He batters the overmedication of society, from Xanax to Ritalin, he harps on prolific drug use of teens, and rips the media a new one. The really scary part? The picture he paints isn’t that far from the truth.
If you love Chuck, you’ll love this book. A hard read at first, but make no mistake, this book gets as dirty and gritty as everything before, and will no doubt have you second guessing your next trip to a chain store, the next mass you attend or the next prescribed pill you pop.