OMG! I am a horrible fan. I didn’t even realize that Chuck Palahnuik’s newest novel was out. How was it possible to top Haunted? Don’t know. This one reads like an oral history. I’m liking it so far.
In his eighth novel, Palahniuk uses a new form–oral history–to revisit the themes that have always informed his oeuvre. Buster “Rant” Casey, a naturopathic serial killer, is dead, and those who survive him–family, friends, enemies, and hangers-on–are trying to make sense of the void left by his passing. Perhaps offering a meditation on celebrity, the author explores the topics that have always intrigued him: uniqueness and belonging, cross-generational panic, the search for authenticity, and the consume-or-die worldview. If this suggests that Palahniuk’s biggest influence here is himself, this Tom Sawyer on methamphetamine (the first 100 pages depict Casey’s boyhood as a poison-obsessed, priapic Pied Piper) belies the influence of William S. Burroughs (in its satire of boys’-own adventures), William Gibson (characters “boost” each others’ neural transcripts of lived experience), and J. G. Ballard (Casey’s clique crashes cars in order to feel more alive). Outrageous but not quite over the top, full of energetic humor, Rant (Casey’s nickname is said to be onomatopoeic for the sound of children vomiting) is a memorable portrait of the cults that gather around authentically different people and a portrait of dystopia that feels unsettlingly contemporary. Palahniuk is no Studs Terkel, but Terkel’s heartland probably looks more like Palahniuk’s nowadays.