Like many people I know, I stopped reading Chuck Palahniuk’s books with any real enthusiasm around the time of 2002’s Lullaby. Until then my friends and I had awaited his new books eagerly, discussed the complex politics of Fight Club, argued over the merits of Invisible Monsters, and shared our favourite jokes from Choke. And then, fairly abruptly, the conversation just stopped. Was it because it marked the point at which Chuck shifted his focus from writing engaging, if slightly wayward, cultural criticism to creating frat-boy horror porn more likely to make audiences faint – the unimaginably puerile story ‘Guts’ achieved this at many readings – than make them think?
Either way, this indifference is not something that’s going to be challenged by his new novel, Damned. Part Judy Blume homage, part Wiki-guide to theological anthropology, part metafictional meditation on the autonomy of imagined characters, part Breakfast Club pastiche, part juvenile fantasy romp and part Brangelina character assassination: