Choke – review

I finished my first Chuck Palahniuk novel a month or so back. It was on LC‘s advice that I picked it up initially after he was surprised to learn that Palahnuik wasn’t on my ‘list’. So I bought the first novel I saw of his because I had no preconceptions about what would be good and what would be bad. As it turned out, Choke was an excellent first read.

Choke is a novel about sexual addiction, although only about half of the book focused on that. The remainder of the book was about Victor’s – the protagonist’s – elderly (and devious) mother, and his best friend, Denny, who was also a sex addict. The three of them, and the many characters they met (and shagged, generally) along way were a sorry bunch all told, but it made for great reading. It became rather more a novel about lonely and lost souls than about addictions to sex.

By my guess, Palahniuk’s main art is in the creation of despicable characters for whom we can’t help but develop an affection. I base this suggestion on Victor, mainly, but also on his manipulative mother. They’re both vile in many ways but I found myself really growing to like them. Fight Club’s Tyler Durden also comes to mind, but as I’ve only ever seen the film, I’m not sure how closely the film character was to the Durden of the novel. Here are three characters, however, who most of us would avoid in real life, but who absorb us in the written form. We don’t like them, probably, but we do sort of love them. In fact, I’ve often wondered had Durden been played by someone much less pretty than Brad Pitt, if this trait would have been more obvious. Marla Singer – there’s another one.

In any case, I want more Palahniuk now – he’s a very talented man. Suggestions are welcome.

8 responses to “Choke – review

  1. I recently read his latest, Rant, which is excellent, and follows a lot of his common themes of anti-heroes living lives completely detached from the mainstream.

    Fight Club is, well, Fight Club. The problem for me was that I liked the film so much that it rendered the book pretty much redundant, because the movie had already made such an impact on me. Nevertheless, it probably counts as essential reading.

    Haunted is an interesting collection of short horror stories which avoid invoking the supernatural and aim to freak you out with grotesque events arising from plausible, real-life situations.

    Lullaby was readable and fun, but didn’t feel as edgy as his other stuff.

    Not being a learned literary type, I’d really welcome some suggestions for similar authors who I might like.

  2. Thanks for the tips, LC. I think Lullaby sounds like it should be my next one. And then maybe Haunted.

    Re. other authors: if you’re a fan of Palahniuk, you’ll love Bukowski but I think you mentioned before that you read him. Others on my list, although I’m not sure if they’re all similar to Palahniuk, are David Sedaris, Don DeLillo, Kurt Vonnegut, Martin Amis, Nicholson Baker, Paul Auster, and Vladimir Nabokov. Will Self too, probably.

  3. Lullaby is excellent, though it creeped me out completely. So much so that I had to put it down after the first few pages and leave it a while. Survivor is also top-notch, looking at cults and celebrity, and again loneliness in its way. I did love Choke though, it’s probably my favourite of his. Invisible Monsters is pretty good, again with the hateful characters and deceptions you end up taken in by.

  4. I think you could be surprised, Lism. The two people in real life I’ve spoken to about Palahniuk didn’t know that he wrote Fight Club. In fact, they didn’t even know it was a book before a film.

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