It’s a Palanhiuk Kind of Summer…

Keeping with the theme as my last post.. I will now discuss another Chuck Palanhiuk novel I read this summer… Lullaby.  I first want to state that I liked this one much better.  Maybe it’s because I’m partial to a story structure that makes sense.  Maybe it’s because I can relate to the narrator’s tragic past.  Maybe it’s because it’s more fictional and it’s less likely this magic crap will happen than a person self-mutilating themselves in the same way Shannon did (I have little faith in humanity).

Whatever the reason, I liked it better.

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This guy meets this girl and this girl gets him into trouble.  End of story.  A tale as old as time.. no, really.

Carl has suffered the fate of (apparently) many parents.  He was a loving father who read a bedtime lullaby to his child.. and a wife within earshot.  The next morning, both the child and the wife are dead.  Upon further investigation, Carl discovers the pattern of this lullaby within all the cases he writes about in his newspaper.  Later down the road he meets Helen, who has also discovered this poem… but she uses it to get what she wants… kill who she wants… and then turns Carl into the same person.  For a little while anyway.  He decides he wants to go around the country destroying these books that  contain the lullaby.  This lands him into a whole bunch of drama with Helen and three others: Nash, Mona, and Oyster (what kind of name is that?).  etc. etc.  You can read the plot on Wikipedia.  I’m not here for that.

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I want to talk about how Palanhiuk has, yet again, masterfully created this really fucked up character with such a complex past.  We only learn just enough to put the pieces together.  I want to know: what is wrong with Palanhiuk that he creates these kinds of characters?  does he absolutely believe that there aren’t any good people in the world?

Yet.. he’s created people in this story such that they’re the result of one tragic event.  Palanhiuk has shown that even the best of people become messed up.. maybe he believes that everyone is so weak that the death of a family will make people villians rather than the heroes like Batman is painted to be.

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It’s sort of refreshing.  The negative view of humans.  So many stories have that moment where things turn out positively… and it can be frustrating because life doesn’t work out that way.  It’s a nightmare.  But, a Palanhiuk novel always (and by always I mean the 3 I’ve read and the 1 movie I’ve watched that was based on one of his novels) has a screwed up “positive” ending.  For Carl, he succeeds in tracking down like 99% of the lullabies and destroying them.  He also removes Nash (who is murdering women with the lullaby to have sex with their dead bodies)

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from the equation.  Carl also finds some sort of relationship with Helen, who seems not be murderous anymore once she’s in someone else’s body.  This… is kind of positive, right?

She’s a Lady, and Ladies Shouldn’t Be Messed With

If you don’t know that song, you should: “She’s a Lady” by Forever the Sickest Kids.

One of the many reasons people self-harm: to feel like they have control in this one aspect of their life.  Chuck Palahnuik took this idea and wrote a novel.  It’s called Invisible Monsters.  If you want to read this book on your own, you should do that.. I will now continue with spoilers.

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The novel’s main character is Shannon McFarland.  We learn about her life as it is currently and as it was previously from her point of view.  The story is told in a nonlinear manner, where various events are included when Shannon believes it’s necessary… sort of a flow of conscious kind of knit… but sometimes, things aren’t obviously tied together.

We know very little at first.  We know Shannon’s jaw has been shot off her face thus making it impossible for her to talk except in gurgling sounds.  We quickly learn Shannon was a model, and, obviously, can no longer be a model.  We learn Shannon does not really care much for her family.. there’s some strain since her brother Shane died.

Shannon has a few important people in her life she is constantly talking about.  There’s Evie, her best friend prior to her jaw-accident, Manus, her boyfriend prior to the jaw-accident, and Brandy, her best friend post accident.  Every one of these people are the most superficial people you could ever meet.  I mean, Manus sleeps with men just so he can feel like he’s still got it… Brandy is all about keeping up appearances… and we don’t know much about Evie except she’s a model and encourages Shannon to go for hand modeling and to reconstruct her jaw so that she can continue modeling… because all that matters is your appearance.

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Anyway… the opening scene is Shannon standing next to a dying Brandy and Evie standing with a smoking gun.  The entire book is all the pieces put together so the reader and learn about what lead to this moment.  In as few words as possible: Brandy is Shane, after 90% of  MTF surgery.  Shane pretended to have died and changed his body because he doesn’t want to be a girl and this is the worst thing he can do to himself… self-mutilation.  Manus is a detective who sexually assaulted Shane and caused Shane to feel like he deserved less than good.  Evie slept with Manus while Shannon laid in the hospital bed.  And… Shannon shot herself in the jaw.

Yes.

This crazy woman shot herself in the jaw because she didn’t like her life as a pretty model anymore.  She wanted to experience life as an ugly person.  The grass is always greener.

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At the end, when she’s standing there watching her brother die because of her… her brother who actually suffered.

Nooooow Shannon’s sorry.  She’s sorry she mutilated herself for no reason except she was bored.

In my opinion, Shannon is the most self-centered of them all.  WHO THE EFF WOULD DO THAT BECAUSE THEY ARE THAT BORED?  For realz.  You can’t move to another country and teach english?  You can’t just eat a lot and become fat?  You can’t travel around the world?  Learn to weld?  Have a baby?  It makes complete sense to not only destroy your life, but destroy the lives of those around you.  COMPLETE SENSE.

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Then, you have the nerve to give Shane your identity and decide that makes up for everything you’ve done.. WHO THE EFF ARE YOU to play God?  It’s not okay that you play Evie when all she did was sleep with your boyfriend.  What IS that compared to burning down two houses?  It’s not okay that you drag Manus around and drug him when all he did was sleep with Evie, assault your brother, and try to kill you…. oh wait… he deserved worse, you’re right.  But, what about poor innocent Brandy?  The woman who took you in and tried to build you up after your accident.  She didn’t deserve for you to hate her.  To plan her demise.  Shane walked away from the family because you didn’t open the window for him.  Brandy took that bullet because you didn’t stop it.  You hate Shane because he took your attention. REALLY?!

I’m not sure if we are supposed to feel bad for Shannon.  I can’t tell if she’s supposed to be the hero.  All I know is that I would never forgive her.  I wouldn’t want her in my life.  There aren’t any heroes in this book.   Everyone is a villain.

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I picked up Invisible Monsters because I’ve read Survivor and I’ve watched Fight Club. Both of these are pretty good in my opinion.  I.M. is not horrible, but it seems to me that Palahnuik only knows how to write apathetic-sounding characters who end up in a whirl-wind situation of their own doing.  Not that C.P. is a bad writer.  Not at all.  But… maybe… he’s only good with one type of story.  That’s cool.  It’s like how Paul Rudd is always casted as the funny guy or how Scarlett Johansson is always casted as the boobier woman.

What did you think about Invisible Monsters?  Do you interpret it differently?  Maybe you can convince me to have a more positive opinion.