Chuck Palahniuk: Stranger than fiction

Robert Chalmers of the Independent interviews Chuck Palahniuk in a piece called “Chuck Palahniuk: Stranger than Fiction.” By the sound of things, it’s likely to be one of very few interviews (of its particular flavor) to come from the author for a while—a fact that’s notable mostly in Palahniuk’s statement against ‘personal profiles,’ of which the aforelinked article is one.

For newbies, “Chuck Palahniuk: Stranger than Fiction” is a pretty good backgrounder on the author. It gives you a relatively good sense of the eccentric, authorial personal Palahniuk has tried—successfully, for the most part—to cultivate. It also gives you a relatively good sense of how trying to cultivate a particular persona for whatever purpose can distort your view of reality, not to mention your view of yourself. Part of it’s maybe the need to sculpt actual opinions to appropriately reflect the image you’re trying to offer the public, which in turn becomes internalized to the extent that sculpted opinions become your actual opinions, to the discomfort of your real self. (Or maybe not; I certainly wouldn’t know, though it’s interesting to speculate.)

Chalmers shows us this confusion:

Palahniuk is noticeably ill at ease here in a public space in Portland, the city where he’d lived for almost 25 years before his recent move. He says he’s widely disliked for Fugitives and Refugees, his entertaining travel book on the city which was published last year. It alienated locals so intensely, he claims, that he decided to move up the coast. “I am persona non grata in this town,” he says.

(“If he really believes that,” a Portland journalist told me, “he is insane. People here are proud of him.” Like cartoonist John Callahan, the band Pink Martini, or Katherine Dunn, author of Geek Love, the reporter adds, “Palahniuk is a quirky claim to fame for a city that has few others.”)

Anyway, it’s an interesting interview-slash-profile, running the gamut of topics. Palahniuk’s book, Non-Fiction, is the unifying theme (well, and the author himself), but you’ll find tidbits on writing philosophy, confrontation, traffic, autopsy photos, shoplifting, and about a dozen other topics.

But, like the man says, “Chuck Palahniuk is, admittedly, not for everybody.”

(Independent: “Chuck Palahniuk: Stranger than fiction,” by Robert Chalmers [August 1, 2004])