creative [kree-ey-tiv]: adjective. Synonyms: clever, cool, innovative, inspired, prolific, stimulating.

criticism [krit-uh-siz-uhm]: noun. The act of passing judgment as to the merits of anything.

5 May 2010

Pygmy - Chuck Palahniuk

This book features: rape (anal), graphic violence, scenes of psychological torture and brainwashing, as well as an almost continuous hate-spew against American culture, as told from the perspective of a supposedly thirteen-year-old agent from a totalitarian state. He, agent number 67, along with several other agents of the same supposed age are posing as exchange students in the same American community, all the while planning an "unspecified act of massive terrorism" (as read on the inside book cover).
Not suitable for younger readers; reader discretion is advised.
This book is divided into 36 chapters, presented as dispatches from agent number 67. Now, let me be honest: I gave up at chapter 14. This book was just too annoying.
Chuck Palahniuk can be a compelling author, as anyone who's read his memorable short story Guts can confirm: he can write so that you are pulled into the story, where you can't put down the book despite the graphic grossness of it - but really, you don't want to stop reading, because you want to know what happens next, and the narrator's style and tempo beautifully incite you to keep reading until the end.
However, in Pygmy, instead of making the story readable, he decided to really make it sound as though a spy (or terrorist, what the hell) with a somewhat shaky yet precise grasp of the English language narrated the story. During the first few "dispatches" this made for an interesting narrative device, but it quickly lost its appeal; essentially, you have to mentally translate the text, written in definitions-only English, into somewhat-comprehensible English. Here's a quick example of this novel's style, lifted from page 47:
Force compelled to sing how yearning for location on top arched spectrum of light wavelengths created by precipitate. Exact song expressed Judy Garland, woeful martyr, slaughtered pawn of capitalist entertainment machine combined pharmaceutical complex.
Translation: "We had to sing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow". It's the same song that Judy Garland, the actress, sang - before she died of drug overdose."You can still understand what the narrator's saying, but it gets mighty annoying after more than ten pages, and there's 240 pages' worth of it to slug through.
Apart from the sheer annoyance of it, this style also has the side-effect of making all the scenes of violence and turmoil seem grotesque and their impact is lessened on the reader.
Can you really blame me for giving up?

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