The Eight Rules of Chuck Palahniuk Novels
He’s the minimalist writer of nihilism, romanticism, and horrific shit. And there are 8 rules that govern Chuck’s novels.
He would probably disagree. But who cares?
Sentence structure? Who needs it?
Long, beautiful prose to make you feel happy and inspired? I don’t think so.
Chuck Palahniuk is a law unto himself.
Rule #1 – You don’t talk about Chuck Palahniuk Novels
That’s right. Keep it to yourself. Nobody wants to hear about Tyler Durden or Marla Singer or the one and only, queen supreme Brandy Alexander. They’re not the hot topic of rapt dinner table conversation.
And maybe that’s the point. His themes are dark and disgusting. His characters aren’t paragons of decent moral society. The things that happen in his books will leave you disgusted and confused, and you’ll love him for it.
You’ll love them but don’t expect to bring them to church without a few dirty looks. Disdain is a running theme.
So do yourself a favor and keep it to yourself.
Rule #2 – You do not talk about Chuck Palahniuk Novels.
Seriously, see Rule #1.
Rule #3 – Materialism is a running theme.
Take a delightful little stroll through Fight Club and Invisible Monsters. You’ll see the influence of minimalism on Palahniuk’s work. You’ll notice it.
If not, you’re blind. And if you are blind, how did you wind up on this article in the first place?
I mean, come on, surely you didn’t miss “Do you know what a duvet is? It’s a blanket. Just a blanket. Now why do guys like you and me know what a duvet is? Is this essential to our survival in the hunter-gatherer sense of the word? No. What are we then? We’re consumers. We are the byproducts of a lifestyle obsession.”
That’s from Fight Club. There’s plenty more like that. Just look.
How that plays into the greater themes of Chuck Palahniuk’s works is better left up to the individual reader. Either way, materialism maintains a role in the interaction of themes and the progress of the plot in many of his novels.
Rule #4 – Nothing is ever clear.
The narrator is Tyler Durden. Or Tyler Durden is the narrator. It doesn’t matter. The point stands: nothing is clear and you shouldn’t expect otherwise. There are twists, turns, and macguffins galore.
It doesn’t really matter. Just remember, the Palahniuk books you open aren’t meant to be clear. There are flashbacks, time is disjointed, people aren’t what you think they are, and less in a conspiratorial sense and more in a perception doesn’t equal reality way.
Rule #5 – The main character usually isn’t in control.
Palahniuk’s novels don’t feature powerful main characters who control plot progression. You won’t see them sticking up for themselves. Usually they’re in thrall to someone else, whether that’s Tender to Adam or Fertility or the Agent, the narrator to Tyler Durden, or the narrator (Daisy St. Patience or Bubba Joan or whoever else she might actually be) to Brandy Alexander.
The characters typically only control the narrative. They have their words. So in a way they do control the plot, but they don’t drive the action.
Rule #6 – The characters aren’t paragons of society.
They’re not upstanding citizens of high moral standards. They’re outcasts. They’re the underbelly of society.
They’re terrorists. They’re thieves. They’re sex addicts. They’re violent. They’re afflicted with mental conditions which affect their perception of reality. They’re afloat and awash.
Rule #7 – Don’t expect a happy ending.
Chuck Palahniuk isn’t happy. His novels never really make you feel good in the end. In his own words, “No matter how careful you are, there’s going to be the sense you missed something, the collapsed feeling under your skin that you didn’t experience it all. There’s that fallen heart feeling that you rushed right through the moments where you should’ve been paying attention. Well, get used to that feeling. That’s how your whole life will feel some day.”
Yeah, and that’s on the first couple of pages of Invisible Monsters. You’re going to feel that much more poignantly if you read the Invisible Monsters Remix edition.
I won’t spoil anything, but don’t get too excited about a plotline that’s all tied up nice and neat by the ending.
Rule #8 – If you’re buying your first Chuck Palahniuk book, you have to read Survivor.
Why? Because it’s my favorite. It’s dark and gritty and unsatisfying, and it’s the thing you absolutely crave in a Chuck Palahniuk novel.
Here’s the book. It’s worth a read.
by John Burleson, Contributing Writer
Don’t miss out on Palahniuk’s latest book, Bait, in stock and available now.