• Birth—February 21, 1962
• Where—Pasco, Washington, USA
• Education—B.A., University of Oregon
• Currently—lives in Portland, Oregon
Readers of Chuck Palahniuk's novels must gird themselves for the bizarre, the violent, the macabre, and the just plain disturbing. Having done that, they can then just enjoy the ride.
The story goes that Palahniuk wrote Fight Club out of frustration. Believing that his first submission to publishers (an early version of Invisible Monsters) was being rejected as too risky, he decided to take the gloves off, so to speak, and wrote something he never expected to see the light of day. Ironically, Fight Club was accepted for publication, and its subsequent filming by directory David Fincher earned the author an obsessive cult following.
The apocalyptic, blackly humorous story of a loner's entanglement with a charismatic but dangerous underground leader, Fight Club was the first in a series of controversial fiction that would keep Palahniuk in the spotlight. Since then, he has crafted strange, disturbing tales around unlikely subjects: a disfigured model bent on revenge (the revised Invisible Monsters) ... the last surviving member of a death cult (Survivor) ... a sex addict who resorts to a bizarre restaurant scam to pay the bills (Choke) ... a lethal African nursery rhyme (Lullaby) ... and so the list continues.
Although Palahniuk makes occasional forays into nonfiction, (e.g., Fugitives and Refugees and Stranger than Fiction), it is his novels that generate the most buzz. His outre plots and jump-cut storytelling are definitely not for everyone—some have likened them to the horrible accident you can't tear your eyes away from—but even critics can't help but be impressed by his flair for language, his talent for satire, and his sheer originality. Newsday wrote, "Palahniuk is one of the freshest, most intriguing voices to appear in a long time. He rearranges Vonnegut's sly humor, DeLillo's mordant social analysis, and Pynchon's antic surrealism (or is it R. Crumb's?) into a gleaming puzzle palace all his own."
Palahniuk has said that he has heard a lot from readers who were never readers before they saw his books, from boys in schools where his books are banned. This might be the best evidence that Palahniuk is a writer for a new age, introducing a (mostly male) audience to worlds on the page that usually only exist in technicolor nightmares.
From a 2004 Barnes & Noble interview:
• Palahniuk (pronounced paul-a-nik) worked as a diesel mechanic for a trucking company before he became an author, jotting story notes for The Fight Club under trucks he was supposed to be working on.
• Palahniuk's family has had a sad history of violence: His grandfather killed his grandmother and then committed suicide; later in life, his divorced father was murdered in 1999 by a girlfriend's ex-husband. The killer was convicted and sentenced to death in October, 2001. Palahniuk's book, Choke, was driven by an attempt to look at how sexual compulsion can destroy.
• When not working on his novels, Palahniuk has written features for Gear magazine, through which he befriended shock rocker Marilyn Manson. While writing, Palahniuk has said he listens to Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, and Radiohead.
• To a reader who asked in a Barnes & Noble.com chat why the novel Invisible Monsters was not released in hardcover, Palahniuk responded: "My original request was not to have any of my books released as hardcovers because I felt guilty asking for over $20 for anything I had done. With Invisible Monsters I finally got my way."
• Invisible Monsters was inspired by fashion magazines Palahniuk was reading at his laundromat, according to an interview with the Village Voice. "I love the language of fashion magazines. Eighteen adjectives and you find the word sweater at the end. 'Ethereal. Sacred.' I thought, Wouldn't it be fun to write a novel in this fashion magazine language, so packed with hyperbole?"
•When asked what book most influenced his career as a writer, here is his response:
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. It showed me how to write a "hero" story by using an apostle as the narrator. Really, it's the basis of the triangle of two men and one woman in my book, Fight Club. I read the book at least once a year and it continues to surprise me with layers of emotion.
(Bio and interview from Barnes & Noble.)
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