Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Choke - Chuck Palahniuk

Title: Choke
Publication date: August 2002
Publisher: Vintage
Pages: 293
Rating: four out of five stars

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Victor Mancini has devised a complicated scam to pay for his mother's hospital care: pretend to be choking on a piece of food in a restaurant and the person who 'saves you' will feel responsible for you for the rest of their lives. Multiply that a couple of hundred times and you generate a healthy flow of cheques, week in, week out.

Victor also works at a theme park with a motley group of losers, cruises sex addiction groups for action, and visits his mother, whose Alzheimer's disease now hides what may be the startling truth about his parentage.

Just a warning, this in not YA but it is what I've been reading and I thought I'd give it a review. 

It's always a pleasant experience to open a book that automatically tells you to not read it. It did warn me that I wouldn't "want to be here" if I did. Which both worried and intrigued me, but despite the warning I in fact quite enjoyed the whole experience. It was both similar and a bit lighter to read than Less than Zero, which was action packed with hatred-of-mankind moments.

I mean at times this novel can be almost uplifting, but I won't tell you when and where, lest I give any spoilers.

The novel follows Victor Mancini, a medical school drop-out desperately trying to afford his mother's hospital care by working in the 1730s and, even weirder, pretending to choke on food in fancy restaurants to gain the help, and money, of unsuspecting heroes. (I would argue, however, the one with the true hero-complex, maybe more aptly Jesus-complex, is Victor.)

He also goes to sex-addict meanings to get laid. So it's all a bit morally ambiguous, and generally quite pessimistic about life. But within all the bad language and sex lies the true heart of the issue: identity. Victor doesn't really know who he is or what he wants, he doesn't know where he's going, except following the same old pattern of addiction and serious mother issues.

Mother issues become more apparent as we're offered flashbacks of his childhood between chapters. Generally all the relationships he forms in this novel are dysfunctional, and so are the people (although weirdly appealing). His bestfriend, for example, starts hoarding rocks which somehow ends up providing a relevant and inspiring metaphor for the story.

One thing for sure is that Chuck Palahniuk can write some strange, yet brilliant, things. And some really disgusting things, I didn't really want to hear about the adventures of his "dog" (use your imagination) or go quite into as much detail about snot-filled tissues - but there you go.

I enjoyed it, weirdly enough, and do recommend anyone to give it a go (although maybe not the faint hearted).

Favourite quote:
"Even after all this rushing around, where we've ended up is the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night."

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