POSTMODERN F CTION
Invisible Monsters (Vintage £6.99)
This is where the inspiration for Chuck Palahniuk’s third novel came from: he was on a freeway when a car next to him matched his speed and the driver pointed a gun at him. ’I thought: "Wow, if he shoots he will hit me right in the side of the jaw”. it began with the idea that your life could be destroyed in an instant,’ says the author of- Survivor and Fight Club, which was made into one of the most startlingly original films to come out of Hollywood since the 705.
What nearly happened to Palahniuk does happen to Invisible Monster’s narrator Shannon McFarland, a fashion model who becomes a fashion victim after her jaw is blown off by an unknown assailant. Alongside road rage, plastic surgery and sex ops figure largely in the new novel which draws stylistic inspiration from glossy magazines.
‘The language in them is ridiculous with so many adjectives piled together to describe a sweater,’ says Palahniuk. ’So I decided to write a novel in this self-important language. I also noticed how women who didn't look the way the women in magazines look were invisible in our culture. It must feel odd for a woman to be noticed when she’s young, maybe to the point of distraction, and as she grows older becomes unacknowledged in the world. We are used to the Cinderella story - the plain woman made beautiful and recognised - but we don’t see the opposite, the beautiful woman stripped of appearance and value.’
Palahniuk finds a correlation between random acts of violence and media-manufactured beauty in plastic surgery. ’We don’t acknowledge that as violence,’ he says. ’In a way, it’s "good violence”, so it’s funny to have this distinction of good violence versus bad violence. The destruction of the narrator’s face - and it’s the same with Fight Club - is cosmetic surgery, destroying the current bourgeois identity, leading them to a better and more powerful place.’
Palahniuk has been credited with performing cutting edge, exploratory surgery on modern themes such as millennial angst, but he locates his writing in a grand tradition. ‘Beginning with The Great Gatsby and moving on to Breakfast At ﬁffany’s [two novels which feature characters who rename themselves], it’s a metaphor that’s distinctly American: the idea that you can just
Cinderella meets road rage
change yourself in an instant.’
Such ideas have resulted in Palahniuk being likened to American literary greats such as Vonnegut, DeLillo and Pynchon, something he’s not altogether comfortable with. ’lt’s embarrassing when people make those comparisons,’ he says. 'It feels awkward to get recognition for doing something that is so much of a blast. It's like if someone gave you a standing ovation for masturbating all day.’
Let’s hope Palahniuk continues to jerk off.
(Miles Fielder) I Invisible Monsters is published on Thu 2 Nov; Chuck Palahniuk appears at Borders, Glasgow, Fri 70 Nov.
HISTORICAL ANALYSIS Magnus Magnusson
Radio Scotland dOCUmentary), exploring events and myths that both inform our
‘ 57°“ 01‘ A NATION
A romantic analysis without t e tartan sentimentality
Scotland: The Story OfA Nation (HarperCollins £19.99) A t ‘k at
The Herald’s reviewer of TM. DeVine’s history of the Scottish nation liked the book but criticised the author for not looking more closely at the last twenty years. It’s unlikely then, that the reviewer in question, one Donald Dewar MSP, would have gone much for Magnus Magnusson's cramming of the last century plus into a mere 29 pages here.
But the Icelandic Mastermind has his rationale. The Story Of A Nation takes Sir Walter Scott's Tales Of A Grandfather as a framework and seeks to tell Scotland’s story from the last Ice Age to the Thatcher years. Add your own punchhne.
It’s readable, porgnant, fascinating, a lively combination of narrative and analysis (and one that started life as a
present and signpost the future. Romantic in places perhaps, but rarely romanticising, the elements of history overriding any tartan sentimentality. ’This is about more than our politics and laws,’ said the late First Minister. most aptly, at the (re)opening of the Scottish Parliament last July. ’This is about who we are, how we carry Ourselves. In the quiet moments of the day . . . we might hear some echoes from the past: the shout of the welder in the din of the great Clyde shipyards . . . the discourse of the Enlightenment, when Edinburgh and Glasgow were indeed a light held to the intellectual life of Europe; the Wild cry of the great pipes; and back to the distant noise of battles in the days of Bruce and Wallace.’ Magnus Magnusson brings those distant n0ises to life. (Rodger Evans) I Scotland: The Story Of A Nation is published on Mon 6 Nov.
Putting debut novelists under the microscope. This issue: Lisa B. Falour
Who she? A trained graphic artist, Lisa B. Falour has been a contributor to a diverse selection of US publications including The East Village Eye, The American Book Review, Teenage Rampage and Ungawa! She started a career as a bondage model in 1978 and has recently retired claiming 'those ball gags are just too hard on my dental work'.
Her debut I Was For Sale: Confessions OfA Bondage Model is the tale of a modern-day Betty Page, a woman who has worked as a bondage model, prostitute, porn model, dominatrix and slave. Vivid characters and a raw sexual life which runs parallel to a day job as a legal secretary on Wall Street is detailed.
Basically . . . Falour is a famed name on the NY underground sex/art scene and this is her autobiography. She claims, quite rightly, that: ’a whore who writes is nothing new. But I wanted to be the bondage model who spoke up about my specialisation.’ Different on the surface perhaps, but when it comes down to it, a trick is a trick is a trick, and the detailing of particular kinks is itself, a special kind of fetish. And a not spankingly new one at that (see Marquis de Sade). First paragraph test ’The earliest bondage photograph l have of myself was, I think, taken in 1979, in New York City. I was sitting on the floor of the waiting room for a professional dominatrix named La Marquise.’ Incidentally . . . The true skill of any dominatrix is to be able to inflict the maximum amount of pain without either breaking the skin or seriously injuring the ’slave’. Handy to remember. (Mark Robertson)
I / Was For Sale: Confessions Of A Bondage Model is published by Velvet on Thu 2 Nov priced f 9. 95.
‘I Was For Sale"
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2—l 6 Nov 2000 THE LI8T111