Invisible Monsters Remix by Chuck Palahniuk

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Invisible Monsters Remix by Chuck Palahniuk

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: Don't dare try this from page one on, but don't think the tricksy cut-up approach to the design is a mere gimmick. This is only as flashy as its youthful exuberance - and that of its subjects.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: June 2012
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 9780099575054

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Don't expect this to be the kind of story that goes: and then, and then, and then. And yet... Once upon a time I collected a couple of Palahniuk books, upon his first, Fight Club-inspired flush of British success, and never got round to reading them. And then the book reviewing gods conspired to give me Pygmy, Tell-All and Damned to peruse. And then I still didn't go back through his past works. But then he revised Invisible Monsters, his second-written and third-published novel, and I got to look at it after all.

By revised, I mean he got to add in a couple of linked essays found nowhere else. By revised, I mean he could do what he wasn't powerful enough back then to persuade his publishers to do, and that was to have all the chapters in non-consequential order. Instead you start with the introduction, flash to near the end, back to the start, and seesaw away until you settle in the middle - passing some chapters printed in mirror writing along the way...

Palahniuk says this is so you're alienated away from knowing when and where the book ends, flicking through a catalogue of delights as if on a trail of random breadcrumbs. Well, yes and no. As I say it still has a sort of formulaic order, and is not as random as Fighting Fantasy or anything Choose Your Own Adventure-styled.

But it works with a book whose style is jumpy, nervy, yet comprehensively coherent. It's full of jump-cuts, all defined in the narration. It starts at the end, and the build-up to that is by no means the only backflash. It works with a book whose subject is revision - about drag queens rescuing the beautiful Brandy Alexander, but by putting her life on a drug-stealing, identity-assuming rollercoaster; about the narrator being a model, infomercial dolly and glamourpuss, getting her jaw removed by a shotgun; about everyone in our world being forced to be one of a few boring templates, and everyone in the world of the novel being who they want to be,- but only at an extreme.

It's not quite a 'seize the day' moral though, if only because I suspect we're supposed to seize the night and recover in the daytime. It's certainly as black as that suggests. Plastic surgery details are fed us in squirm-inducing detail; home holidays are nightmarish given the narrator's archly worthy, hypocritical parents. They're still here, all present and correct, and I don't think the novel has been changed much over the years beyond the order of it. I'm not sure it's gained much with the essays, but it didn't lack much anyway. It was a clever, comical pell-mell through gender politics and stereotyped expectations, to explore the extremes of will-power, and of living as one wishes.

I'm very glad I read it, at last, and in this definitive director's (jump-)cut format. The cynical Luddite in me has a smirk as to how much this will lose on a Kindle - so when I say this is a book to explore, I mean a book - not a reconstructed, faux, surgically unenhanced, E(rsatz)-book.

Similar characters and events are in Paris by Maarten vande Wiele, although the plot is a lot more A-B.

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