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Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk

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By conventional standards, fashion models have about as much depth to them as a puddle of water. But then again, the world has never seen anyone quite like Daisy St. Patience, yet another one of Chuck Palahniuk’s nihilistic and scathingly sarcastic creations who narrates his third novel, Invisible Monsters. Though the book centers around three beautiful women, the characters are hardly as shallow as stereotypes dictate their real-life counterparts might be. Invisible Monsters is an intricate tale that, while utterly fanciful and thoroughly disturbing, will keep readers turning the page and sincerely pondering each question Palahniuk poses about our society’s materialism.

Curiously, Invisible Monsters opens at what appears to be the end of the story. Daisy begins by setting the scene, describing “where everybody is, who’s alive, who’s dead.” Daisy’s mentor, Brandy Alexander, is lying on the floor with a bullet in her chest, close to dying; but Brandy can only think of how the Bon Marché will never take back her now bloodstained suit. From there, the reader follows Daisy’s story as it plays out in her mind; when something sparks her memory, she “jumps back” to an important moment in her life, putting the onus on the reader to piece everything together. Palahniuk’s style is truly minimalist; he writes short, blunt passages, his writing more like authentic speech than flowing prose (“You would not believe how much this suit cost. The mark up is about a zillion percent,” Daisy says about Brandy’s blood-soaked suit). It is also obvious that he did his research on fashion when he drops names of designers like Bob Mackie and references Plumbago lip color.

Much of the book chronicles Daisy, recently disfigured in a car accident, and her travels across North America with “Queen Supreme” Brandy Alexander (who is one operation away from becoming a real woman) and Daisy’s ex-fiancé (known as Alfa Romeo, Chase Manhattan, and other clever pseudonyms throughout the book). Assuming different identities numerous times during their travels, the trio goes to open houses all over the continent to steal prescription medications from the sellers’ bathrooms. In traditional Palahniuk style, the narrator uses a lot of medical jargon, and Palahniuk takes no initiative to censor himself in describing painkiller overdoses and surgical procedures. He lives up to his reputation as a “shock writer,” which makes Invisible Monsters a bad choice for the faint of heart but an excellent read for someone in need of a refreshing plot.

While fans of his other novels will appreciate his detailed depiction of taboo subjects (two of his other books, Choke and Fight Club, chronicle a sex addict and a violent insomniac, respectively), other readers may find his characters’ cynicism too harsh. Daisy is very much a jaded young woman; she claims “hysteria is impossible without an audience” and admits she is unoriginal, “the combined effort of everybody [she’s] ever known.” Her statements seem almost too profound to come from the heart of a stereotypical fashion model, but Palahniuk crafts her as a very deep character.

Invisible Monsters is a book that will shock readers to their cores. While it isn’t beautiful, flowing prose, it has a truly original plot and is constantly engaging. Through brilliant satire, Palahniuk slaps America in the face with its own materialism, his cynicism evident in each “postcard from the future” Daisy and Brandy send from the top of the Space Needle. Palahniuk has an eccentric style, but his brutally honest criticism of society and disturbing imagery exemplify his bold talent at its best.





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JesusandHisLawyers said...
Mar. 25, 2014 at 10:09 pm
Excellent review of an excellent book. Invisible Monsters, or Chuck Palaniuk in general, are definitely not for the Hunger Games crowd. His books are harsh and hyponizing and definitely don't shy away from absoloutly anything. Fight Club, Snuff, and Invisible Monsters are my personal favorites (with Damned being a guilty pleasure). Not for the faint of heart, definitely for those looking for something a little more intellectual and adult than the usual YA lit bs.
 
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