What a crazy week. I actually finished reading Chuck Palahniuk's Choke on Monday and haven't had a single spare moment to post about it book until now. The novel opens with a very young Victor Mancini on the run in a stolen school bus with his mother who suffers from mental instability. Every now and again she "saves" Victor from his foster homes, from his temporary shelters, and takes him on the run with her until the cops catch up to them.
Along the way "The Mommy" might be conducting a mail scam (not to benefit herself, of course) to encourage havoc (people receiving coupons for a free dinner in the mail -- hundreds of them to besiege one poor restaurant where she may have worked). Interspersed with the stories of his childhood, parts of Victor's story take place in the few weeks leading up to his mother's death. Now in a long-term care facility, Ida Mancini is wasting away, refusing to eat, and has no idea who Victor is when he comes to visit. So Victor pretends to be people from their past, and branches out to pretending to be many other people for the many other patients in the hospital.
In order to afford the stay, Victor works at a theme park (of sorts) that depicts early Colonial America. His best friend, Denny, works with him, and the two are both fighting their own sexual addictions. He also fakes choking at various restaurants around town, picking up cheques along the way from the various people who have "saved" his life. The closer his mother gets to death, and the more he's propositioned by the very strange and somewhat awkward Dr. Paige Marshall, the more Victor examines his own life, the more he falls into patterns of bad, almost destructive behaviour.
On more than one occasion, this book, which is included in the 1001 Books list, felt so much like Fight Club (thematically) that I wondered how close they were published to one another. The voices, the characters, even the predilection towards mining support groups, felt tired, but maybe because we've spent years with Palahniuk's characters being enmeshed in the the pop culture ether that I didn't find this novel particularly original. That's not to say that I didn't enjoy it overall, more that I just felt that in a way he was continuing with many of the same themes and same type of character that he wrote in his 1996 book.
The cover for my trade paperback is quite amazing though, the human anatomy stripped away from the skin, maybe metaphorical, even a little bit literal as Victor attended medical school before his life started to fall apart. And I didn't dislike the book, it's easy to read, flows well, has great characterization and the observations of Victor are quite poignant at times: "You don't see fish agonized by mood swings. Sponges never have a bad day." But I did feel it suffered maybe a little from the cult of Palahniuk, but that's just me -- I do have to admit that I'm not necessarily his target audience.
READING CHALLENGES: It's on the 1001 Books list, so it's one of my challenge books for the year. As you can probably tell, I'm reading like a maniac to try and at least finish the ones that I've picked for this year (or others I'll substitute).
WHAT'S UP NEXT: I finished a book for work (#68 Wings) that I can't blog about because it's months away from publication, and have a book stack for the rest of the year that contains: A Christmas Carol, The Other Queen, The Given Day, The Plot Against America, Lush Life, Through Black Spruce, The Origin of Species, The Boys in the Trees, The Double, The Almost Moon and Middlemarch. Fingers crossed, eh? And if I add all of the Harlequins to my reading tally for the year, I'd probably be up around 80 (but I'm going to keep those separate).