Review: RANT by Chuck Palahniuk

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I enjoyed this book quite a lot more than several of Chuck’s other books. I’ve read seven of them now, and at first I was really into him (partially b/c my then-girlfriend was obsessed with him), but then I grew to dislike him quite a lot. Rant has instilled a shred of faith that some of his other books might be worth my time.

One problem I have with Palahniuk is the very idiosyncrasy that so many people love. To me it comes off as being way too forced, like he’s trying too hard to have a more distinctive voice instead of actually having a unique voice. Most notably when he jumbles syntax: stuff like, “The car, we all piled in.” I don’t like it. Not when he does it. David Foster Wallace pulls it off like a magician . . . Thomas Pynchon, Stephen King . . . it sounds natural when they do it, but forced when Palahniuk does. My biggest problem with his books, though, is that I think he’s not very good at plotting stories. The “back cover”-type material sounds fascinating on every single one of his books, but the actual plots often fail to deliver on the intrigue fostered by their premises.

With Rant, though, I think he overcame those prior deficits. I love how the story’s told in the form of an oral history, composed of “anecdotes” from dozens of extremely varied personalities who were somehow involved in the life of the subject—titular character Buster “Rant” Casey. This storytelling form aids in sort of facilitating Chuck’s syntactical and form-based idiosyncrasies. So instead of detracting from the novel, with this one they actually enhance the desired effect. Overall, the writing is sleek and efficient; the plot unfolds very organically and rather brilliantly, as little clues and details are dropped piece by piece from different character testimony and perspectives. It’s also one of Chuck’s more interesting plots, made even better by the fact that Rant manages to avoid (to a large degree) some of his pitfalls. I did feel the ending was anti-climactic. However, this time I think it was intentional—much in the way that Wallace’s masterpiece Infinite Jest has no real climax, but rather directs and suggests a cohesive ending that the reader has to imagine for herself—and I think, to my surprise, Palahniuk managed to pull it off. A good yarn, fascinating premises and follow-throughs thereon, and taut, compelling prose make it a book worth reading.

Score: 65/100

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