Monday, November 3, 2008
Book Review: Chuck Palhniuk's Choke
To say Chuck Palahniuk is a controversial writer, is on par with saying that the Kansas City Royals are a shitty baseball team. Since Fight Club, Palahniuk has crafted his black humour and ruthless voice to deconstruct the insanity of modern times. In Choke, he spins a tale about love, the war between mothers and sons and the horror we can expect with the inevitability of aging.
The story revolves around Victor Mancini, who as a medical school dropout relies on a plan to scam people by pretending to choke in upscale restaurants. His hope is that the person who 'saves' him will feel responsible for him for the rest of his life and thus offer financial support. Mancini needs the cash to pay for his mother's elder care, as she has Alzheimer's and is on her death bed. Her condition causes his mother to hint that Victor may in fact have been the product of divine intervention and it is this plot that drives the core of the novel. Along the way, Palahniuk investigates the tug of war battle between desire and morality through Mancini's sex addiction (Now, I wonder if Mr. Duchovny was an inspiration) and how hard it is for us to stray from temptation.
Much of the humour that is often laced in a Palahniuk novel is found within the exploration of Mancini's and his 'best buddy' Denny's working days at Colonial Dunsboro. A Colonial camp which reflects life as it were in the year 1734. One of my favourite passages in the novel comes when Victor responds to the tourists snapping pictures of him at the camp when he thinks to himself,"People are snapping pictures, trying to take some part of you home as a souvenir. People point video cameras, trying to trap you into their vacation. They're all shooting you, shooting the crippled chickens. Everybody's trying to make every minute of the present last forever. Observe every second." If you have any doubt that we have become a society obsessed with capturing time, I urge you to go creep some facebook and marvel at how many 'souvenir' pictures you can find within seconds.
Now, I have to admit that I was drawn to read this novel because I had read that it was to be adapted into a film. And knowing the speed at which current releases hit the Mexican cinema, I knew I had enough time to finish the novel before it was released here and so is the case. Overall, I found the novel an interesting read and as usual Palahniuk is on point with his dark social commentary and concern that we as a society have sunk to an overwhelming existential crisis. I did find the ending weak and I am curious as to how the film will adapt the story.
Now in case you want to check out this novel, I thought I should include this great opening passage that really grabbed my interest. It really echoes the beginning of The Catcher in the Rye, which may well be the reason I enjoyed it so much, but anyway, here it is:
If you're going to read this, don't bother.
After a couple of pages, you won't want to be here.
So forget it. Go away. Get out while you're still in one piece.
There has to be something better on television. Or since you have so much time on your hands, maybe you could take a night course. Become a doctor. You could make something out of yourself. Treat yourself to a dinner out. Color your hair.
You're not getting any younger.
Below, is the trailer for Choke, which I believe unless you are living in Mexico, has already graced the silver screen. Enjoy.