Hello, Failure

Of all the enemies of literature, success is the most insidious

Friday, August 29, 2003

Failure of the Day: Oh, Chuck, honey, No no…

The new Chuck Palahniuk novel Diary was reviewed in Salon last week and the reviewer really reamed him. She was a poor choice to write the review; she pretty clearly hated his work before she ever read the new novel and brought it all to bear on him for this book. But that's just an editorial mistake on the part of Salon; they assigned the review to the wrong person is all.

It got worse when Chuck devotees wrote letters to Salon defending his work and doing themselves no favors in the process. ("I knew this review had to be written by woman!") The decline continued a few days later when Chuck wrote to Salon in defense of his book, which is bad form under any circumstances, and his letter to the reviewer was the poorest form imaginable—"Until you can create something that captivates people, I'd invite you to just shut up."

Nevertheless, nothing comes between me and a new Chuck book, and Chris ordered it for me so I had it by Monday, the day before its official release. But I didn't start reading it right away because I'm enjoying The Dead Zone WAY more than I would have expected. So I started Diary at the gym yesterday and it's right up my alley: bodily obsessed and medical and fucked up. It's also the most sloppily written thing I've ever put my eyes to. Maybe "She'd got it perfect" passes as stylized prose in some circles and maybe I've been a copy editor for too long, but that strikes me as either lazy (the editor missed it) or arrogant (the editor flagged it but Chuck steted the edit as interfering with his style). I suspect it was the latter, and that doesn't bode well at all.

I'm not that far into the book yet and god knows I won't stop until I've read it all but I'm worried about ole Chuck. Jeff's been saying for a long time that Chuck's books are sloppy, but I never really noticed it before because I get so enthralled by what he is saying that I don't much care about gaffs in his prose. And by and large, I like his stylistic gambits even though they are stolen in their entirety from Amy Hempel.

I don't know. I just hope that in all of his pointed commentary about consumerism, beauty, wealth, and celebrity he doesn't overlook the biggest threat that artists face: their own egos telling them they can do no wrong.


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