One approaches a Chuck Palahniuk novel with a certain set of expectations. The author of Fight Club and the critically acclaimed Survivor, Palahniuk commonly employs violence, sexuality, and profanity in his novels, while his stories generally revolve around modernity, the evils of contemporary society, and the supernatural or miraculous.
Recently released in paperback, Rant, covers well-tred territory, but its unique style might cause some former Palahniuk loathers to reconsider their derision. The book is written in the voices of each character — all except the deceased protagonist Buster "Rant" Casey — and stylistically resembles a series of interconnected soliloquies. The author switches between different characters' stories without adding narrative voice or overarching description to ground the book. By essentially taking himself out of the novel, Palahniuk projects the novel's sentiments onto the characters themselves, achieving a more balanced perspective through its list of revelers, priests, scholars, teachers, and public officials. And by relegating the philosophical screeds to a few choice characters, he manages to keep his normally proselytizing slant contained to the story.Rant is an engaging and suspenseful, if undeniably weird novel. Though it employs the popular style of opening with the death of its protagonist, the book's objective is quite different than traditional mysteries. Rather than striving for a precise cause of death, each character in the novel offers their own opinion for Rant's death without a clear slant toward any one theory. The book's real mystery is uncovering the secrets behind Palahniuk's elaborately crafted fictional society. In the beginning, the reader is flooded with information and phrases that have no immediately discernible translation in contemporary vernacular. Expressions like "boosting," "nighttimer," and "party crashing" at first seem empty or just added to fulfill the author's eccentricity quotient, but they actually provide a conceptual framework for understanding the society's distinct character. After some of the concepts coalesce, they begin to demonstrate metaphorical properties for the reader.
While less shocking than other Palahniuk novels, Rant contains a cabal of eccentrics and a zeal for the outrageous. Though Rant lacks the focus of more acclaimed Palahniuk novels, it's a strong novel — both engaging and intellectually provocative. And, it wasn't about slavery. (Doubleday, 336 pages, $13.95)
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