Sean is a fan of Chuck Palahniuk; reads every novel he publishes.
Upon finishing Palahniuk’s latest, Sean kindly wrote a response for L to post on omphaloskepsis.
Tell-All by Chuck Palahniuk
Doubleday Books, 2010.
First off, this is a departure from L’s YA Lit. Tell-All is, as all Chuck Palahniuk novels, Adult Reading. Chuck’s use of language and imagery are not for younger readers. I wouldn’t suggest anyone under 17 approaching this book.
Knowing that this is a Palahniuk novel we can assume several things up front. We know that the subject matter will be outrageous. We know that there will be a Twist. We know that we should be skeptical of everything we are given. To these Palahniuk standards Tell-All holds true.
Previous Palahniuk novels, particularly his earlier works, were criticized for the voice of the narrator not reflecting the culture, education, or other variations that were outline in the works. Jack (Fight Club, 1996) sounded too much the same as Tender (Survivor, 1999) who sounded too much the same as Shannon (Invisible Monsters, 1999) who sounded too much like Carl (Lullaby, 2002). Whether or not this criticism is valid or overly harsh, we can see Chuck addressing this in later works. There are the multitude of voices in Rant (2007), each given an individual vocabulary and viewpoint. Pygmy (2009), embracing a world view and sporting a pidgin that allows for a satirical outside-in view of our own society. Now in Tell-All we get a voice of an older woman. Chuck restrains his hipster, post-post, jaded commentary and embraces an aged, jaded and scheming woman who has manipulated the elite of the silver screen.
Palahniuk steps out and proves that Voice is not beyond him, but not without risk. He only does a fair job of storytelling in Tell-All. The narrative is in turns boring, bothersome, amusing, and not-so-shocking. Tell-All falls short of Fight Club and Rant (what I would consider his two best). Tell-All does not offer us anything new like Lullaby or Choke (2001). In Tell-All are offered the treat of Palahniuk’s writing without the true sting he has given in the past. I’m still looking for the point of this exercise.
Though I understand the need and desire for a Writer to challenge and refine his/her skills, I want only for Palahniuk to give some of his critics the finger and return us to the Voice of the story teller we had come to expect: of great Risk, but no Sacrifice.