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Another Portland Blog

Monday, May 02, 2005

 

Upchuck

Being a Chuck Palahniuk fan is getting tougher with each new release. While "Guts" earned him cudos and a trip to Late Night with Conan O'Brien, Diary was roundly trounced by critics and Stranger than Fiction was all but ignored. His next work, a novel/collection of short stories called Haunted, hits bookstores tomorrow and sounds like a innovative trip through overly-familiar territory. Two of the stories have popped up in back-to-back issues of Playboy. Here's a rundown:

Punch Drunk: A group of guys that enjoy having the holy hell beat of them? Why does that plotline sound so familiar? There's simply no getting around the fact that "Punch Drunk" is a poker-faced retread of Fight Club. The story follows a group of dispirited War on Terror vets that tour the country as part of a brutal, Jackass-style sideshow. They're saving their earnings but for what? Could it be a massive conspiracy that will bring society to its knees? Probably. The shocking twist ending isn't all that shocking and, as a whole, the story reads like a fan fiction retread of the author's best known work. While its little black heart is in the right place, it's a shame Palahniuk had to resort to old tricks to get "Punch Drunk"'s point across.

Footwork: This one fares better. A down-on-her-luck masseuse runs into an old friend and lands a gig with a high-profile client. What should be a boring foot rub takes a dark turn when the friend reveals what she's really been up to since their days as trade school classmates. "Footwork" reads like a Cliff Notes version of what could have been a great novella. It's a shame it would up as an all-too-brief short story.

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