May 28, 08
Palahniuk fans/lovers of bizarre stories/readers with a strong stomach
Read in May, 2008
** spoiler alert **
SECOND REVIEW: My first review of the book was pretty quick and more of an opinion, partially because I think I was new to the book blogging world and partially because I felt that even though I'd gotten the story, I hadn't really been able to focus on the nuances as I'd read it on audio book.
This time around, I decided to read it from the page and it was just as good if not better. Palahniuk paints a bizarre and haunting story of a group of people, all who are running from something in their lives, who answer the ad for a three month writers retreat. The retreat promises the chance to write a bestseller with no disturbance from the outside world.
"No disturbance" means no contact, and the characters embrace the strangeness of the situation by bringing their own violent and izarre tendencies to the table. Caught up in both their own drama and the several individual ones from each character (as told through both poetry and prose of sorts), the entrapment becomes a painful challenge to see how horrible they can make their story. By cutting off body parts, starving themselves, and performing all forms of torture on themselves and each other, they work to ensure that their story is at its most tragic, each one trying to become the most tortured of them all for the fame that pain will bring them.
At first glance, the book seems to be a way for the author to attempt to disgust his reader. All stories, including the main one, include elements of the grotesque, taboo, and uncomfortable: molestation, cannibalism, disfigurement, murder, miscarriage/abortion, sexual deviance, and general torture (e.g. one character has to chew through his own intestine, which is possibly the grossest thing I've ever read).
But the story goes beyond that and upon really reading it, you can catch the author's nuances. The characters are given fake names to match the persona they bring to the group. Names like "Comrade Snarky", "Sir GutFree," "Miss America", and "Baroness Frostbite" give a weird whimsy to a dark story, but beyond that, it also shows the characters not as individuals but as a product of their experiences. The torture they put themselves through is dark, yet justified, as much of what they are escaping holds a torture of its own.
The novel is multi layered, which lends the reader to discover new things each time, to allow the mind to make connections and see patterns. The story of the group gives way to the story of their captor which gives way to the story of the nurse. And peppered among these are the stories of the characters.
I wouldn't say this book is for everyone because it's anything but a "feel good" book and it is very disturbing and sometimes nauseating. But for anyone who likes their limits pushed and who isn't afraid to read the things that most people refuse to give thought too, this is great read!
FIRST REVIEW: I noticed that this book didn't get very high remarks, but I have to say I absolutely loved it. I listened to it on audio book during a couple road trips and my commute to work and could seriously listen to it again (though I'd prefer to have the actual book).
I enjoy the way Palahniuk writes. Yes, he pushes the envelope and does the "gross out" thing in quite a few of the short stories, but it's the old train wreck story...I couldn't help but want to hear more. Some of the stories are actually just creepy, and the overall weirdness made me do a double take.
If someone has a copy of the book they want to get rid of, I'll definitely take it off their hands. I loved this book!