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Pygmy by Chuck Palahniuk

Begins here first account of operative me, agent number 67, on arrival Midwestern American airport greater xxxxxx area. Flight xxxxxx. Date xxxxxx. Priority mission top success to complete. Code name : Operation Havoc.

Chuck Palahniuk is an extreme dude.

Correction, I have no idea what kind of dude Chuck Palahniuk is.

But he writes extreme books. No taboo left unturned. All outlandish themes and concepts happily considered.

Think Fight Club.

Think Choke.

Think Rant.

Pygmy is no disappointment in this respect.

Pygmy is the derogatory nickname given to the diminutive 13 year old ‘hero’ of the book. He is a cultural exchange student from an undisclosed eastern nation who has been placed in the care of an uber-Christian American family.

He is also a highly trained terrorist, separated from his family and groomed for this purpose since the age of four.

The book is written in the first person from Pygmy’s point of view in a carefully crafted and beautifully sustained form of pigeon English.

The first person approach, combined with the use of  language, allow the book to explore its main themes of terrorism, racism and the dysfunctional aspects of American society (not to mention graphic descriptions of female sex aids and homosexual rape) in a way which is both typically Palahniuk in terms of its no-holds-barred approach and yet completely original and surprising.

Here, for instance, is Pygmy misinterpreting the ubiquity of Kentucky Fried Chicken outlets…

Along returning journey, encounter frequent memorial honoring American battle warrior, great officer similar Lenin. Many vast mural depicting most savvy United State war hero. Rotating statue. Looming visage noble American colonel. Courageous, renown of history, Colonel Sanders, image forever accompanied odor of sacrificial meat. Eternal flame offering wind savory perfume roasted flesh.

I’ve always liked my ideas served extreme.

I most enjoy working with unpredictable creative teams that might struggle to stay on brief on occasion, but who will always surprise and, more often than not, delight.

Chuck Palahniuk is the author equivalent of that kind of creative team.

But, as I discovered in preparing for this post, it’s a case of “nice books, shame about the website”.

I visited “the official Chuck Palahniuk website” in the hope (and expectation) of finding some personal feelings about the book, its themes, its inspiration from the horse’s mouth.

But, as far as I can see, there is very little of a personal nature on there.

Pygmy is written in the first person. But the website of Chuck (as opposed to Chuck’s website) is a distinctly third person affair.

At this time, Chuck has no plans to tour overseas anywhere for ‘Tell All’.

I have no idea what kind of dude Chuck Palahniuk is.

And “his” website leaves me none the wiser.

If I’m not careful though, it might leave me a lot the poorer.

It’s a lean, mean monetisation machine.

(Admittedly with an active fan forum and writers’ workshop thrown in).

The overall impression is of the website equivalent of the kind of restaurant that is more concerned with quickly processing its customers in order to squeeze in an extra cover before closing time than with delivering a rich, unforgettable, personalised experience.

It’s a missed opportunity.

Surely high profile authors will soon start to capitalise on digital technology and social platforms to engage directly with their audiences in a similar way to musicians such as Radiohead.

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