1000 Books In 10 Years; Vol. 65: Tell All, by Chuck Palahniuk

Cacophony advocate, and the contemporary master of transgressive literatures, Chuck Palahniuk has for better or for worse, developed a familiar and almost formulaic voice. Fans know what to expect from his fiction and are seldom disappointed. Tell All is perhaps one of the instances where Palahniuk falls short of his standard. Present are the short sentences, the chorus, and protagonist whose life rests outside of social norms, but gone is the unique perspectives and sympathetic characters. The protagonist drop homophobic slurs which act as a retarding weight to the narrative and likely destroys any chance for at least some readers to bond with the character, and the protagonist’s ends are as reprehensible as her means. While the victim of the narratives manipulations is far from sympathetic, it doesn’t ultimately justify the protagonist’s treatment of her. Instead the reader is left with no characters to really invest themselves in, and whilst this does not in and of itself sink a narrative (indeed, Palahniuk’s novel Haunted had few redeeming characters and still stood tall as one of the most engrossing works I’ve personally read), there seems to be even more lacking in the novel. Palahniuk lampoons celebrity and fame and social conformity in other books, like Haunted, and does so in a far more entertaining and challenging way in books like Rant, Pygmy and Choke. In those works we were either brought in on the joke, or we met with characters who were not so much unlike ourselves, people who were generally good but simply didn’t fit in with social norms. Since Palahniuk has explored issues such as the ones in Tell All before (celebrity, fame-seekers, living outside social norms, or failing to be able to invest oneself in social conformity), there seems to be little room left for Palahniuk to explore. Tell All has its moments, but they are few and far between, and the expanding voice which Palahniuk was exploring these themes with via Rant, Snuff and Pygmy, seemed to bring something new to Palahniuk’s material, but there is no continued expansion of narrative voices in this work, but rather a regression. Palahniuk is worth reading, but Tell All is certainly not the book I would recommend to one who wishes to experiment with Palahniuk. For those with weak stomachs I would suggest instead Fight Club, or perhaps Choke or Lullaby. For those with a strong stomach, Haunted, Rant or Invisible Monsters, and for those who hate capitalism, but can’t by totalitarian regimes, Pygmy is the one to go with.

 

Words I thought I’d look up:

 

Bibelots: Trinket. Jewellery.

 

Up nest: Earth (The Book), by Jon Stewart and The Daily Show

Rambler About Rambler

Jason John Horn is a writer and critic who recently completed his Master's in English Literature at the University of Windsor. He has composed a play, a novella and a number of short stories and satirical essays.

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