Tell-All by Chuck Palahniuk

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Tell-All by Chuck Palahniuk

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A good book, but one that bears a large imbalance - you get to the midpoint and wonder why the first half could not have been the first third.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 192 Date: June 2010
Publisher: Jonathan Cape Ltd
ISBN: 978-0224087155

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Meet Katherine Kenton. A movie star of great renown, she's always on TV as someone famous - or the wife of somebody who happens to be famous and male, whether they were actually ever wedded. She herself has had copious real-life marriages, making somebody out of a nobody on many an instance. Her shelves of 'best lifetime' awards are groaning, and their dusting is a job akin to painting the Forth bridge. The person who dusts them is narrator for this book, but she does more than that. She is everything to "Miss Kathie" - general housekeeper, housemate, and string-puller. But what might those strings be being pulled for? When Katherine meets a new toyboy, and our narrator seems to get in the way, to what purpose might this be?

From the off this book seems to choose a deliberate style that might almost be called belligerent. Formatted as a film description, and often breaking purely into the style and grammar of a screenplay, it highlights the names of anybody and everybody in bold, such as a gossip column might. Add to this styling the brisk brusqueness of the opening screenplay of directions, and you begin to wonder how we're ever to like the style, and how we might gain any sympathy for anybody contained within it.

That sympathy does emerge, however, through some very good set pieces, in recurring locations, such as Katherine's personal vault, where expired dogs' and husbands' ashes lie to be mourned, alongside past-it lipstick shades. This also allows for an unusual update on the Dorian Gray trick of creating an ageless protagonist. But I for one thought Palahniuk was able of stronger stuff. The montage where we see how Katherine's vapidity, and ignorance of how her cruelty might affect a generation is very amusing, but could have been nightmarish, given a different approach.

Exuberance - and in the end a rampant, enjoyable OTT-ness - does emerge as we see history bastardised yet again by Hollywood. But this again seems easy for an author such as this. Only at the halfway point is it we see the ultimate balance between Miss Kathie, our narrator, and the toyboy lover, and with that being so good and engaging we begin to reflect again on the first half, and see that only here are we getting a strong narrative to match the strong styling, a reason for the screenplay directional style, and a substance to the surface sheen.

Thus is the first half proven to be too slight, too insubstantial - the work of an author definitely having fun but not definively giving it to us as well as he can. This in the end makes this a good book and not a great one, and perhaps something of a stop-gap in this author's career, especially as it comes across as a novelty and a flimsy whimsy, given how well his reputation is geared towards scathing at greater and more important aspects of our current times.

People who don't know or care for the seemingly random use of so many Hollywood names, will find this a lesser work. I myself wondered what on earth Lillian Hellman did to deserve this, but as a quirky fantasy it does work, as a comedy it did make me laugh - I myself aspire for such a dying wish! - but wasn't quite as full-on as, perhaps, this author's own last work, [Pygmy by Chuck Palahniuk|Pygmy]].

I must thank Jonathan Cape for my review copy.

For those with an interest in real-life Hollywood glamour stars, we wanted High Society: Grace Kelly and Hollywood by Donald Spoto to be as great as its subject - obviously in vain.

Buy Tell-All by Chuck Palahniuk at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Tell-All by Chuck Palahniuk at

Buy Tell-All by Chuck Palahniuk at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Tell-All by Chuck Palahniuk at


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