Damned- Chuck Palahniuk Review

8/11/2022 1:22 PM

Rating: 2/5 stars

[Did Not Finish]

Note- I call him Chuck a lot in this review. I know it's bad form, but there are only so many times you can look up a man's last name before you just give up and take the easy way out.

What is intended to be a scathing parody on the young adult genre as a whole instead falls into some of the worst traps of the genre. The writing is repetitive- Chuck seems to have at most three jokes at his disposal, which he reuses with extreme prejudice. They are:

  • “Yes, I know the word [x]. I'm thirteen, not stupid.“
  • A reference to The Breakfast Club, followed by Chuck immediately pointing out that he was referencing The Breakfast Club
  • Seminal fluid

The second bullet point highlights a deeper problem with the book, Chuck’s incessant need to point out the references he makes and explain the metaphors he uses. Nothing can be left up to the reader to interpret, and no discovery can be left to a later time. A character tells an obvious lie. Chuck immediately tells the reader to remember, people lie in hell! A punky character tells the protagonist he’s in Hell for shooting up his school. Another character calls him out and tells the protagonist that he was actually stealing baby formula- information he learned by looking at his permanent record, despite the fact that everyone so far has been locked in a tiny cell far, far away from any administrative offices. Chuck breaks the rules of his own plot just so he can spoil the surprise for his readers. Even if I could have very easily predicted that this punk was going to have a hidden soft side, I still would have rather had that revealed over the novel’s journey rather than immediately told to me. If I know everything about this character already, then why the fuck am I here? This lack of suspense is another pitfall- Madison, the protagonist, seems to have Hell all figured out from the get-go. If she's not concerned, then I'm not concerned for her. I can see how the angle of the overconfident thirteen year old could be played for humor, but Chuck doesn't do this effectively enough to weigh out the complete lack of suspense it creates.

Third bullet- the writing crosses the line from crass to juvenile. Chuck is able to pull off crass writing- look at Guts, the short story about anal prolapsing in your parent's pool, or Choke, the novel about a man who cruises sex addict anonymous workshops for pussy. The difference is, in the previous two examples there is an explicit point to be made through the use of disgusting or sexual imagery. Not so much in Damned, where the landscape of piss, shit, and semen do nothing but make me wonder if Chuck has suddenly suffered a massive brain hemorrhage that has mentally regressed him to his junior high school years. You wrote Fight Club, man. What the fuck is this?

I can see where he was going with the concept of billionaire parents who claim to be eco-hippies while flying private jets, and with the idea that modern life essentially makes the individual a spectator in their own life- in absentia, a ghost. (Yes, I know the word absentia. I write ten paragraph reviews on a dead neocities blog, but I'm not stupid.) However, he's so heavy handed with these metaphors that it is both uninteresting and almost insulting. Yes, I can see the hypocrisy of a couple that claims to love the environment but owns seven private jets. No, I did not need you to add a paragraph specifically explaining why they are hypocrites. This may be a parody of young adult novels, but there is no need to treat your readers like they are actually prepubescent.

In conclusion, I am going to go on my own trek across Hell to get back the sixteen fucking goddamn dollars I spent on this book. Chuck has taught me one important lesson, and that is that public libraries are truly the only way to go. Thank you and good bye.

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