If you’re going to read this, don’t bother.
After a couple of pages you won’t want to be here. So forget it. Go away. Get out while you’re still in one piece.
There has to be something better on television. Or since you have so much time on your hands, maybe you could take a night course. Become a doctor. You could make something out of yourself. Treat yourself to a dinner out. Color your hair.
You’re not getting any younger.
What happens here is first going to piss you off. After that it just gets worse and worse.
You would expect such a beginning from Chuck Palahniuk but in the case of Choke it turns out to be absolutely true. It indeed just gets worse and worse.
There is this feeling of too much Chuck. The first time I felt it was while I was reading my third Palahniuk novel – Fight Club. I wasn’t constantly jumping off the chair with the exclamation THIS IS TOTALLY FUCKED UP BUT GENIUS IN SOME WAY! I wasn’t reading with that much pleasure and on the contrary, I was a bit bored with the already predictable Palahniuk type of writing. I decided it was time for a considerable Chuck Palahniuk pause because I sincerely believe he is a great author. I was thinking I probably had too much.
So after two months pause, I gave Choke a shot and I was utterly and completely disappointed. I was forcing myself to read, constantly checking how many pages there are left and hoping this torture is soon going to be over.
“Boring” isn’t the right word but it’s the first word that comes to mind.
See also: predictable
See also: unoriginal
The story is about yet another one of Palahniuk’s sick and tortured characters. Victor Mancini has had a turbulent childhood – moving from a foster home to a foster home because his mother was a sort of crazy criminal who was unable to raise him. With the exceptions of a few time when she came back to claim him but after a while he was back in yet another foster home.
The grown up Victor Mancini is living no better. Officially he works in a re-enactment museum set in colonial times, having left medical school. In his spare time, he chokes in restaurant. You heard right, he goes there, chokes on food and then lets someone save him. He gives people pleasure, confidence, a reason to live. He makes them heroes in their own eyes and then he lives off the money they send him afterwards. Because everyone wants to feel needed and special. And everyone wants that feeling of having changed or even saved someone else’s life:
What I want is to be needed. What I need is to be indispensable to somebody. Who I need is somebody that will eat up all my free time, my ego, my attention. Somebody addicted to me. A mutual addiction.
On top of that Victor Mancini is a sex addict, going around groups looking for casual girls. Fucking them in the bathroom, in the hospital, in the airplane, raping them, you name it. And when he is free from all of these occupations, well he visits his dying mother, now completely delusional.
So far, nothing to be so alarmed or surprised by. Chuck Palahniuk is himself – dissecting the flaws of contemporary society, abolishing the norms we live by, shocking the puritans and provoking thoughts in the always-looking-for-answers type of people. Like me. And yet, there is something wrong about Choke. Something that doesn’t really go right. Palahniuk has his strong moments, as always:
The unreal is more powerful than the real. Because nothing is as perfect as you can imagine it. Because its only intangible ideas, concepts, beliefs, fantasies that last. Stone crumbles. Wood rots. People, well, they die. But things as fragile as a thought, a dream, a legend, they can go on and on. If you can change the way people think. The way they see themselves. The way they see the world. You can change the way people live their lives. That’s the only lasting thing you can create.
but most of the time it’s just not the influential and controversial author I remember from Invisible Monsters and Survivor. At first I thought it’s just the syndrome of reading too much novels from the same author. He just gets way too predictable and you can no longer enjoy it. But I don’t think that’s the case here. I can’t go back in time and read his works in reverse order, and yet I can’t help but think that there was something more in Invisible Monsters, Survivor, and even in Fight Club. It’s just that Choke is definitely not his best attempt but I would continue exploring the Palahniuk world because he is an author who is not afraid to describe the things with their real names. Even if sometimes he sounds brutal, vulgar and incomprehensible.
More from Chuck Palahniuk: