I’ve recently finished “Pygmy” by Chuck Palahniuk.
We have a good relationship, Palahniuk and I. We go way back. We’ve waded through many an existential crisis together…
…all this good work was threatened by “Pygmy”, which was released late last year. I’d picked it up and turned it over, had a quick flick, and put it back on the shelf awaiting richer days.
Last week, however, this red-and-gold clad number fell into my hands for reviewing for Yartz.
I have to say, I really came out of this one confused.
“Pygmy” reads in a much less coherent way than Palahniuk’s other novels. The narrator is from an unnamed totalitarian country, and goes to America in the guise of an “exchange student” in order to infiltrate and put into action “Operation Havoc”. He tells the story in thoroughly broken English, absolutely free of any kinds of grammar or syntactical rules. It took a while to get into, but like any incredibly stylized voice, eventually I got there. This is not what made “Pygmy” such a disappointment. The lack of coherence here came from the fact that none of the chapters in the book really fit together comfortably.
It’s reads less like the tumbling-down-stairs-at-an-alarming-rate stories that I’ve come to expect from Palahniuk, and more like an assorted collection of the most horrible episodes he could think to put in a novel.
Granted, this book is uproariously funny. Hilarious. It’s just a pity that’s the most I got out of it.
All the horribleness does have a function though. This is an amusing but incredibly biting satire of American life and the terrible potential of the wrong people having power.
Usually with Palahniuk’s novels, I dive in and get comfy, and leave feeling like I’ve gotten away with something a little bit cheeky. Not so with Pygmy.
I enjoyed reading it, found it characteristically hilarious, but Palahniuk has written much better novels and has missed the mark a bit with this one.