Tulpesh Patel's Reviews > Pygmy

Pygmy by Chuck Palahniuk
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's review
Feb 14, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: literary-fiction
Read from February 14 to 16, 2010

In a sense this is very much what you would expect of a Chuck Palahniuk novel: inventive narration (more of which later), outlandish characterisation, gratuitous sex and violence and biting, if a little heavy handed, satire.

The story is told in the Pidgin English of a child terrorist agent from an unknown communist state, who has been dispatched to America to infiltrate an all American family and commit an act of terrorism designed to bring the country to it's knees.

First things first: the narrative. Using broken English allows Palahniuk to ignore any form of subtlety (which has never been too much of a concern for him anyway) and be nothing less than brutal in sending up Western consumerism and American culture. The language does take a while to get use to; the tone is a little uneven, and I found it took longer to read than most novels because I was constantly re-reading passages in order to make sense of them. I didn't mind this too much however as on the whole I thought it worked very well and was quite cleverly used.

However, revealing the story as a series of reports back to the homeland doesn't really work when we have to recap events the precede the visit to America in order to get some back story on the character - it was an unnecessary distraction from the story, and as I've written in other reviews of Palahniuk's books, just one idea too many.

It says a lot for the book it is the language rather than the story itself that has driven much of this review, which is shame a because I actually really enjoyed it. Pygmy makes for a pretty complex character despite the mechanised personality drummed into him, and there is a palpable sense of tension and Operation Havoc draws near. The trials and tribulations of the adoptive family make for great, if at times cartoonish, reading.

** Spoiler alert **

Some of the violence is just half a step away from being too far; the encounter between Pygmy and the clear-yellow bully makes for brutal reading, but then, through the eyes of Pygmy, the massacre in the gym takes on an almost comical tone.

** Spoiler ends **

The jacket describes the book as a comedy, which might be a bit of a stretch, although it did score a pretty high wry-smile count. An excellent take on Western imperialism and his finest book since Fight Club, but that's not the ringing endorsement it should be, given some of the uneven dross in between.
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02/14/2010 page 151

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message 1: by Marte (new)

Marte Patel Yeah, this doesn't sound like my kind of book!

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