A Book Review by Alexander ‘Stigz’ Castiglione
Ever wonder what it was like to be in Hell? Or ever wonder what it’s like to be a 13 year-old fat girl who dies from a marijuana overdose? Well, you need not muse any longer, because Palahliuk’s newest novel gives you both viewpoints, as only Chuck can deliver: mired in unpalatable truths and tethered in the places between reason and reality.
His newest piece, which hits the shelves tentatively on October 18 2011, is your standard Chuck satire, an allegorical piece truly assaulting the notions of what is moral and what is not. It looks at our entire paradigm of “moral behavior” and what is a damning offense, and fleshes out the idiosyncrasies in our cultural logic. If you honk the horn more than 500 times in your life, say “fuck” more than 300 times, or throw more than a dozen cigarette butts in the street, you better be ready for warmer climes, according to the narrator.
Almost the negative image to his portrayal in Haunted, this book focuses not on Heaven, but on Hell, and what the author thinks it would be like. Complete with nauseating landscapes of the Ocean of Wasted Sperm, the Dandruff Desert, and the Sea of Aborted Fetuses, the narrator paints a vivid and equally revolting picture of what you heathens can expect in the afterlife.
Operating under a character paradigm loosely based on the cult classic The Breakfast Club, we follow a disillusioned preteen and her unlikely cohorts through the hellish landscape and brimstone background. With a new take on the rebel, the jock, the girly girl, and the dork, little miss Madison Spencer, our protagonist, takes on a twisted form of the Ally Sheedy character in this allegorical foray into the underworld. As always, expect people to kick the proverbial bucket in the most twisted of ways, interlaced with a plot that coalesces, creating a story which is truly symphonic literature. Some Palahniuk fiends may think they have it all figured out halfway into the book, but trust this Chuck-junkie, you won’t, not until the last 20 or so pages at least.
As always, expect metaphors and seemingly useless facts to delineate what the author is trying to convey, like demons named Zaebos, Succorbenoth, and Kabol. Get ready for Hitler to get an ass-whooping, Caligula to lose his manhood, and to meet some of our collective favorites, like Sinatra and Cobain, spending eternity in Hades. Also, expect some cunnilingus performed on an ancient, giant demon named Psezpolnica by a severed head. Yes, it gets that twisted, but what else have you come to expect from Chuck Palahniuk? And by the way, all those phone calls from market research companies you get right before you sit down to enjoy your dinner, well, those are done by demons and damned souls. Think about that next time somebody calls and asks you about your chewing gum preference while your Lean Cuisine is getting cold.
Besides the wonderfully repelling locales and characters, it shows in the subtext how we constantly, throughout human history, turn old idols into new demons; and we continue to do it today – just not as flagrantly. Complete with plot twists, perfectly timed flashbacks, and hyperbole-enriched characters like Maddy Spencer’s eco-obsessed, egocentric, billionaire, movie star parents who toss the 13 year old Xanax like Ju-Ju Bees and force her to watch porn; get ready for a bitch slap to the face of us – Americans. Obviously a furtive jab at the over-medicating of our children, and how we shield them from pornography and sex – one of the few things that binds us all as a species, as usual, nothing is safe from the reach of Chuck’s pen, nothing is sacred from the indelible swipe of his sword made of words.
In closing, if you are a Palahniuk fan, get a first edition of this book the day it comes out – it takes the sordid descriptions, ubiquitous hopelessness and the extensive degradation we expect and creates a wonderfully crafted metaphor and gilded allegory for our times. If you’re looking for a leisurely read, grab the book anyway, Palahniuk’s storytelling abilities are unparalleled.
P.S. I’d like to thank the people at Doubleday for presenting me with an advanced copy of the book 6 weeks before it hit the shelves so that I could complete this review. Thank you.