Chuck Palahniuk is an American essayist and novelist most known for his novel Fight Club. As a postmodern, minimalist author, he is most widely known for his satirical works, as well as transgressional fiction and horror. He lives in Pasco, Washington.
Letters to Satan
“Are you there, Satan? It’s me Madison. Don’t take the following as a scolding. Please regard what I’m about to say as strictly constructive feedback. On the plus side, you’ve been running one of the largest, most successful enterprises in the history of…well, history. You’ve managed to grow your market share despite overwhelming competition from a direct, omnipotent competitor. You’re synonymous with torment and suffering. Nevertheless, if I may be bluntly honest, your level of customer service skills really sucks” (79).In a bizarre Breakfast Club meets Dante Alighieri’s Inferno, Chuck Palahniuk’s Damned documents the life-after-death of a thirteen-year-old girl, Madison, who has been sentenced to life in the eternal fires of hell. I read the Inferno in high school and subsequently Dante’s Purgatorio and Paradiso. I thought Palahniuk might bring a funny odd twist to the hell-fire franchise with this work, and I was somewhat right. Hell, in Palahniuk’s world, is unconventional to say the least.
Thirteen and Dead
|Photo by Dave Hogg|
“But, to be honest, when you’re dead probably not even homeless people are retarded people will want to trade you places. I mean, worms get to eat you. It’s like a complete violation of all your civil rights. Death ought to be illegal but you don’t see Amnesty International starting any letter-writing campaigns. You don’t see any rock stars banding together to release hit singles with all the proceeds going to solve MY getting my face chewed off by worms” (5).Madison believes that she has the right to appeal her eternal sentence. As one would expect, Madison simply isn’t pleased with her ending up in hell. So, she journeys across the satanically-inspired terrain to hell headquarters, where she hopes to file said appeal.
“My reasoning is…if convicted murderers can linger on death row for decades, demanding access to law libraries and gratis public defenders, while scribbling briefs and arguments with blunt crayons and pencil stubs, it seems only fair that I ought to appeal my own eternal sentence” (94).
A Journey through Hell
|Photo by Carol Browne|
“My job is: The dark forces are constantly calculating when it’s dinnertime anywhere on earth, and a computer autodials those phone numbers so I can interrupt everyone’s meal. My goal isn’t actually to sell you anything; I just ask if you have a few seconds to take part in a market research study identifying consumer trends in chewing gum. In mouthwash. In dryer fabric-softener sheets” (105).Though the story was unconventional and frankly disturbing at times, I enjoyed this book. Chuck Palahniuk in his stereotypical style offers a story with a twist, one I will not divulge here. If you can handle some vulgarity, some humor, and some borderline sacrilegious themes, I think Damned is at least worth a cursory read. I hear it may even have a sequel.
Verdict: 3 out of 5
Posted by: Andrew Jacobson