Book Review: Palahniuk, Rant

A few words about a new novel I read half of and didn’t feel like finishing. (Better say something or the publishers might strike me from their mailing list.)

Rant is Chuck Palahniuk’s eighth novel. It brings Nick Cave’s Old-Testament grotesque And the Ass Saw the Angel (1989) to mind in its preoccupation with the bodily exudations of rural Americans. But it isn’t at all as absorbing or painful to read, mainly because of Palahniuk’s use of innumerable narrators. They take turns saying brief and dry little pieces, neatly labeled with their names and relationships to the central character, Rant Casey. Palahniuk calls it “oral history”. I call it Verfremdungseffekt.

Genrewise the book has attributes of near-future science fiction and magical realism. Rant Casey appears to be the son of Satan, a hillbilly demigod addicted to animal venom and bent upon starting a rabies epidemic. Much space is devoted to describing the Party Crashing subculture, centred on an elaborate urban game involving nocturnal car chases where the objective is to dent your opponents’ vehicles.

Having put this book down, my feeling is that the Fight Club’s members aren’t gonna switch to Party Crashing anytime soon.

Palahniuk, C. 2007. Rant: An Oral Biography of Buster Casey. London: Random House. 319 pp. ISBN 978-0-224-08059-0.

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  1. #1 paddy
    June 1, 2007

    It seems like 80% of the novels I start these days, I don’t finish. Even the good ones. Is this a sign of getting old, I wonder? Getting a shorter attention span, or maybe just not putting up with bullshit that wastes your time..

  2. #2 Martin R
    June 1, 2007

    Not finishing novels you like is hard for me to understand. But I’m all for dumping anything that hasn’t hooked you after 50 pages. Life is short and there are far more really good books than anyone can ever hope to read. Never read more than 50 pages of a boring book unless you’re paid to do it!

  3. #3 Mary EStarr
    June 5, 2007

    or you paid good money for it. I will stubbornly read the most godawful stuff-the whole thing- if i actually bought the book.

  4. #4 Martin R
    June 5, 2007

    If it’s store-bought, then you can take it back and swap it for something better.

  5. #5 Martin R
    June 5, 2007

    That’s what I did with The Da Vinci Code after 50 pages.

  6. #6 Martin R
    June 5, 2007

    I also leave in the interval if I find myself at a poor stage play. I’ve already lost the admission money, but I can always cut my loss of time and go do something worthwhile instead.

  7. #7 Sandra
    June 30, 2007

    Oh well, too bad you didn’t like it. It didn’t get really interesting until the final third, so I can understand giving up on it. Took me a long time to finish.

    Verfremdungseffekt is interesting, I hadn’t heard that word but know the effect mostly as used in some TV comedies like the Larry Sanders Show.

  8. #8 Lewis Cash
    January 1, 2008

    I personally really enjoyed the book and thought it was very well written. While reading it as an “oral history” was annoying at first, I really appreciate Palahniuk’s willingness to try something different.

    Also, I never don’t finish reading a book… I guess I never want to be left wondering if it got really good in the end. Yes, I have wasted tons of my life finishing awful books, but there have been a few that turned out to be amazing that made it worth it.

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