Posted tagged ‘Chuck Palahniuk’

Review: Pygmy

October 16, 2009

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.

Are Genres Past their Prime?

May 19, 2008

This is something I’ve been pondering a lot lately.  Actually for most of my life based on my own reading habits, which tend to defy easy classification (China Mieville, Joe R. Lansdale, Chuck Palahniuk, etc…).  Mieville is a particularly good example, in that he pretty much represents the New Weird movement.  The New Weird is one of three fairly recent movements within the f&sf community that seek to combine the tropes of multiple genres for various effects (the others being Slipstream and Interstitial).   Mieville’s stories (particularly his Bas Lag novels) have an incredible willingness to incorporate any and all literary devices as long as they can effectively tell the story.

This sort of genre merging isn’t anything terribly new, Star Trek was pitched as being about “a wagon train to the stars”, but it is gaining a new sort of prominence with every new vampire/romance series to hit the shelves.  With that in mind, I’m really wondering if it’s still useful to break out genre books into special collections.  At my library we catalog s.f., mystery, romance, and westerns separately, and any time we receive something that crosses a boundary we either place it wherever the previous book by that author went, or just give up and toss it in general fiction.

Obviously I hate this approach, but I’ve been unable to come up with something that will both appease our patrons who seek out those collections and my own sense of accuracy.  So if anyone out there on the interwebs has any suggestions please let me know, because frankly I’m at a bit of a loss.