Ranting about Rant
I’ve taken a hiatus from Graphic Novels and comic books in the last few weeks to pursue a few regular style novels that I’d been meaning to attend to. Give me a few weeks and I should be back on track…I promise.
The most recent book was Rant – An Oral Biography of Buster Casey by Portland and Oregon alumn Chuck Palahniuk. He’s one of my favorites, by virtue of growing up in the region and living in the same state…but at times his prose leaves me feeling the man is a wee bit TOO cynical about Humanity.
Apparently, a high level of cynicism pegs your novels as high art these days. If you get too sentimental, you could never be considered a great American novelist.
Granted, I don’t reach for a Palahniuk book mistaking it for something written by Nicholas Sparks – who, btw, is an author I’ve read and enjoyed in the past. And who I’d probably read in the future. Just to show that I’m not a literary heathen or elitist.
This book in particular – Rant – is probably one of Chuck’s bleakest visions of the human race. It centers around a future filled with infectious disease, segregation, government control, etc. It’s the distant cousin of a sci-fi novel, tingling with Palahniuk’s signature touch.
Conceptually, and stylistically the book was most intriguing.
Though it does contain time-travel. The web of tangling possibilities time travel opens in any plot has constantly eluded me, and is therefore routinely stricken from any form of entertainment I indulge in. And when/if I do indulge (ala 12 Monkeys, Terminator, etc) then the time travel needs to be clearer than water.
Which is not something this book was willing to offer.
Therefore – if you are no time travel enthusiast – heed my advice and approach with caution.
The prose style is “an oral biography” with friends, family, community members, scholars and officials telling their own version of stories about Buster “Rant” Casey, a rabid (literally) rebel who died young (much younger than Elvis, James Dean or Jimi Hendrix) and is immortalized for both his life and death.
First off – it’s difficult to believe these are different folks telling the story of Rant, because Palahniuk’s written voice is so unique. His metaphors and word choice are distinct enough that coming from the lips of small town folk…they don’t sound right. There was an effort made to distinguish speech patterns, and noticeable phrasing changes for different characters – particularly Shot Dunyun, who is one of the more colorful orators. But you never really forget you are reading a Chuck Palahniuk book.
Which isn’t a bad thing. Palahniuk is a master at his genre – eastern philosophy and enlightenment doused with violence, gore and quirky gross-outs. This particular book boasts a focus on reincarnation, with time travel serving as it’s metaphor (at least, in my reading). And “Party Crashers” run around in this strange world facing death head-on…in head-on car collisions.
Other religious elements existed with references to mythology and Gods. To that end – the book felt less like a coherent story, and more like anthropologists siphoning our modern culture down into what makes American society tick. Tick. Tick. Boom. And inevitably implode on itself.
There are social and political parallels with modern day issues (boosting experiences, genetic engineering, the I-SEE-U-ACT) – and a Palahniuk flair for educating while entertaining. Some of his passages reflect the wide body of knowledge possessed by the author, particularly when he uses different scholars and professionals to break down the history of plagues.
Gotta love a good disease book.
A book in which the main character is never met by the reader however, can seem like a 300 page joke with no punchline. There is a bittersweet disconnect without even one chance of a direct audience with Rant, which made the story tiresome at points. Instead of Rant, you are treated to an endless stream of throw-away characters, few of whose names I even bothered to memorize.
I hear tell through various and asundry net sources there will be a trilogy of books focused on the topic of time-travel, with Chuck’s latest Snuff being the second and the third book Pygmy rounding it out.
In Summation: Kudos to Palahniuk for trying a new narrative style on for size. When it worked, it worked well. When it fell flat, there were thankfully other elements of the story that rescued it from falling completely on it’s ass.
I could have done without detailed info on “Party Crashing” which might have sounded fun when I was 18, and gas wasn’t $4 a gallon, but overall…it was worth suffering through the confusion and time travel headaches when a few of the final scenes paid off in gold.
For the really confused, there is a reprieve. The entire plot is given away in the first four pages of the book, so you need only refer back to one scene in particular if you ever begin scratching your head for clarity.
AS A SIDE NOTE:
My favorite Chuck book will be released in film format soon, starring one of my favorite actors Sam Rockwell. With so many favorites going into the mix, it will be hard not to have high hopes which could easily be crushed if the movie turns out to be shit.
I’m thinking that a moderate level of excitement is in order. 🙂
Much Love, Mindy C