The only way to find true happiness is to risk being completely cut open.
- Chuck Palahniuk
For almost twenty years, no other author has pounced harder on the minds of readers than Chuck Palahniuk. From characters that may or may not exist to underground demolition derby, Palahniuk has created strange, dark, sometimes touching, and often hilarious worlds. His work synthesizes a wide-range of influences into stories that are virtually impossible to slot into any single genre or category.
Born in Pasco, Washington, Chuck Palahniuk graduated from the University of Oregon's School of Journalism, and came to full-time writing after stints as an NPR intern, a diesel mechanic, and volunteer at a homeless shelter and a hospice. He participated in the Cacophony Society chapter in Portland. Some of the Cacophony Society events served as inspiration for parts of Palahniuk's first novel Fight Club.
Fight Club's release caused a sensation among the literary establishment. Alternately seen as a critique of modern consumerism and its effects on contemporary masculinity, or perhaps as an existentialist love triangle, Fight Club became a smash as a novel. It gained a following among both critics and academics, as well as among casual readers and genre fans. Fight Club was adapted by David Fincher into the 1999 hit film.
The year 1999 would be a turning point for Palahniuk: not only was Fight Club, the film, released, but also the novels Invisible Monsters and Survivor were released. Increased exposure from the film, coupled with two exceptional novels, led to Palahniuk’s gaining a near-godlike standing among readers. These novels can be seen as the gateway to the literature of the twenty-first century, exemplifying the kind of maverick fiction that typifies today's most inspiring writing. Whether exploring death cults or concepts of beauty and identity, these novels helped turn Palahniuk into one of the stars of the literary world.
Choke, a dark satire about the long-con, addicts, and historical re-creationism, was made into a film starring Sam Rockwell and Anjelica Huston. The novel's look at support groups and familial relations is powered by some of Palahniuk's most precise prose and episodic presentation.
Many of his novels, such as Lullaby and Damned, have explored traditional genres such as science fiction and horror with his combination of minimalism, post-modernist disassociation, and deep understanding of worlds we hope don't actually exist. Diary is a black humor take on the traditional diary novel. Haunted is a combination of a short story collection and narrative horror novel which has led to fainting spells. Rant takes a stab at the dystopian future novel in the form of an oral biography. Pygmy might be seen as Palahniuk's version of the spy thriller. Few other authors can travel through as many types of literature without sacrificing their voice.
Palahniuk wrote the script for the short film Romance, based on his short story of the same name. Capturing the strange and slightly disturbing atmosphere of his story, Romance tells a tell as old as time: the story of a schlub in love with Britney Spears.
Cinequest is proud to present Chuck Palahniuk with our Writer Maverick Spirit Award as a part of the Writers Celebration. Join us on March 2, 2013 at 1:30 p.m. at the San Jose Rep, along with a screening of Romance.