Jeremy's Reviews > Pygmy

Pygmy by Chuck Palahniuk
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May 20, 2009

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Read in May, 2009

Let my biases ring clear: I typically love Chuck Palahniuk. No single author has influenced my love of reading and writing more than Chuck has over his career.

"Pygmy", as the book jacket says, is a romance and a comedy (satire would be closer to the truth). It is by far the most obviously humorous of his books (the running joke about Colonel Sanders made me chuckle several times). It's at once a biting send-up of American values (the observations about public education were absolutely priceless) as well as a well-balanced satire of totalitarian socialist states. In the end we find out that Americans are not so much actively evil as just dumb and unaware. It's an interesting conceit to see the world through the eyes of a narrator you initially loathe but then come to understand and even pity. That alone completely reversed my early condemnation of the book as trite, unimaginative drivel. In Chuck's hands this book works and I don't think anyone else could do it so well.

That being said, I saw the ending coming a mile away. But I don't see how I couldn't have.

Pygmy isn't the best thing he's written or the worst. I feel like he made similar points that resonated with me much more in Fight Club and Survivor. And after the early promise of Choke, Lullaby and Diary it seems he's drifted into a strange period (even by Palahniuk standards) and I'm not sure it's totally for the best. For example, I have very little desire to read "Snuff", though I probably will just because it's Chuck.

I guess there's a reason you don't review books based on the first thirty pages. Probably not the book to pick up if you've never read Chuck before. It's difficult to build momentum, given the broken English of the narrator. As usual, Chuck puts in an early shock and, as per my early thoughts on the book (below) it comes off as sort of hackish and attention-seeking. If you give up after thirty pages you'll probably feel about the same as I did at first, but press on and you might be surprised at how much the book redeems itself and its narrator.

These are some initial thoughts on the book: So far this resembles something a talented high school student might turn in for a creative writing assignment simply to freak out the instructor.

More initial thoughts: Less than twenty pages in and there's already been blood, crap and semen as well as an anal rape. The gross-outs are starting to wear thin and even become, gasp, predictable in his hands. It's like he's trying oh so hard to offend me, again like a teenager.

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