Killer Year–The Class of 2007

A Love Letter to Chuck
February 7, 2007, 2:15 pm
Filed under: Marcus Sakey

So I’m doing this thing tonight, a great Chicago event called Reading Under The Influence. Basically, it’s a get together for readers who drink — and drinkers who read — during which a couple of folks get up and read both their own work and someone else’s. I’ll be reading from BLADE, of course, but I’m also reading from Chuck Palahniuk’s FIGHT CLUB.

To prepare for it, I skimmed a bunch of his work (I’ve read it all), just looking to get the right tone, the right quote. It was a terrific experience — I’d forgotten how goddamn good the man is. Subversive, startling, funny, significant, surprising.

So this post is basically an open love letter to Chuck.

Check out a few of these quotes:

“If you could be God’s worst enemy or nothing, which would you choose?”
– Fight Club

“The only difference between martyrdom and suicide really is press coverage.”
– Survivor

“Leonardo’s Mona Lisa is just a thousand smears of paint. Michelangelo’s David is just a million hits with a hammer. We’re all of us a million bits put together the right way.”
– Diary

“Just keep asking yourself: ‘What would Jesus NOT do?'”
– Choke

“When did the future switch from being a promise to a threat?”
– Invisible Monsters

So terse, yet so potent. The dude slays me. Look at this one, an I-could-die-happy-knowing-I’d-written-it kind of line:

“Now is the autumn of our ennui.”
— Invisible Monsters

Who else can say so much about modern culture in so few words, can so effectively lampoon our national tendency to irony and lethargy with a casual nod to Shakespeare?

The man gets a lot of heat for his darkness, and what critics call nihilism. It’s easy to see why — a book about finding self-salvation through systematically ridding yourself of everything you thought mattered, well, that does sound nihilistic. But what I think people miss is that as horrifying as some of his stuff is, it’s also almost always hopeful.

Yes, I said hopeful.

In each of his novels, people are lost and haunted and surrounded by those who are at least as badly off. Yet there is always, always an effort to escape, to find a greater meaning. And while that escape rarely goes as planned, I believe he’s saying that escape is there. It’s possible. But no one will simply hand it to you. You have to fight for it, without distraction or surrender.

If you haven’t read anything by him, give him a shot. My personal favorite is INVISIBLE MONSTERS, but you can’t wrong. I’ll pretty much guarantee you that you will be not only entertained, but stimulated, and, odds on, changed.

And if you have read his stuff, drop me a comment, let me know what you think, what moved you most, or even if you hated it.


5 Comments so far
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Hell of a recommendation letter, Marcus. I’ll put him on the list.

Comment by JT Ellison

I chomp through Chuck’s books like a chocolate-frenzied chihuahua. I get all jittery with anticipation and then just start devouring, soon the whole tray is gone.
Hmmm… Maybe I have a problem.
Nonetheless, I’m a fan.

Comment by Darwyn Jones

I hear you, D. No way to slowly savor his stuff. It’s like a barrage of brilliance, one line after another. It’s not flawless or anything, but he’s got so much ambition, and such a powerful style, that it’s hard to pace yourself.

Comment by killeryear

He was the keynote speaker at the Willamette Writers Conference banquet last summer, and what struck me about him was the fact that he presents himself very differently from what you might expect from reading his books. He was charming and bright and funny, none of the darkness you describe from his novels. In his public persona I think you can detect the source of the hopefulness you also mention. Clearly from his life history he’s experienced some seriously weird stuff, and he re-invents that so amazingly in his work. But he also sees past the dark and the weird to light beyond. An amazing writer, and worth everyone’s attention.

Comment by Bill Cameron

I’m one of the very few who find him overrated. He tries too hard for me. While I think thematically he’s pretty brilliant, I’m not knocked out by his prose.

The examples above… I believe you can find just as powerful (and better written stuff) by many of today’s top scribes.

I agree INVISIBLE MONSTERS is his best work.

Comment by Guyot

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