Tell-All is about a nearly forgotten Hollywood starlet, her personal assistant, and a younger man who seemingly pretends to love her in order to write a “tell-all” book about their relationship, right up until the moment he kills her. It is a book that really evokes two strong reactions from me.
The first reaction is one of appreciation and commendation. Tell-All is a radical departure from Palahniuk’s past work, and I appreciate authors who strive to do something different, especially when they’ve fostered a certain loyalty amongst a specific group of fans. Furthermore, Tell-All, in the true spirit of its stars, name-drops like you wouldn’t believe. The technical term for what Palahniuk does is called “allusions,” and he has at least five allusions on each page, in bold print, daring you to disregard them. Admittedly, most of them I didn’t recognize as they were (apparently) the names of past, well-known actors and actresses. I also want to mention that Tell-All is funny, but it’s the kind of funny that doesn’t seem funny at the moment. After you’ve finished the book and gone about your business, it seeps into your mind, and then, as you’re doing something else, you realize just how funny a particular scene was.
Unfortunately, the other reaction is not as positive. Tell-All is a simple plot, and it tends to get repetitive rather quickly. And as much as I appreciated the sheer determination to include as many allusions as possible, they sadly became distracting pretty fast. Tell-All was very slow to start, and there were several moments when I wanted to throw in the towel. I really and truly didn’t care about any of the characters in this book.
All-in-all, Tell-All is not a particularly enjoyable work, but I do greatly admire Palahniuk for writing something unlike anything he’s ever done before, and I also respect the fact that he completely dedicated himself to the idea of including as many allusions as possible. To depart from his normal offerings is to risk upsetting a committed, previously established fan-base, and I believe that is both brave and artistically honorable.