The back cover blurb of Diary says that Chuck Palanuik(author of Fight Club) is a great nihilist. So, I’m wondering, will I come out of this novel wanting to top myself while blowing up a whole bunch of buildings at the same time? Let’s hope so.
Chuck’s work is a guilty pleasure, like driving past an accident on the freeway; knowing you shouldn’t look, but you can’t help but to search for a glimpse of human body in the wreckage; to know death and destruction as a spectator first, so that when it happens to you, you will at least have seen the preview.
Chuck is a great visualist. I also love his brevity of style, as he paints pictures and scenes so well, that sometimes you feel as if you’re reading a film script, and that’s why his books translate so well into films. (Someone please make a good film of Survivor!)
He’s also good at creating a really claustrophobic sense of events & circumstances tightening & intensifying as the madness of mundane life amps up into overdrive in all its fucked-upped glory.
A familiar theme for Chuck, he once again explores the dynamics of the ‘cult’, a pervading, controlling group consciousness vs. an individual trying to escape its choke-hold. Lines get blurred for the protagonist and gradually she stops thinking as an individual, and becomes trapped mentally, physically and spiritually.
But underlying this death & depravity and shockingly twisted amorality, there’s a core theme of something else that rises above all this, an eternal future of some kind, a promise underlying the chaos. The depravity, the profanity is itself an illusion. Lifting the curtain of all this nihilism, I glimpsed a deep spiritual optimism, or belief in something greater than the ego-self.
I found myself sympathizing with even the most sinister elements of Chuck’s imaginative landscape. The lines of bad/good/evil/righteous are wonderfully blurred, as in real life nothing is simple, cut & dried, black & white. If this be nihilism bring it on, life has always been more complicated than just the dance of dueling dualities. Good & evil become just two interchangeable words depending on your point of view.
Chuck’s brand of ‘nihilism’ is a good thing for the global consciousness; he’s a system-buster, a de-frocker of dearly-held illusions. Once you destroy your own illusions, deconstruct your belief-system (most of which probably was not really truly yours to start with) and crack open your limitations, therein lies true freedom. Nietzsche would have been proud.
Not that Chuck is my new guru. He doesn’t fully understand women: he treats his main character like shit through most of the book, and paints her a bit too stupid, too ugly and too willing participant to her own degradation (aren’t we over clichéd self-destructive women characters like that yet?? Or are we still obsessed with the woman-as-eternally-suffering figure? Does the patriarchy glorify the Suffering Woman so we can all aspire to be her? Boring.). He metaphorically crucifies her and thus she reminds me a lot of the myth of Persephone descending into the underworld to be hung on a butcher’s hook to rot. Only to be reborn again stronger and wiser than before.
Chuck skillfully weaves the supernatural, cult-consciousness and the sick depravity of humanity’s insane ability to feed upon its own to survive, into a gripping, horrifying tale wherein lies some kind of salvation. But of course I won’t tell you what that is, because you’ve got to find it for yourself.
Chuck ultimately finds the sacred in the most profane and that ain’t easy. Rock on Chuck.
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