Thursday, November 12, 2009

Review of Pygmy

Chuck Palahniuk's Pygmy was dark, disgusting, and absolutely hilarious.  It's the story of a young would-be terrorist from foreign country [redacted]. He narrates the tale of his arrival in a Midwestern U.S. town where he is taken in by a Christian host family with two teenage kids.  Pygmy, as Agent 67 is called by his new community, has a nickname for everyone.  He exposes the hangups of everyone he meets as Palahniuk attacks Christianity, Captialism, Consumerism, and everything else American, in true Chuckie fashion.  Through his eyes, we watch him and his fellow "exchange student" operatives prepare for Operation Havoc.  He goes to school, he gets in fights, he falls in love.  It's a riff on your typical YA high school story, but it's twisted.

The satire is scathing and brilliant.  Chuckie doesn't pull any punches, but he doesn't unilaterally beat up on American culture.  He exposes some of our weaknesses but shows how dictatorial, freedomless fascist training is also flawed and damaging.  I don't know if he goes so far as to promote a happy medium, but he certainly doesn't say that one side or the other is blameless.  The ending surprised me.  It was much more redeeming, I think, than Fight Club or what I would expect from Chuck.  But it was also a little bit "neater" than it needed to be.  The process rather than the product is the fun part of this one.

The writing style is postmodern, and I like it.  I'm lucky that I picked up the audiobook version, because the reader did a wonderful job and I don't think I could sit through reading-by-sight the choppy, jumbled (though hilarious) "sentences" of Chuckie's prose.

I liked this book a lot.  It is NOT for the faint of heart, and if you strongly dislike gratuitous and graphic violence, don't bother.  The social and political commentary are not novel enough to make this required reading for anyone, but it's great escapism if you're into that sort of thing.

1 comment:

PattiHaack said...

Chuck ROCKS! Thanks for the review. It's on my library list now.