R&R 008 | Choke
Anchor books, 2001
Book bought in: New York City
At some point during my ‘reading career’, I needed to broaden my taste in books by stepping beyond the safety of predictable chicklit. I decided to read the likes of Gabriel García Márquez (for passion), Paulo Coelho (for depth), Douglas Coupland (for satire) and Chuck Palahniuk.
Yes. Chuck Palahniuk (for morbidity).
I first read his books Lullaby, Invisible Monsters and Survivor a few years back. It had been a while, so the time had come to try Choke, next.
Choke’s protagonist is everything you really don’t want to be or sit next to in a restaurant. He dropped out of medical school and earns his keep by working in a civil war theme park. But since he has his elderly mother’s care to pay for, he also routinely pretends to choke on food in dozens of restaurants, and allows people to rescue him. How does it work? These people who ‘saved’ his life are manipulated into feeling responsible for him staying alive and well, so he ends up receiving money from these… heroes on a regular basis.
So. That’s Victor Mancini for you.
While Choke is another example of Palahniuk’s unique ability to create bizarre people in dark, dysfunctional situations, he just pushed too hard and ended up going overboard.
Because I hadn’t actually mentioned the sex addict part of Victor Mancini yet. The graphically and often described sex addict part. It was all a little too disgusting, and even though with Palahniuk’s characters you should expect disturbing behaviour, I didn’t particularly care for reading every single detail of Victor’s addiction. Repeatedly.
Often, what he described wasn’t even relevant to the story and especially not necessary to build the character.
Mind, I’m not suggesting that Palahniuk could have done without the sexual addiction part all together. I’m not a prude, and the behaviour fit with the character. But I wish he would have paid less attention to that, and more attention to the rest of the story. This book could have had more potential instead of being a work of what I can only compare to cheap porn.
I should really stress that Palahniuk is a fine author, but this book to me is not proof of that.
It lacked the darker mood and the psychology which both impressed me when I read Lullaby.
It missed the surprising and often hilarious elements of Invisible Monsters.
And there was no real hidden depth to Victor, unlike to Tender Branson, the protagonist of Survivor.
Don’t let this review stop you from trying any of the above novels. Do not write off Chuck Palahniuk, I know I won’t.
But I will write off Choke. Personally, I’d much rather curl up on the sofa with some of that predictable chicklit I mentioned earlier in this review. Or, you know, actually choke.
February 9th 2008
Just my opinion, Chuck fans. To each their own.
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