When you find yourself surrounded with stuffed kangaroos and LED foam sticks, you have either found yourself in your former-raver, Australian great-aunt’s attic, or at a Chuck Palahniuk book signing, like the one from Sept. 7, 2023 .
Last Thursday’s event at the Mesa Dobson High School auditorium, hosted by Changing Hands Bookstore, highlighted an aura of randomness fitting for the literary guest of honor.
The author of “Fight Club” and “Choke” presented his new book, “Not Forever but For Now”, a culmination of “the filthiest, most vile things” Palahniuk could think of.
Palahniuk is followed by a cult fan group who hold reverence for the nasty, debaucherous and macabre with a sort of reverence for the irreverent, as it were.
“We are all gathered here today for a night of debauchery, surrounded by kangaroos and fellow fans of the macabre. Chuck has given us 14 novels and a plethora of characters in our stories that live rent free in our heads…you can’t unsee things, you can’t unthink things…and there’s some things we just can’t talk about because we follow rules here,” said an event manager for Changing Hands.
Palahniuk kicked off the event by throwing items into the crowd.
Dog toys, blow-up tubes, and bags of candy were amongst the goodies, which he continued tossing between readings and answering questions..
In fact, this reporter, so lost in recording a poignant phrase, was pegged directly in the face with a large bag of Payday candy during one of Palahniuk’s throwing avalanches.
What Palahniuk had said before that startling moment was, “when you’re writing a book, it’s never about what it seems to be about.”
As for filthy and vile things which are Palahniuk’s bread and butter, they are not meant to shock, not exclusively anyway.
They are also meant to reflect something deeper.
Palahniuk began his writing by emulating the greats.
“I wrote Stephen King novels, F. Scott Fitzgerald short stories, Dorothy Parker’s stories…and all badly,” Palahniuk said.
It was not until he thought of a guy coming to work daily covered in blood and bruises that he began to find his own voice. This idea started the plotline for Fight Club, his best-selling book that would go on to become a hit movie.
“If it comes to my mind, I have to find a place to put it,” Palahniuk said.
Years later, a class reunion reminded him of where he got that image.
Palahniuk came face-to-face with the memory of one of his bullies who left him bloodied and bruised after a particular PE class.
After that locker room beating, he walked through the remainder of his school day without a single acknowledgement from either the staff or students.
He was bloodied and beaten. And invisible.
According to Palahniuk, this is when he realized that Fight Club came from a painful childhood memory.
“Thank you for giving me this unhealable thing,” Palahniuk thought.
Most of his stories come from a place of pain, reimagined to avoid burdening his audience, “who are not therapists and have pain of their own,” Palahniuk said.
Writing pain into fiction is a lesson he shares with his friend, Max Brooks, the writer of “Z is for Zombie”, which was written during his mother’s battle with cancer, according to Palahniuk.
In a conversation with Brooks, Palahniuk confirmed with him that the book was truly about his mother’s fatal battle with cancer. The zombies were a fictional representation of losing his mother.
To Palahniuk, fiction writing is about, “turning the terrible things into zombies,” and apparently, kangaroos.