AICN BOOKS: Moriarty Rants About Chuck Palahniuk’s New Novel RANT!
Has it really been eleven years since Chuck Palahniuk first fired FIGHT CLUB into the brain pan of popular consciousness? In the years since, he’s become one of the most interesting and reliably outré authors working, and even if I haven’t loved every one of his books, I find him to be consistently engaging, and I’m always hoping that he’ll write another stunner, something else that will knock me on my ass.
And with RANT: AN ORAL HISTORY OF BUSTER CASEY, he’s done exactly that.
When I first started the book, I was afraid I was reading a thinly-disguised reworking of FIGHT CLUB, and that Rant Casey was simply Tyler Durden with a different name. But by the time I set the book down after reading that last page, all thoughts of FIGHT CLUB had been wiped away. Yes, Rant Casey is a charismatic figure at the center of an underground movement, but what that movement is, what Rant stands for, and how the book unfolds... totally different. This is closer to something like the movie PRIMER than it is to any of Palahniuk has written so far, a brain-bender that works on a whole lot of levels, and shot through with a profound sadness.
The decision to write the novel as an “oral history” isn’t particularly new. Max Brooks mined the same technique to spectacular effect last year with WORLD WAR Z, for example. But what the technique does here is it addresses the way different people can view the same situation and walk away with radically different perspectives. In this case, the entire book is told from the points-of-view of people who knew Rant Casey, each of them having known a slightly different person. The book grapples with the contradictions of who he was and what he may or may not have done during his lifetime. There are people who loved him, people who hated him, who admired him or feared him or even idolized him. His father, his girlfriend, his friends, his followers, his victims... they all have their turn. The only voice missing from the book is that of Rant Casey himself.
Maybe. Sort of.
Was Rant Casey a serial killer? Was he “patient zero” in a nationwide outbreak of superrabies? Was he part of an underground culture called Party Crashing, made up of people who take part in car crashes for fun and excitement? Or was he none of those things, a blank slate onto which other people projected their own dark fantasies?
I certainly have my theories, but what I thought shifted several times over the course of the book. And that’s exactly the point. Palahniuk sums it up with the very first interview in the book. Wallace Boyer is a car salesman whose connection to Casey is tenuous at best, as he explains:
“Like most people, I didn’t meet and talk to Rant Casey until after he was dead. That’s how it works for most celebrities: after they croak, their circle of close friends just explodes. A dead celebrity can’t walk down the street without meeting a million best buddies he never met in real life.
Dying was the best career move Jeff Dahmer and John Wayne Gacy ever made. After Gaetan Dugas was dead, the number of sex partners saying they’d fucked him, it went through the roof.
The way Rant Casey used to say it: Folks build a reputation by attacking you while you’re alive – or praising you after you ain’t.”
Boyer found himself on a flight next to Rant Casey’s father, on his way back from collecting Rant’s dead body, and their conversation, innocuous when you first read it, turns out to contain clues about the entire nature of the story you’re reading. The picture of Rant Casey that emerges from all of these interviews is a fascinating one. He was born in a small town called Middleton, where he quickly generated a mythology that everyone knew. He had a positively canine sense of taste and smell that expressed itself sexually. He could allegedly lick any woman’s privates and tell her not only what she’d eaten at every meal for weeks ahead of time, but also what emotional state they’d been in during each of those meals and what sexual partners, if any, they had during that time. He was able to catalog those smells and tastes effectively by bedding every woman in Middleton before he was sixteen.
More impressive is the way Rant seems armed with an almost supernatural knowledge of the future, as does his father. Not since Vonnegut’s Billy Pilgrim has there been a character more unstuck in time. All the other mysteries about Rant’s identity fall to the wayside by about the halfway point. There are a lot of (very entertaining) red herrings here, but once you figure out what the book is really about, that’s when it stops being a joke. Instead, it becomes a deeply sad portrait of a guy determined to make himself into something godlike who is willing to do anything, no matter how horrible and taboo, and the awful cost it seems to extract from him.
Palahniuk’s razor wit has rarely been sharper, and the book moves at a brisk pace. It’s a fast read. I finished it in two nights. It’s a great tightrope walk in terms of tone, and I think it speaks well of the way he’s grown as a writer. It’s easy to accuse Palahniuk of simply coasting on his former glories, as I’ve seen some reviewers do, but I think this is the book where he reminds us of just why we noticed him in the first place. Doubleday will release the book in May, and I urge you to check it out and prepare to have your sense of good taste, as well as your notions of linear reality, gleefully violated by one of our most wickedly talented writers.
Drew McWeeny, Los Angeles
Drew McWeeny, Los Angeles
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April 19, 2007, 9:59 p.m. CST
Inquiring minds want to know!
April 19, 2007, 9:59 p.m. CST
April 19, 2007, 10:05 p.m. CST
I got a little over Chuck after his his first four books but this does sound somewhat interesting. Thanks for the review, Mori.
April 19, 2007, 10:07 p.m. CST
And I collect spores, molds and fungus.
April 19, 2007, 10:29 p.m. CST
Fight Club was a bad college essay from the limited perspective of a fourteen-year-old. Much like V for Vendetta, I found myself bored with the intial conceit and lack of intellectual honesty inherent in the concept. Perhaps he's grown as a writer, but people should stop praising a rather shallow novel with no real understanding of the consequences of the nihilistic, self-loathing philosophy it espouses. Give me a break.
April 19, 2007, 10:30 p.m. CST
Choke. Then Survivor and Fight Club tie, then Lullaby, then Invisible Monsters. I liked Haunted a lot as a collection of short stories, I didn't care much for the story connecting them together. I'll buy this.
April 19, 2007, 10:37 p.m. CST
Thought the ending was quite profound... own all of his other books. As much as I enjoy his more popular stuff, it's his off-style writing I find I enjoy the most, named Lullaby, Haunted and Diary. But even his collection of true stories was engaging.
April 19, 2007, 10:39 p.m. CST
the fact that every chapter could work well on its own. They're all poetic, they all have their own devices. It just flows. It's just a fun read, usually doesn't take me more than a day or two for his books.
April 19, 2007, 10:42 p.m. CST
that is all
April 19, 2007, 11:01 p.m. CST
Nice review about one of 'our' generations best authors Mori. Now, how can I complement you but still work in calling you an 'asshat' or some variation to generate your usual HILARIOUS retorts (by the way I'm being serious). Drew, your responses to the TB's are so witty and great. One of the many reasons why I love this site.
April 19, 2007, 11:05 p.m. CST
April 19, 2007, 11:08 p.m. CST
I heard he was dating Bret Easton Ellis. Imagine the les enfant terrible that duo would spawn.
April 19, 2007, 11:08 p.m. CST
My favourite Chuck book is still Survivor. I thought Invisible Monsters was his weakest novel.
April 19, 2007, 11:10 p.m. CST
What is your favorite Pahlaniuk novel? I'm asking because I know you're a fan, as am I. Chuck is such a great guy. I actually got a chance to meet and speak with him in Chicago when I volunteered to work at a book festival he was speaking at. When I asked him to autograph MY favorite Pahlaniuk book (Choke) I remember saying, "Thanks man, your books are great. You're humor really cracks me up Chuck." He responded by saying, "You just said that so you could 'work in' calling me 'Up Chuck' thanks a lot for taking me back to the sixth grade!" It was great; he's a genuinely cool guy.
April 19, 2007, 11:15 p.m. CST
Lullaby would make a great, if not fucked up movie. And actually, so would Choke. All his movies would make crazy ass movies.
April 19, 2007, 11:15 p.m. CST
1. Lullaby 2. Haunted. Least 'favorite' would be Invisible Monsters, but that was a fun read regardless.
April 19, 2007, 11:17 p.m. CST
Mori, I hope my completely stupid typo (you're as opposed to YOUR) doesn't prevent you from telling us interested talk backers YOUR favorite Pahlaniuk book. Shit I can't believe I made that mistake. Although I did work 11 hours today and have had several beers tonight. Still...I've got no excuse Mori. I think this time you can call me the 'asshat'.
April 19, 2007, 11:53 p.m. CST
Someone should write up The Children of Hurin. Perhaps Tolkien's darkest story (much darker than LotR). Curious as to who will purchase rights and whatnot.
April 20, 2007, 1:04 a.m. CST
Review should be up this weekend, Vale. I'm finishing it now.
April 20, 2007, 1:12 a.m. CST
And you have not steered me wrong yet. I will pick this up.
April 20, 2007, 1:40 a.m. CST
after reading INVISIBLE MONSTERS. SURVIVOR and CHOKE one after that other. That - and excessive viewings of FIGHT CLUB between 1999 and 2001 - made a bit sick of his "voice". Maybe it's time to give him another try.
April 20, 2007, 1:51 a.m. CST
I got the opposite from the book, that Pahlaniuk espoused on the utter lunacy and intrinsic hypocrisy of nihilistic, self-loathing philosophy. It’s a bleak farce. If one had to draw a meaning from it, it would be that love conquers all. However I think the story is more about the ride than making any statements. A vehicle for sick sarcasm and insane situations. dung
April 20, 2007, 2:05 a.m. CST
by drew mcweeny
... I think LULLABY is the one that sticks with me most. And then I think honestly I'd say RANT right after that. I've read this twice since they sent it, trying to wrap my head around it, and it's pretty great.
April 20, 2007, 2:20 a.m. CST
by The Real MiraJeff
That was a great book review Mori and much appreciated. There are few authors whose every book I have read, but Chuck is definitely one of them. I've only ordered four books online ever and three of them were Richard Kelly's Southland Tales graphic novel prequels. Rant is the 4th and I can't wait for it to arrive. It's pretty impossible to pick a favorite for me. Lullaby, Choke and Survivor are up there, but there was something about Invisible Monsters that makes it top my list. All in favor of more AICN book reviews, say aye. We could rise up and overthrow Oprah as the country's dominant book club. Whaddaya say gang?
April 20, 2007, 2:21 a.m. CST
read a few, nothing special. haunted was horrible. his writing is just shock value to me and nothing more.
April 20, 2007, 2:44 a.m. CST
by Alonzo Mosely
He is obviously stealing from the patented Harry Knowles' reviewing technique...
April 20, 2007, 2:47 a.m. CST
by Lenny Nero
Haven't read Diary, Lullaby or Haunted yet, so it may be skewed. But I read Fight Club, Invisible Monsters, Survivor and Choke all within a two-month period, and Choke was the one that really struck a chord deep down inside.
April 20, 2007, 2:47 a.m. CST
I have Lullaby; I've tried reading it but it didn't grab me. Perhaps I should give it another whirl. I'm looking forward to Rant.
April 20, 2007, 2:52 a.m. CST
palahniuk palahniuk palahniuk
April 20, 2007, 3:35 a.m. CST
I just wanted to know if this was good, and Moriarty thinks so, so great. I really love Haunted, the whole set up for it and everything. Invisible Monsters is also really, really great, as is Survivor, and I've grown a lot more partial to Choke. I never had anything against Choke, it just didn't seem to be going anywhere. Lullaby and Diary are both well written, and have neat stuff in them, but overall I felt they were lacking. Really looking forward to this though. Palahniuk is a terrific writer, he sent me a care package this year which shows how much he really cares about fans.
April 20, 2007, 3:39 a.m. CST
The opening for that is just so, so good. Lullaby was strong, but I just felt the whole having sex in the sky thing was kind of too much. I don't know what rubbed me the wrong way with Diary, but I don't see anyone here declaring that as their favorite book, either.
April 20, 2007, 6:14 a.m. CST
Bring your considerable critical talents to literature more often, Moriarty. Kudos on a fine review. I'm a longtime Palahniuk fan, but I agree that nothing's quite exploded my senses like FIGHT CLUB (though HAUNTED is without a doubt his most horrifically weird offering, and LULLABY and SURVIVOR were both terrific reads. Looking forward to RANT...
April 20, 2007, 6:43 a.m. CST
that was the first of his books that I read. I followed that up with SURVIVOR which really annoyed me for some reason. Just didn't care for the protagonist or any of the points I thought the book was trying to make. It didn't amuse me either. The fact that I liked INVISIBLE MONSTERS and was underwhelmed by SURVIVOR must make me a man of weird taste but so there. I agree with everyone else about CHOKE, though, at least to the extent that I consider it the best of the three I have read.
April 20, 2007, 7:28 a.m. CST
charicatures, not characters; aphoristic sloganeering disguised as philosophy, and bad, bad sentences. 'Fight Club' was idiotic, adolescent nonsense, something to make frat boys feel deep.
April 20, 2007, 7:53 a.m. CST
The only one of his books that I didn't really dig was Diary. But i love Choke, Lullabye was excellent, Survivor was great, Haunted was...well Haunted. But i love that fact that he is still such an underground writer. I also read his non-fiction book, which I wasn't as impressed with. It was ok. But if could have been much better
April 20, 2007, 9:39 a.m. CST
I would have to say that Chuck Palahniuk is my favorite living author. I had a chance to sit down with him for 30 minutes and just shoot the shit. A very nice man, and proof that authors are not all miserable bastards.<br> Anyway, I guess I would have to say that Chock is my favorite and then(in order), Fight Club, Survivor, Invisible Monsters, Haunted, Lullaby, Diary, Stranger Than Fiction and Fugitives and Refugees.<br> I am glad that you guys have continue review his books before they come out. Proof that Palahniuk is on of the best writers around? Yes.<br> Good review, now I am really excited for May. 1.
April 20, 2007, 9:41 a.m. CST
not Chock.<br><br> And one, not on.
April 20, 2007, 11:01 a.m. CST
He said that if you wrote him a letter with one thing you accomplished in the past year, he would write you back. <br> And sure enough, like 6 months later a package from "Palahniuk" arrived at my door. It was wonderful and very strange. Also: Diary rules.
April 20, 2007, 11:38 a.m. CST
by Homer Sexual
The first Pahlaniuk I read was Survivor, and I loved it. But Lullabye was even better. Invisible Monsters gets third place. Haunted, as mentioned, gets an A+ for the short stories, but a C for the thread connecting them. Choke was disappointing, Diary even moreso. Haven't read Fight Club, since I think the movie said it all. In fact, I started reading his work because of Fight Club, the movie, but now that I know his sensibility, I think Fight Club captured him almost perfectly.
April 20, 2007, noon CST
by The Awfulism
The first half is by far the stronger, and some of Mr P's best work to date (if only for including the phrase 'Sex Tornado')but it starts to lose it a little towards the end with it's underdeveloped Sci-Fi skirtings. Still a great read read though, and probably my third faviourite Chuck after Fight Club and Survivor.
April 20, 2007, 12:08 p.m. CST
My girlfriend manages an independent bookstore. She's one of those hot, nerdy girls-with-glasses types, you know what I'm talking about. Anyway, she got a preview edition of this and read it in about six hours. Then she told me I should read it. She has pretty high standards for books and I haven't really liked anything Chuck's done since Invisable Monsters, but I read it on her recommendation. Well, this one actually rocks. It's a great narrative concept and a great story. I love the way it unfolds. It reads like a bunch of transcribed interviews with different characters and you only get a little info at a time and must piece it together yourseld. It's a lot of fun. Look's like Chuck is back on track. I highly recommend it.
April 20, 2007, 1:18 p.m. CST
I haven't seen anyone really talk about Diary here. I'm tellin you, this was a great book (and my personal fav). Very clever and the ending was truly chilling. If you haven't read it yet, go read it. If you have and didn't like it, try reading it again. It really is wonderful. 1. Diary 2. Lullaby 3. Fight Club 4. Survivor I haven't read Inv Monsters yet, but I will once I fininsh my pile of books I have right now peace
April 20, 2007, 1:21 p.m. CST
I am always looking for new authors to read. Please keep these reviews coming.
April 20, 2007, 2:38 p.m. CST
by Quin the Eskimo
CP's books people always talk about Survivor, Choke, and Lullaby, etc. but rarely Fight Club. Fight Club had become canon, and I love it.
April 20, 2007, 3:04 p.m. CST
I can see your interpretation of Fight Club, though I feel differently. Granted, much of his writing is shock value, but in general, I see a rather bleak, existential view of the world. The ride has plenty of turns, but when it stops you find yourself in the same place you started. That's just my opinion, of course.
April 20, 2007, 3:39 p.m. CST
by Homer Sexual
When I saw Fight Club, I was conflicted. I was like "Is this supposed to be serious? Do the writer and director think they are making a serous statement here?" I was like, "if this is supposed to be for real, it is an awful movie, but if it's supposed to be satire, if it is intentionally ridiculous, then it's brilliant." <p> That motivated me to read one of his books, which was "Survivor," and I discovered that his work is both serious and ridiculous, satire and statement. I then totally "got" Fight Club and I guess I figured the book would be so much like the movie that I never felt the need to read it, though I have read every other book of his. <p> Diary, unfortunately, was tedious and annoying, saved somewhat by a strong ending. Rather unoriginal by Chuck standards. <p> For those who've read "Haunted," which story was your favorite. I hate to go with the popular choice, but "Guts" is maybe the best short story I've read, ever. Many, if not most, of the stories are A+, but geez...Guts is just so intense! <p> The last book I hadn't read was "Choke" so I recommended it for my book club, which wanted something "edgy." Surprise, surprise, the whole book club hated it, with only me to defend it. One of the biggest criticisms, which is valid, is that the whole premise doesn't go anywhere at all in the novel. He almost never does his "choke" shtick. Still very good book, but not one of my favorites. <p> Today, when so much entertainment is insipid, it is a relief to read something compelling and different, even if he can lay on the bleak pretty thick.
April 20, 2007, 6:02 p.m. CST
...and this review is just a bunch of mugging for a back cover quote. AICN should stay away from books.
April 20, 2007, 7:21 p.m. CST
did i think i would be defending chuck fucknut-yuck, and yet i find myself compelled to do so. the man's style is lacking, no question. he slings red paint and screams bloody murder as if he were some jackson pollack impersonator. he appeals to the brutish , unbrooding element who seek only distraction from their time spent not jerking off... so fucking what??? the man has sold tons of books in an era when the printed page is fading from the public consciousness, and he's managed to do it in a way that still stays true to HIS convictions, not yours, mine, or ours. to me he combines the best of tom robbins with the worst of jack kerouac. zippity doo-dah, another opinion. the man is young and paid, long live the man.
April 20, 2007, 8:06 p.m. CST
more Chuck = me being happy. and yes, Choke is fucking awesome.
April 21, 2007, 12:01 a.m. CST
are the same people who did not like Henry Miller. Just because you don't fucking get the style does not mean that it is dumb, it means that you don't fucking get it.<br><br> Seriously, he is just expanding on the works of Camus, Miller, Dennis Johnson, Douglas Coupland, and Burroughs.<br><br> If you claim that it is philosophy for the brute, well, you are slightly correct, but mainly wrong. Granted, the man has only one style, and his dialogue suffers from this -but it works.<br><br> Sure, he is no Kafka, but it will do just fine for now.
April 21, 2007, 12:02 a.m. CST
Um.....Do, I meant "do."
April 21, 2007, 9:47 a.m. CST
I don't like Camus. Comes down to personal taste. Miller you can feel in the gut, at least; Palahniuk is numbingly artificial. Well, if you like that sort of thing, enjoy.
April 22, 2007, 1:24 a.m. CST
"... and must piece it together..." As opposed to those books where you get all the info at once? (Just kiddin') I once had an argument with a guy about Fight Club, who claimed Chuck P was ADVOCATING the nihilism and revolution in the book/movie. I kept asking him "Are you sure you read the book and saw the movie?"
April 22, 2007, 4:50 a.m. CST
by The Grey Ghost
is "expanding on the works of Camus or Burroughs" is like saying Vin Diesel is expanding on the works of Marlan Brando or Steve McQueen.
April 24, 2007, 11:06 a.m. CST
April 24, 2007, 5:08 p.m. CST
Love, love, love Chuck's books - been salivating for this one since Haunted. Then, like the others, I'll gobble this one up in a few sittings and be left wanting more :(
April 25, 2007, 10:34 p.m. CST
by Dr Gregory House
Elitists can go read something else, whilst shitting shit that don't stink.
April 26, 2007, 5:36 p.m. CST
Which is awesome. Chuck P has done and excellent job writing, except for Diary, but hey, they can't all be winners. He's better then King, in my opinion, and I will definately be waiting for this when it comes out. Speaking of which, was there a release date on this, or is it already out??
April 26, 2007, 5:43 p.m. CST
May 1st. That's when it's being released as a Hardcover.
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