Chuck Palahniuk has a knack for unearthing all the dark little corners of the human race. Usually by the time I finish reading one of his novels I’m left feeling utterly horrified to be considered a part of the human race. And yet I’m usually smiling at the same time, it’s a very creepy effect.
His latest novel, Pygmy, has done this to me yet again. This is the story of a teenaged foreign exchange student living in middle America, who has been trained to be a spy and terrorist for his home country. Palahniuk uses this protagonist to offer up an incredibly skewed (though hardly inacurate) view of high school life. School dances are mating rituals, dodgeball is war, and Wal-Mart is something akin to Hell (complete with its own skeletal charon greeting people at the doorway).
I found this to be one of Palahniuk’s better novels, but I suspect that it won’t garner many fans because its not a terribly approachable book. The story is written in the first person from Pygmy’s perspective and is full of incredibly broken English. In other circumstances I think I would have just found this to be incredibly annoying (imagine reading 300 pages of Yoda speak), but somehow it works for this book. Still I’d definitely suggest that people read a chapter or two on a trial basis to get a flavor for the language before committing to the full book.