Tell-All by Chuck Palahniuk – A Book Review

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.

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Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk – A Book Review

I don’t really know why I picked up the book Fight Club a few weeks ago.  I pretty much knew the major shocker of the story through word of mouth (it’s been out since 1996, after all).  I guess I just wanted to see what all the talk was about.  Gratuitous violence doesn’t do a whole lot for me anymore.  Most people would have thought a book called Fight Club would be the last on my list of books to read.  I’m going to be brutally honest, I figured that if Edward Norton and Brad Pitt were willing to do a film based off the book, the book must be decent.  I was not disappointed.

The book’s style was utterly devoid of any unnecessary components, which, of course, sticks to the majority of the book’s theme.  Very direct narrative, very short and simple dialogue.  The story is told to us through the first person perspective of the main character, but his name is never revealed.  This gives the book a sense of “everyman” that I believe forces, especially, male readers to identify.

Our main character is tired of life, tired of his job, tired of wanting to own things only to have those things own him.  It’s only after he meets Tyler Durden that he experiences life the way he’s always wanted to.  It begins with “Hit me as hard as you can,” and it ends with mayhem and destruction.  We have men drawn to Tyler and his Fight Clubs because they have no sense of worth without their fights.  It is only when they fight that they feel alive, and it is only through Tyler that they feel loved.  Indeed, Tyler gains quite a cult following waiting on his every command, and our narrator is no different.  Of course, the climax is when men start dying and our narrator decides enough is enough.  He steps in to stop the very thing he’d created with Tyler, and that’s when things go downhill.

Although the story seems rather unsophisticated, it is anything but.  It is the underlying message within this book that is fascinating.  We do have an entire generation of men out there (perhaps several) who don’t know how to be men because they’ve had no father figure in their lives.  They think to be a man means to fight and to destroy; they’ve never had someone show them a man doesn’t have to do these things to be “manly.”  We have a whole generation of people who don’t know why they do what they do.  Why do they work?  Why do they buy?  Why do they live?

This story is tragic, funny, and captivating.  I was instantly engrossed with the characters and the plot.  I highly recommend this book if, for no other reason, than to see an author write in an unconventional manner and prove highly successful.