Boxall's 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die discussion

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1001 Monthly Group Read > June {2008} Discussion -- CHOKE by Chuck Palahniuk

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Chloe (countessofblooms) | 140 comments I figure that more than a few of us have finished up with Choke already, so why not get the discussion started a little early? If I'm over-stepping some bounds, please let me know.

Anyway, what did you think? Am I wrong in thinking that Victor is one of the best antiheroes of the past decade?

Derrick (afderrick) | 92 comments I take it you like the book. I thought it was weird and thought for little while there it was going to take some crazy sci-fi twist towards the end. Are we allowed to share spoilers or do we need to warn people who may not have finished the book yet?

Kara I just wanted to say I'm so excited, because this is the first time I've actually had the book slated for discussion! I haven't finished the book, but I'm nearing the end. YAY!

Kecia | 45 comments I started Choke last the first 24 pages, and so far I am not impressed. I feel like I'm reading something written for an 18 year old boy. It reads like a rehash of Roth's Portnoy's Complaint, man obsessed with carnal pleasures because he had a mother who loved him .

Someone PLEASE let me know, does it get any better or just more of the same?

Derrick (afderrick) | 92 comments Ivy, I wasn't impressed by the first few pages either. It gets a little better, the ending starts to look really good but I was happily disappointed by it still. I was unimpressed at the beginning but am glad I read it in the end.

Denise | 235 comments I'm halfway through it and like it more than I thought I would. I'm having trouble staying awake to read, though. I ran into a little posion ivy and the antihistime I'm now taking is knocking me out.

Debbie Bizarre isn't the right word, but it's the first word that comes to mind.

I wasn't at all impressed with the beginning, but after a few chapters, I couldn't put the book down. I was quickly caught up in Victor's journey of self-discovery. No more airplane bathrooms for me, though...ugh.

Definitely not a selection for immature or easily offended readers. Gross, funny, and thought-provoking.

Chloe (countessofblooms) | 140 comments There's a bleak nihilism in Palahniuk's books that I fall head-over-heels in love with every time I read it. Debbie's right, his books are definitely not for the faint of heart, but if you can look past that at all a fantastic indictment of modern living comes about.

Derrick (afderrick) | 92 comments I'm new into reading (since being an avid reader as a kid and dropping the habit through my teen and college years). I wasn't expecting the language and some of the scenes (see: airplane) that were in the book. I have to say the beginning I was thinking, "why am I reading this?" but I too found that I didn't really want to put down the book especially towards the end.

message 10: by Kara (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kara It is kind of like watching a train wreck, isn't it? :)

I always like books that make me laugh out loud, and this one did in several places.

Does the discussion of this "officially" begin on the 15th? I want to know when it will be ok to post spoilers.

Derrick (afderrick) | 92 comments So have you finished it Kara?

message 12: by Kara (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kara Yes, I have finished it. I really did think it was like a train wreck. It was kinda gross in parts but I didn't want to look away! lol

I actually did like this book, but I know many people HATE it. I saw a little bit of myself in each character, which is really very scary. All of us, no matter who we are, are just trying to keep our heads above water, and despite their sex, drug and every other kind of addictions, I liked and admired Victor and Denny for their struggles.

Derrick (afderrick) | 92 comments It was interesting. I have been teetering since I finished it between two stars and three stars and if they had half stars I'd go with 2 1/2 (it's the easy choice, right?).

I can't wait anymore...

***spoiler alert***

So you would think that when Dr. Marshall was naked with him in the chapel he would have noticed she had a little bracelet thing on that all the patients had? I mean I know it's a book, but come on!

Denise | 235 comments I hadn't thought of that, Derrick. Had I been paying attention during that scene, it might have dispelled the suspicions I was beginning to have about her.

Logan, back at the start you mentioned Victor as the best anti-hero of the decade. He's a good one, I admit. But it made me wonder, what other anti-heroes of the decade are you thinking of? I can't think of any off the top of my head, but I suspect if someone else lists a few I might being saying "oh, yeah. of course."

About the book:
I think it was far too optimistic an ending (which I liked) to count as nihilistic.

Things I really liked: His job as an indentured Irishman, listening to his mother over the intercom, Denny, Denny and the whole rock thing, and other things I'm sure to think of later.

message 15: by mara (last edited Jun 15, 2008 01:52PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

mara | 220 comments Mod
(thank you Logan!) It's great to see the ball in play

This is my first Palahniuk and honestly I have to say I can't think of a book I have enjoyed this much in a long time

Kara your post made me think of the Ladies' Man (mmm yeth that'th dithcuthtin')

I did not see the end coming - I had no clue. Didn't it also seem that the reality started getting fuzzy. I mean, did they really built the castle? Or was that symbolic? I wasn't sure. Maybe I've got Fight Club on the brain. It was confusing but in a good way. I thought of Denny and Victor as different sides of the same person too, like Adaptation, where Denny is Victor's "Donald"

Derrick (afderrick) | 92 comments I laughed out loud in bed when Denny started placing all the rocks in the house and my wife asked me what was so funny and I had to read her that entire page (with a little background so she wasn't lost).

Maybe I will go put some rocks in the bed.

Michelle (fireweaver) | 104 comments just finished a couple of hours ago, so it's extra fresh...

re: beginning, yeah, it's not quite all *there* somehow, but having recently read 'fight club', i trusted this guy to make it all worth it rather quickly. the "you will not like me" bit all up front just called to mind the trailer for the johnny depp movie 'the libertine' from a few years ago, and i felt both those "go away" intros were jarring. it's too much a reminder that you're reading a book/watching a play (i.e., engaging in an act of fiction) as opposed to getting on into the story.

but then chapter 5 hit. had to read that one out loud to my bf (he's used to me being an odd duck), and that's the exact moment where everything came together, where that train roared out of the station on this strange strange ride. it's the one where he describes coming across the tarzan & chimp & chestnut porn in his youth. i'm going to go with that being the synopsis for this book, all the main themes rolled into one, and i was laughing my ass off while being mildly horrified. it amazes me how you can **totally** disagree with what CP has to say (example: savior-hood & taking chestnuts up one's rectum), and still be nodding your head sure, sure while victor's explaining how it's true *for him*.

i say only mildly horrified becuase i was laughing my ass off and *utterly* horrified for the alzheimer's-dementia-induced rape accusations in the nursing home. "yeah, sis, i just had to, you were one hot tamale."

re: nude dr.marshall...iirc, she just peeled her shirt & lab coat open, which would have left clothes dangling on her wrist, no continuity issue with her bracelet. and wow, i did NOT see that one coming (her actual identity), though it instantly smoothed out all the parts in the story i'd thought to be nonsensical: the half-baked brain injection treatment plan, the staff calling her by her first name, why she came on to victor so immediately...

i kept thinking denny was a somewhat useless character, there only to be a foil for victor, not really fleshed out on his own. but now that you mention it, mara, he's TOTALLY victor's "donald", and i think that's a spot-on analogy.

so yeah, overall, i loved it. the ending, wherein it gets too optimistic? redemptive? to fit the rest of the book's tone kinda crashed for me, but still really good.

message 18: by Kara (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kara Mara,

Sorry, I don't understand your reference to the Ladies' Man. Could you explain?

Derrick (afderrick) | 92 comments Michelle, thanks for clearing that up for me, I more thought her coat down on the floor not off the ends of her wrists.

Michelle (fireweaver) | 104 comments np Derrick, and i could just as easily be wrong, but that's how i read it: hastily yanking clothes open, rather than a total removal.

Kara, i'm thinking Mara's mentioning a movie about a rather promiscuous guy.

but speaking of wacky movies...i was discussing with my bf how i think i would have loved 'fight club', except that it was SO spot-on to the movie that it was ruined for me. the book reads like a cliff's notes version of the movie (up until the trainwreck ending, where it picks up a lot), they're so similar. i really wish i'd had the words first, i said. he pointed at 'choke' sitting on the table and said that i'd better read quick, then, since the movie is coming out soon. anyone seen the trailer yet?

Choke trailer on IMDB

Derrick (afderrick) | 92 comments I just watched the trailer and I have to say I am excited about it coming out (although I will probably wait until it hits DVD). It will be... interesting, but I looked at production stills of the castle thing they built, not at all how I pictured it.

message 22: by mara (new) - rated it 5 stars

mara | 220 comments Mod
Good comments upthread, by the way, Michelle. Did it say she peeled her clothes off. (Hmm, that should have been a clue to us that something wasn't right huh, haha). But if it does, that is some tight coat. I remember being confused and thinking it was his fantasy stepping in.

(You remember the SNL Ladies' Man! You know, Tim Meadows is the smooth radio talk show host with the lisp who takes sex calls? I always thought it was hilarious that he had obviously such a colorful and promiscuous past but everytime a caller gave a kinky story he'd inform the person that "yes, that's disgustin" - But that was completely off topci)

But, anyway Michelle, I also loved Victor's persona as taker-on of all sins in care-center. I just imagined him at some point laying a big smack on a patient's behind. So so funny

Lauren (lebishop13) | 10 comments Speaking of the taker on of all sins...all of my english teachers in high school are always pointing out the Christ figures in the books we read in class. When I read Choke, Victor just screamed Christ figure, which was interesting becasue he was definitely not the regular Christ figure type. Especially since he is definitely not perfect. First with the taker on of all sins. And the obvious conception thing. Plus, when his mother traces his outline, it reminds me of the cloth that had the imprint of his face on it. Just a thought...

Anyway this book was definitely interesting and not what I usually read. It was a little odd, but at the same time I couldn't put it down. I would definitely not recommend it to the easily offended, but I think that I would read it again. I will also plan to read more of his writing. Any specific recommendations for me?

Chloe (countessofblooms) | 140 comments Lauren, Fight Club is probably his most well known book, though it's not my favorite. I would recommend reading Survivor as a perfect follow-up to Choke.

message 25: by Annie (new)

Annie | 2 comments After seeing this discussion, it made me interested to read the book. I picked up a copy last weekend in the airport to check it out, and the back cover said, "Chuck Palahniuk is the visionary we need and the satirist we deserve." Although I haven't read any of Palahniuk's books, I'll admit to being a bit turned off by this description. It seems a bit over the top, to say the least. Any thoughts? Should I still read the book?

Derrick (afderrick) | 92 comments Annie, I'm easily offended (unfortunately) but I still enjoyed reading the book. It was a little dark, and the first chapter or so really turned me off the book but after I got over that it looked up for me. I'm glad I read it (gave it 3 stars) but wouldn't read it again and am not keeping my copy of it. I saw the same thing written on the back and am not sure why it's written, I don't see this book as visionary or over satirical (did I make up a word?). It's a quick read anyway, I plowed my way through it in about 3 days.

Denise | 235 comments Go for it, Annie. It is a quick read, but it still seems to be marinating in my brain. I actually was pretty captivated by the opening chapter, although I found it harrowing.

Choke is by no means a comedy, yet there are laugh-out-loud moments throughout. Satirical? That is one of the things I wanted to bring up in this discussion. Did anyone find it satirical? and in what ways?

Chloe (countessofblooms) | 140 comments I'm not sure that it's satirical, but that may be because, like irony, I lack a clear meaning of satire. However, I did think that it was a delightfully irreverent look at life and living in contemporary society. I think that Palahniuk takes themes that are prevalent in our everyday lives and takes them to their most ridiculous extremes, using these extremes to illustrate our own personal ridiculousness. Is that satire?

message 29: by mara (last edited Jun 19, 2008 04:32PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

mara | 220 comments Mod
I think satire is a bit meaner. It involves creating humor by shining an unflattering light on something respectable, like institutions.

But, I think the word ridiculous is a great fit. And good point about pushing toward extremes. He definitely takes that germ of human folly and absurdly exaggerates it. So then our own ridiculousness doesn't seem so bad, now that we can laugh at Victor and Denny, but then the laughing too makes our own folly seem not so bad

Leila (leilatre) | 44 comments I'm a little more than half-way through it and I'm not convinced I'll finish it. I appreciate the discussion here and it is making me think I should finish (in part because it is such a quick read, in part because people here seemed to like the second half better than the first). Also I don't consider myself a quitter. :)

Anyway, I'm not easily offended, but there really hasn't been much to draw me in so far. Just a fragmented story of a number of unlikeable (generally intentionally so) characters. I don't care enough about the relationships to worry about how they will resolve themselves, or not.

I liked the idea of the first chapter, but not necessarily the execution. And I've felt a similar reaction to many subsequent chapters. I think I wanted Palahnuik to be more like Vonnegut. Sigh.

Denise | 235 comments Leila, when it comes to books I don't like I am an unashamed quitter. Far better to have only wasted half as much time than I might otherwise have done.

That said, I find myself hoping you finish this one if only to hear what you think in the end. Did anything about it make you laugh out loud?

I find myself appreciating it more the farther away from it I am. Maybe the distance gives me time to forget the things I found annoying.

I actually found the characters quite likable, but not what you'd call admirable.

message 32: by Kecia (new) - rated it 1 star

Kecia | 45 comments Leila - I couldn't finish it either. In the past 3 or 4 years I've only not finished one other book...I almost always stick them out to the end. But I couldn't do it with Choke. I'm not easily offended, but I felt insulted reading Choke. Even reading this discussion here has not made me want to finish it.

I'm looking forward to BBE next month.

Michelle (fireweaver) | 104 comments funny, somehow i'm going to keep dragging all these books back to their film links...

part of the reason i was so eager to get into 'choke' was the love i have for the movie version of 'fight club', and the resulting disappointment i had with the book (blasphemy for sure, but i almost want to say the movie does it better!). i wanted my next experience with CP to be with his prose and not the visual interpretation thereof. and this book did not disappoint. neither one, i'd say, is "mainstream" at all - it's not the quiet drama of ordinary people, nor the heroism of extraordinary ones. just harsh, gritty, unpleasant little weasels and the black comedy that makes up their lives. i couldn't hack reading this stuff on a daily basis, but as an every so often sort of thing, i loved it.

which brings us to BBE, Ivy. my local library doesn't have next month's book, and i've requested it on inter-library loan from the next county over, specifically because i so fantastically hated the movie version of 'american psycho'. i'm willing to give *his* prose one chance, too, but not to spend money on it.

message 34: by Mari (new)

Mari | 6 comments I really enjoyed Choke and passed it on to my sister who just finished medical school. I thought the character was in some ways very typically filled with post modern angst and the self help groups make another appearence again. However, the relationship with the mom and the son is frightening like my ex boyfriend and his mom.

Derrick (afderrick) | 92 comments Denise, I find the same thing that you do, the further away from Choke I get, the more books that are between me and it the more I appreciate it and like it. The more I find it less insulting and almost want to read it a second time. Scarey.

Chloe (countessofblooms) | 140 comments This is one of the 1001 books that I wish I knew the compiler's rationale for putting on the list. It's a great book and I loved seeing a Palahniuk on the list, but what made them choose this book in particular over his other (better) books like Invisible Monsters and Survivor? Does anyone have the actual 1001 book so they could let me know?

message 37: by mara (new) - rated it 5 stars

mara | 220 comments Mod
What makes those better Logan? (I haven't read them, but I'm toying with the idea of locking myself away and going on a serious Palahniuk binge. It will take strength to allow the house to get that messy and a lot of ben and jerry's but I think it will be worth it.)

message 38: by Chloe (last edited Jul 01, 2008 07:29PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Chloe (countessofblooms) | 140 comments Mara, I personally related better to the characters in the aforementioned books. I thought the writing was stronger as well. Choke never really made me react the way other of Palahniuk's books did. I think that if I had to rank my favorites they would go, in descending order:

Survivor, Rant, Fight Club, Invisible Monsters, Choke, Haunted, Lullaby and Diary.

I haven't read his most recent, Snuff, yet. A Palahniuk binge would most certainly be worth it. I like to mix him in with other authors just as twisted, such as Bret Easton Ellis and Irvine Welsh. It keeps the freakiness fresh.

Tamela | 2 comments I cheated and listened to the author read (I was on a road trip) I'm not sure if I would have finished it otherwise. But it is definitely one that will stay with you for awhile. I will also give some of his other work a try, thanks for ranking list, Logan. Like Leila I saw a connection to Vonnegut. What's my purpose in life?

My review:

For lack of a better word, this book is, rauchy...but funny in a sick way. See: problems with your pschyo mother, useage of naughty words, sex addict and lost fathers. See Also: Almost Moon, Kirk Vonnegut, and Schlink's Homecoming.
Read by the author in monotone, it brings the characters to life. That's really scary. But, like the characters, I'm addicted and can't stop listening. I just can't stop.

Leila (leilatre) | 44 comments I did finish it. There were parts in the last third of the book that I enjoyed. Mainly those involving Denny. I guess to me it feels like Palahnuik tries too hard to be shocking. Shocking for shocking's sake doesn't do much for me. But I'm glad I finished it. And I'm ready for something new...

message 41: by mara (new) - rated it 5 stars

mara | 220 comments Mod
I just picked up Invisible Monsters (which I noticed is better than Choke on Logan's list). So far so good, but the narrator's voice sounds exactly like the one in Choke, so I'm having some trouble adjusting to the idea that this is a new character and having a really hard time believing it's a woman. I keep hearing Victor but seeing a female model.

message 42: by Bishop (new)

Bishop (a_bishop) | 72 comments Mara...just wait. As soon as you think you have it all figured out, you'll realize that you don't.

It's a fun one.

As a side note, most of Palahniuk's narrators seem to have the same "voice."

message 43: by mara (new) - rated it 5 stars

mara | 220 comments Mod
Oh love surprises!

message 44: by Anna (new) - rated it 2 stars

Anna | 5 comments Choke was a little over the top for me. Of course, I compared it to Fight Club which is a phenomenal book & movie. But I was just struggling to finish it. I eventually did finish, but I did not feel like I enjoyed the book too much. So it will sit on my shelf, and probably never get read again, sorry to say.

Denise | 235 comments No LOL moments for you, Anna?

Charity (charityross) Well, I finished the book today and I'm still letting it settle a bit.

After watching the trailer, I have to say that I'm more than a little shocked by the casting. I thought Victor was supposed to be like 25-years-old?...and Denny was supposed to be small and thin?...and I definitely pictured Paige to be more of a Jennifer Connelly type. All that being said, I'm VERY curious how this book is going to transfer to film without becoming...well, ya


I guess I found the last chapter to be a bit odd (and perhaps even unnecessary??). Going with the whole sex-theme of the book...the ending was like he ejaculated and then wanted a little cuddle session for the last chapter.

As for the above posts talking about the lab coat...I never really saw any problems there. The way it was described, I pictured her opening the lab coat, dropping it from her shoulders, and catching it around her elbows, so the back of the lab coat would stretch the width of the middle of her back. If that is the case, the sleeves of her coat would still cover her arms and wrists. I may have read it wrong, but that's how I pictured it.

This book definitely had some laugh-out-loud moments for me. See: Cherry Daiquiri. See: prosti-tots.

I still have to let the whole think sink in before I review it. For serious, I liked it. (And for serious, that phrase got on my nerves.)

message 47: by Anna (new) - rated it 2 stars

Anna | 5 comments Not big enough ones to make a lasting impression on me obviously if I can't remember them lol. :)

Derrick (afderrick) | 92 comments I enjoyed the book but I'm with you Anna, I actually just swapped the book at so I can get a new hopefully "better" book in the near future. Charity, I complete agree with you about the movie casting and how they aren't going to make it into a porno. I told my wife I wanted to see it (I like watching the movies after reading the books) and she said she may not let me after what I told her about the book.

Charity (charityross) Yeah, Derrick. I just don't know how they are going to omit scenes without changing the overall story...and there are A LOT of scenes.

Michelle (fireweaver) | 104 comments yep, that was one of my first thoughts about that trailer, too: i mean, that right-out-of-the-gate crazy porn scene to open the book, where he's carrying on with his fellow sex-addicts group member in the bathroom? you can't really cheat it by alluding to what's going on with them by simply hearing some moans on the other side of the seen bathroom door. it is, after all, a story about a **sex addict**, which is pretty integral to the character and the narrative.

Charity, i'm with you on the ending. like i said up-thread, the cuddly ending just doesn't fit with the grit of the rest of the book for me.

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