Friday, September 18, 2009
LibraryThing Early Review
by Chuck Palahniuk
This book is not unfunny, but I mean to damn it with faint praise.
As soon as I started reading it I wondered if it would have been published before the success of Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer, which already richly covered the ground of fractured English.
Then I thought of the Simpsons episode with the foreign exchange student. I looked it up on TheSimpsons.com. It was episode 111, from 1990: "...the Simpson family takes in Adil, a student from Albania, who's actually a spy stealing the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant's secrets." The very cover summary of this book could be applied to the TV show "...this cunning, double-edged satire of a xenophobia that might, in fact, be completely justified...For Pygmy and his fellow operatives are cooking up something big...that will bring this big, dumb country and its fat, dumb inhabitants to their knees." Hello Homer.
I guess Palahniuk has a kind of trademark violence and vulgarity that has made him a cult figure. It shows in this book. THAT makes me think of Matthew Collings, the art critic, saying something like :...when everyone is transgressing, then it is no longer transgression." In other words, boring.
This experience won't stop me from giving Fight Club a try, if it falls into my hands, or any book of Palahniuk's that a friend might recommend, but this book is slight, derivative and formulaic.
On further thought, I have to mention that the one really interesting idea is that the Deity has made us in his image, and He plans to kill many of us by cancer or war etc, and thus we are obliged to both imitate Him and deserve His treatment of us. It is the justification internalized by the spy Pygmy for the havoc he is meant to wreak. It is a clever inversion of a kind of received truth, that requires faith in God, rather than understanding of his mysterious ways.
There. I've given you the best part. I recommend you pass.