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  • Jeff Somers 6:00 pm on 2018/08/16 Permalink
    Tags: , Breaking the first rule, , diary, , , , , survivor   

    Chuck Palahniuk’s Novels, Ranked 

    Chuck Palahniuk is a difficult writer to discuss; even among his fans, there’s great disagreement about which of his books are classics and which are less essential.

    A writer in possession of a unique and distinct style, a man unafraid of diving down some pretty dark rabbit holes (there have been reports of fainting spells at his live readings), Palahniuk can be a an acquired taste; often your opinion of his works depends on where you start reading them. Here, then is our own assessment of all of his books, starting with the must-reads and proceeding from there.

    Fight Club
    Some contrarians will downgrade Fight Club simply because it’s the most famous and most accessible book he’s written, thanks largely to the accomplished film adaptation. If you set aside its pop culture cachet (and the indelible image of Brad Pitt’s abs) and look at it simply as a novel full of ideas, it’s easily Palahniuk’s cleanest, sharpest, and most compelling. The idea of disaffected young men forming underground fight clubs to scream out their repressed rage remains perfectly plausible, and the trick the author pulls off with his unreliable narrator is one of his most successful twists. The end result is a book that’s as tight and near-perfect as … well, Brad Pitt’s abs.

    Tender Branson is the last surviving member of the Creedish Death Cult; Creedists went out into the world and performed domestic tasks for people for free, dedicating their lives to service. When the cult’s compound is raided by the authorities, the cultists commit mass suicide—and for years afterwards, the remaining cultists will periodically reveal themselves and commit suicide to join their predecessors. Eventually, Tender is the last remaining Creedist, and he becomes an absurd celebrity as a result—until it’s revealed that the Creedist suicides might not have been suicides at all. Branson dictates his story into the black box of a crashing 747, as Palahniuk delivers another novel with an absurd but compelling high concept, the pages counting down to disaster.

    The simplicity of this one makes it stand out. A reporter investigating SIDS discovers the existence of a short poem that instantly kills anyone who hears it—or who even has the lines thought at them. The reporter sets off to destroy every copy of the deadly verse, but finds resisting the urge to use its power to kill those who threaten or perhaps simply irritate him nearly impossible, the words pouring out of him before he even knows what he’s doing. If you pause to think about all the people you would have killed today for breaking rules of polite society, it quickly becomes clear how terrifying this idea is—especially because it’s not some distant serial killer doing the evil deeds, but the narrator, making for uncomfortably compelling reading.

    Make Something Up
    Palahniuk is just as good at short fiction as he is at long reads; He works best with a sharp focus, and that’s what short form writing gives him. With stories that delve into squicky areas like child sexuality, teenagers abusing technology to shock themselves into stupors, and the concept of “gay conversion therapy,” Palahniuk explores a strange shared universe where terrible things happen as a matter of course, and where everyone seems to be an expert in something.

    As if recognizing his skill with shorter narratives, Palahniuk pulls off something a lot of novelists have tried at with varying degrees of success—the novel as a collection (or vice versa). A group of aspiring writers take part in a hybrid retreat and reality program, locking themselves in an abandoned theater for three months to write without interruption or distraction. With food supplies limited, one by one the participants decide to make their survival story more compelling by sabotaging things in small ways—ways that slowly combine to turn the experiment into a nightmare. Alternating between the overarching plot and the short stories being written by each participant—including the notorious, faint-inducing “Guts”—Palahniuk’s control of so many distinct voices is breathtaking.

    Invisible Monsters
    While both versions of the author’s debut novel are very good, we’d recommend the slightly rejiggered “remix” edition, as it’s the one Palahniuk wants you to read. Challenging, non-linear, and filled with the sort of gonzo twists that shouldn’t work, this is one book that gets a different reaction from everyone. The story of an attention-obsessed former model obsessed who suffers a disfiguring accident that renders her so ugly she becomes invisible to people—because they don’t like looking at her—it is chaotic and gruesome, but its themes of social invisibility and reinvention are some of the strongest Palahniuk has ever dealt with.

    Med school dropout Victor is one of Palahniuk’s least likable and least sympathetic characters, which makes this a book some folks—even Palahniuk’s fans—avoid. But Victor’s pathetic and horrific existence—one part awful job role-playing at a fake historical village, one part awful con jobs pretending to choke in exchange for free meals, one part trolling sex addiction meetings, and one part his trials with his dying, abusive, senile mother—is given a dream of hope when he thinks he might have found evidence there is good in him despite the dinginess of his life. The story meanders a bit, which is why we put it a bit lower in the top 10, but the prose sings, as Victor emerges as a truly original and unforgettable character trapped in a hell of his own devising—an escapist fantasy world he doesn’t realize is worse than his grim reality.

    Bait: Off-Color Stories for You to Color
    Leave it to Palahniuk to subvert the adult coloring book craze the world experienced a few years ago, but here’s the thing—this isn’t a joke. Palahniuk not only takes great care with the coloring book aspect, offering sincere guides to using watercolors and other tips to make your creative efforts as successful as possible, he also offers up some absolutely terrific short stories to go along with the descriptions. This would be a fine collection even without the extracurricular coloring. With the coloring, it’s a phenomenal effort.

    The premise is either going to hook you or horrify you: a pornographic actress at the tail end of her career decides to guarantee her legacy by breaking the record for most sex acts in a single film. With 600 men waiting their turn, the narration whips between a small number of them with stories to tell, as well as the female producer coordinating everyone’s efforts. Secrets are revealed, agendas are pursued, and Palahniuk examines the strange culture and trivia of the adult film industry with his usual relish. The ending is either brilliant or a bit much—we fall on the brilliant side, which is why it’s in the top 10.

    Adjustment Day
    Palahniuk’s newest is a return to form in some ways—not in the sense of overall quality, but in the jittery, pitch black energy that raged in some of his earlier works. This story of an online revolution that brutally transforms society in ways both unexpected and violent, it has the sharp-edged observation of the writer’s best, combined with a cynical view of human nature (the societies that are born from the explosion of class resentment are horrifyingly comical). Palahniuk gloriously explores the boiling frustration of those at the fringes of society being turned against the 1 percent, and the results are exceedingly gripping, even if some of his funny ideas undermine the tension a bit.

    Palahniuk’s eighth novel doesn’t get as much attention as some of his other works, which is unfortunate, because it’s a beautifully-flawed look at religion, and how stories get twisted in the retelling. Buster Casey lives in an alternate future where the world has been divided into two curfewed groups—Daytimers and Nighttimers. Buster was one of the worst serial killers of all time, and Palahniuk constructs a faux oral history of the man’s disturbed and disturbing life as he rose from sick kid to mass murderer, wherein Buster evolves into an almost godlike figure, his every move legendary, his every crime somehow more than just a bloody expression of mental illness. It’s a deft trick of a novel undermined somewhat by the unnecessary alternate universe aspect; set in a more realistic world, it would be even more powerful.

    Legacy: An Off-Color Novella for You to Color
    Palahniuk’s second stab at an adult coloring book isn’t quite as strong as Bait, in part because it’s a single, novella-length story instead of a collection of shorter works. The story is good: an amoral, bored investment banker named Vincent is informed he’s been left an inheritance that includes, apparently, immortality. Vincent is determined to claim his legacy and live forever, but a group of weird people descend on him seeking to claim eternal life for their own. While interesting and complemented well by the coloring pages, the story lacks the bite you expect from Palahniuk.

    Your mileage will vary with Damned, the story of a 13-year old girl named Madison who commits suicide and finds herself in Hell, described as a relentlessly banal space. Madison, whose famous parents ignored her, is put to work doing things like making telemarketing calls during dinnertime, and finds the afterlife to be like being trapped in an awful mall forever. That’s the point Palahniuk is making, of course—evil is banal—but it results in a curiously toothless story, only great in flashes.

    Stranger Than Fiction
    The essays collected here are a mix of magazine assignments and previously unpublished work. What they prove is that Palahniuk is a great writer, and that his main source of inspiration for his often vitriolic view of the world is the world itself—in short, these 100 percent true stories often read just like his fiction, including the bizarre, the upsetting, and the queasily unexpected. The only reason it’s this low on our list is the fact that some of the subjects just aren’t as interesting as his fiction. Still, there’s plenty to love here—if nothing else, Palahniuk’s prose is effortlessly funny, and he finds nuggets of the fascinating even in the most banal subjects.

    This novel is an outlier in the Palahniuk oeuvre; while some rank it pretty high, we simply can’t go to there. A hackneyed painter suffers from various mystery illnesses unless she’s painting, and everyone encourages her to work more and more, believing her paintings will save the island she lives on. Her contractor husband lies in a coma, and the rooms he remodeled on the mainland start to disappear. Reality distorts and shifts, but Palahniuk is a little out of his usual element, and it shows; the novel starts off strong, with an eerie atmosphere and effortless sense of dread, but the closer the story gets to revealing its secrets, the more ridiculous it all seems.

    Fugitives and Refugees
    Is it fun to read a travel book about Portland, Oregon penned by Palahniuk? Heck yes it is. Does he make Portland sound deliriously interesting and even a little foreboding and edgy? Sure. There’s nothing wrong with the charming enthusiasm Palahniuk brings to the subject of his hometown, nor the deployment of his trademark passion for exhaustive and interesting detail . It’s a must-read if you’re heading to Portland. The problem is, what if you’re not heading to Portland?

    Credit where it’s due: Palahniuk is challenging himself with this one. The premise is solid—a group of children are trained to infiltrate the United States as foreign exchange students so they can execute an act of grand terrorism. The problem is the constrained style, a strangled grammar reflecting the narrator’s worldview that renders even simple sentences difficult to parse. Books shouldn’t be downgraded just because they’re difficult reads, and if you’re a Palahniuk super-fan there’s a darkly funny story and character here to savor—but for less die-hard readers, it feels like a missed opportunity.

    Palahniuk tackles Hollywood with a story told by Hazie Coogan, who cares for a washed-up actress and becomes concerned when a young man seduces her charge—and has already written a memoir about which ends with the actress’ death. Written in the style of old gossip columns and using many of the structures and tropes of old scripts, there’s a lot to like about the narrative and the central character, and Palahniuk never fails to entertain and disturb, often simultaneously. But the plot is a little slight compared to his better works, and while the name-dropping is fascinatingly perverse (you’ll need to Google a lot of people who appear for only a sentence or two) it’s not the most memorable thing he has written.

    Fight Club 2
    Returning to a seminal literary achievement was always going to be a dangerous move, and we sort of wish Palahniuk hadn’t made it, even in the guise of a graphic novel. Set a decade after Tyler Durden was vanquished and kept at bay by pharmaceuticals and therapy, the unnamed narrator of the original—now named Sebastian, in one of many disappointing revelations—can’t satisfy his wife sexually because of the drugs, so she secretly cuts his dose, allowing Tyler to reemerge. Excited yet? By the time Palahniuk appears as himself toward the end to discuss how the story isn’t working, you’ll either see it as genius or desperation.

    Who, exactly, was demanding a sequel to Damned remains a mystery, but teenage snark-machine Madison is back, this time as a ghost banished to purgatory (the big joke is that Earth itself is purgatory), where she haunts her own life and slowly begins to understand that her existence has been shaped and guided by something sinister since the very beginning. Madison winds up shifting the balance of power between heaven and hell, but this one never seems to get off the ground. (There was supposed to be a third installment to the trilogy, but perhaps even in Hell, cooler heads prevailed.)

    Beautiful You
    This novel should work gangbusters: an average girl named Penny finds herself in bed with the world’s greatest lover, a billionaire tech mogul who is working on a new line of pleasure products—which Penny dutifully tests, risking her life as mind-erasing orgasms and sexual comas become common. Penny meets some of his former lovers—all of whom were dumped on day 136 of their affair. The same fate greets Penny on the same day the new line of “personal care” products in released, and men become instantly obsolete as women retreat to their bedrooms for the aforementioned sex comas, etc. There’s a subtlety to this one that is affecting; the problem is, the premise screams out for a good, old-fashioned Palahniuk-ing, leaving us unsatisfied.

    What’s your favorite Chuck Palahniuk novel?

    The post Chuck Palahniuk’s Novels, Ranked appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • - Daily MedNews 4:08 pm on 2018/08/16 Permalink  

    New Blood Test Spots Parasitic Infection in Pregnant Women 

    THURSDAY, Aug. 16, 2018 -- A low-cost blood test can identify pregnant women with the parasitic infection toxoplasmosis, researchers report. People typically acquire the Toxoplasma gondii parasite by eating undercooked contaminated meat or through...
  • - Daily MedNews 4:00 pm on 2018/08/16 Permalink  

    FDA Approves 1st Generic EpiPen 

    THURSDAY, Aug. 16, 2018 -- The first generic version of the EpiPen was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday, paving the way for more affordable versions of the lifesaving allergy emergency medication. Though other injectors...
  • - Daily MedNews 2:00 pm on 2018/08/16 Permalink  

    Blood Test in Early Pregnancy May Predict Mom’s Diabetes Risk 

    THURSDAY, Aug. 16, 2018 -- A blood test seems to detect signs of gestational diabetes as early as the 10th week of pregnancy, a new U.S. government study says. Gestational diabetes occurs only in pregnancy and can pose a serious health threat to...
  • BN Editors 2:00 pm on 2018/08/16 Permalink
    Tags: abbi glines, courtney cole, girl wash your face, , his true queen, , , losing the field, rachel hollis, , saving beck, that guy   

    From Here to You Author Jamie McGuire Shares 5 Favorite Romance Picks 

    What’s not to like about romance novels? They’re entertaining and relatable. Everyone wants to feel loved and accepted. I adore this genre so much because readers get to experience all kinds of different relationships and types of love. When it comes to my own reading, I tend to dabble in a lot of different kinds of books—non-fiction stories about entrepreneurs, self-help books, and sci-fi fantasy—but I always return to romance.

    Here are a few of the titles that I’ve been enjoying recently:

    Losing the Field, by Abbi Glines
    Football, teenage angst, strong friendships and sweet young love. Everything that makes a perfect YA romance!

    Saving Beck, by Courtney Cole
    Courtney has written the kind of story that makes you stop and think. It’s heartbreakingly realistic, and one you’ll feel deep in your soul.

    That Guy, by Kim Jones
    HILARIOUS! You’ll find yourself saying “no way” throughout the book, but hysterically laughing the entire time.

    His True Queen, by Jodi Ellen Malpas
    British Royalty and American Hollywood actor? LOVE! I’m still not over the royal wedding, and this series made me feel like I was reading a story straight out of the headlines!

    Girl, Wash Your Face, by Rachel Hollis
    You caught me. I know this isn’t a romance novel, but a good romance starts with loving yourself first, right? Rachel gets raw and real about all the things women struggle with and gives her best advice on how to overcome those challenges. Lots of laugh out loud moments and girl chat that will make you feel like you just made a new best friend. Rachel is the best kind of human!

    From Here to You is on B&N bookshelves on August 21.

    The post <i>From Here to You</i> Author Jamie McGuire Shares 5 Favorite Romance Picks appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

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