I hereby declare that the following will prove: even a die-hard fan can produce objectivity.
I like Chuck Palahniuk; what's more, I really like his writing. I own every major release he's published, fiction and nonfiction. I own a DVD of Fight Club. I have attended his events, and the giant inflatable moose head which I won during a trivia contest hangs on my left-hand wall as I write this. I have argued in his defense with my father and my manager, as well as in . I have written five Staff Reviews of his novels at my bookstore, and when I start my shift later today I will write my sixth one for his latest hardcover, Invisible Monsters Remix.
I first heard about the Remix edition of Invisible Monsters from The Cult, Chuck's official website. Back in March of 2011, we knew only that Chuck's adoring fans had finally prevailed — Invisible Monsters, originally only available in paperback, was getting a hardcover release. I was ambivalent about such information: I'd liked Invisible Monsters alright in high school, but it didn't immediately wow me like Survivor and Lullaby, and it didn't stay with me years later like Haunted and Rant, or do both like Snuff. It didn't underwhelm me either (the only one coming close to such an unfortunate verb would be Diary) — it was a solid, middle-of-the-road bit of enjoyability.
Jump to October of the same year, and suddenly the hardcover is getting “remixed” — original vision, new chapters, different reading experience. We get enticing hints and curious predictions. I get slightly suspicious, thinking about Walt Whitman and his half-dozen different editions of Leaves of Grass. But much like the fierce, lonely, faceless narrator of Invisible Monsters, I learned that a sudden explosion of potentially dangerous possibility is far preferable to stagnant, static discontent.
Jump to Thursday the 31st of May, this year, when I finish reading Nicholson Baker's insightful and wonderfully nutty U and I right before I start my shift. Standing in the staff room, I see a fresh cart of books pass me by — and wedged on the middle shelf is a trio of Invisible Monsters Remix hardcovers. I pluck one, place my old bookmark in between new pages, and purchase it right away. Hours later, I was forcing my colleagues to read Chuck's five-page reintroduction, its wit and wisdom alone worth the price of admission.
I finished it in four days (his novels never take me very long, Choke in particular I remember consuming with speed, at the expense of my high school homework). In this little time, however, the Remix has succeeded on several accounts: it has improved my opinion (enhanced my fandom) of Chuck Palahniuk, it has recaptured my strongest affections for the original story, and it has rewarded my reread gamble with unique scenes, sentences, and literary styles.
The plot, it seems, is unchanged — the story's sequence, however, is entirely restructured. That 1999 paperback, though beloved of many ACLC classmates, was not organized to Palahniuk's preference. The novel was meant to jump around in the style of a disorienting, distracting fashion magazine — instead, Palahniuk “hammered the story into a nice, straight, smooth line.”
Thirteen years later, we get to experience the novel as intended, and I must say — it's a lot of fun flipping back and forth, rifling through pages to find chapter 17 after finishing chapter 26. And while this threatened at first to disjoint Chuck's restless chronological style, it actually enhanced the narrative flow, focusing on various outlandish moments in the heroine's bizarre life. Each character's sins and revelations are as lurid and inspirational as ever, their episodes as comical and their critiques as relevant over a decade later. Invisible Monsters has ditched its “middle-of-the-road” status for me — it's a bona fide “all-over-the-map” delight.
As for its Remix qualities? Its extra chapters, its new scenes, the secrets of its pagination … no, I've said too much. I shall admit them to be adequately awesome, and leave it at that. By the way, you don't have a hand-mirror, do you? Just asking. Hm? Backwards writing? Nope. Sorry. Nuh-unh. Not another word.
Suffice it to say, Chuck Palahniuk has managed to push the envelope yet again. His techniques and ideas are enough to award him Master Chef/Mad Scientist status. Especially of late, with the compelling Oral Biography storytelling of Rant, the eerie censorship in Pygmy, the confusing boldface romp of Tell-All, and the mere fact that one of his stories is set in Hell, we are repeatedly reminded that this man is highly proficient in literary originality. Somewhere, maybe in one of his Stranger Than Fiction essays, he mentioned that he occasionally prayed to avoid death by plane crash, as he still had much to write. For his sake, as an objective fan, the feeling is certainly mutual.