Tuesday, November 20, 2007


The literary wizard who brought you Fight Club hits another one out of the ballpark with this novel. Choke is chock-full of the usual Palahniuk traits; irreverence, a streak of creative brilliance that hinges on the bizarre and a protagonist who might just have a few screws loose.

Victor Mancini is a med-school dropout whose modus operandi for money making revolves around choking on food in restaurants and having his fellow patrons “save him”. Being thus imbued with a hero-complex and feeling responsible for Victor’s life, they continue to support him by sending checks. Victor also cruises sexual addiction recovery clinics to spice up his love life and has a day job working at a colonial theme park. His frequent visits to the nursing home to see his perpetually confused mom whose memory is going to pieces makes for some brilliant satire. Palahniuk is outrageous yet mesmerizing; while repulsed by some of his characters, we find ourselves totally unable to look away as the author leads us through the visceral playgrounds of America’s suburbia.

Socratic wisdom dictates that the unexamined life is not worth living. As Mancini leads us through his chequered, weird but never boring life, you get the feeling that a dysfunctional life is the only one worth living. Palahniuk makes such a frenetic maelstrom of Mancini’s addled existence that anything else seems tame and insipid in comparison. While Choke is perhaps not as spectacular as Fight Club and Survivor, it is well worth a read, if only to enter deeper into the anarchic, fiercely independent imagination of Chuck Palahniuk .

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