Pygmy is one of those books you don't enjoy but on balance, when it's all over, are glad you read. It feels like a worthy literary experience rather t...morePygmy is one of those books you don't enjoy but on balance, when it's all over, are glad you read. It feels like a worthy literary experience rather than an intellectually or emotionally satisfying one. The weirdly constructed first person English in which the story is told is initially difficult to decipher, but then strangely hypnotic. It emerges as literally the language of propaganda; not just that into which the eponymous narrator had been indoctrinated in his unnamed, cartoon-totalitarian homeland, but that of the crass, hypocritical middle America in which he finds himself.
The cleverest thing about Pygmy is this use of language; the way it draws you into the mindset of the thoroughly brainwashed, hormonally charged teenage terrorist and then lets you watch from within as he both subverts and is subverted by his new, equally irrational and inhumane environment. It's unfortunate that the plot isn't equal to this narrative voice. In his quest to skewer the pop-psychology cliches of modern American life, Palahniuk piles them on so thick and fast that they blur into meaninglessness. Then he tops it off with an unsatisfying ending that feels as unlikely and contrived as all the cliches that went before. Maybe he was trying to make a point about the pervasiveness of banality, but it just feels like he lost his nerve.
I do think that this is a good read for writers. The technical achievements - and failings - are instructive. Palahniuk reminds us that there are many ways to tell a story. Like it or not, there's a lot to learn from the way he's told this one. (less)