Choking on Meaning?

Sorry for the pun in the title. I had to.

Choke disappointed me a bit. It could be that I just didn’t get it, but I’m not sure if there was even anything to get.

I’m nervous about writing a review about a book that I don’t think I understood. Choke had a satirical element to it, but I can’t figure out what it was satirizing or what it was saying about, well, anything.

There were times when Palahniuk seemed to get sort of close to make a point about something, but the point never quite solidified. Certain themes kept trying to emerge – symbols, the fact that nothing is real, addiction, truths that no one says out loud – but I never felt like the book took those anywhere. The idea that Victor is creating heros and giving people agency back in their lives, but what he’s giving them is still artifice (he’s only pretending to choke, he isn’t really who all the crazy people think he is) could have been a cool statement that went along with other passages about conspiracies, empty symbols, technology, soullessness, etc. But that’s not where Palahniuk went.

I don’t know. The book just felt sort of disconnected or incomplete to me. I feel like I could have gotten a lot more out of it if it had just taken the cool ideas and themes that were there and gone a little further. Or something.

I really can’t tell if I’m just missing the point or not. I don’t know if what that’s where the book is supposed to go or if that’s just where I wanted it to go because that’s the book I wanted to read. I think there was just a bit of disconnect between Mr. Palahniuk and I on this one. I didn’t have such a problem with Survivor. If /when I read Fight Club, I guess we’ll see what I think.

Another thing, this book is disgusting. I mean…there are just absolutely nasty descriptions of choking, shit, sex, porn, what have you. I mean it is gross. Palahniuk does gross well. It was almost off-putting, except that I couldn’t stop reading. It was absolutely nasty, but there was something organic and wonderful about it. It’s not often that you read passages so disgusting they make you cringe. It’s like Palahniuk is shoving your face in all this gritty, nasty, organic life and being like, “Hey, look at this shit!”

I liked it, but I hated it. No matter what, though, I can’t deny that Palahniuk is a good writer. I just wish there had been a bit more substance to Choke. Or that I could have “gotten” it.

Rating: ***
Up Next: The Shining


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