Last year Todd and I went to see Chuck Palahniuk at the Bagdad. The event started off with a Q&A session with Chuck and Lidia Yuknavitch, an up and coming author. The questions they read each other were chosen from a batch that were submitted to Powell’s Bookstore for the event. Just about every question for Lidia was pretty harsh, ridiculing her for everything from age to grammar. She certainly paid her dues.
I was struck by what a gentle and kind person Chuck seemed to be. Some of the questions were about previous events, two of which, his publishers asked him never to speak of. One event was a booksigning where a person came up and asked him to sign some awful thing in his Bible. When Chuck said he didn’t feel comfortable doing that, the Bible guy’s friend threw a book at Chuck and the spine ended up nailing him across the bridge of the nose, causing blood to pour out everywhere.
Another one of the questions was to describe his meteoric rise to fame. He very meekly said something like “I can answer that, if you consider sixteen years of hard work meteoric…” He went on to describe a series of events such as having bookstores nearly shred the first edition of Fight Club, hearing studio executives screaming about the movie tanking in its opening weekend, and also having the screening of Choke in a foreign country where they got the subtitles all wrong. He summed up the answer like this: “The secret of my success? One giant failure after another.”
I expected him to read from his latest book “Damned,” but instead he read his short story “Romance,” featured in the August 2011 issue of Playboy. I’ll have to pick that up, for the article of course. “Romance” immediately became one of my favorite stories from him; even though it’s a love story, there’s a signature “scene’ that reminds the reader of who they are dealing with. I highly recommend the story to anyone that is not turned off by a little blood.
Of all the interesting things he talked about at the event, one of the most interesting came up when he was asked why the girl in “Damned” hates her parents so much. His answer was that the the “hippie’ generation pissed off their kids with broken promises. Promises of a clean environment, peace, equality and economic balance. Promises of progress that never came true and in fact, the exact opposite has happened; that older generation has left the younger with a giant ticking time bomb of a mess. That is the source of the anger being expressed in his book.