Chuck Palahniuk

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Chuck Palahniuk

Charles Michael "Chuck" Palahniuk (born February 21, 1962) is an American satirical novelist and freelance journalist.

See also:
Choke (novel)
Damned (Palahniuk novel)
Diary (novel)
Fight Club (novel)
Haunted (Palahniuk novel)
Invisible Monsters
Lullaby (Palahniuk novel)
Rant: The Oral Biography of Buster Casey
Survivor (Palahniuk novel)

Quotes[edit]

  • I think they've always gone on. I've gotten some irate letters from oldsters saying "We did this in the 1930s. You didn't invent anything." And I'm like, "Gramps, you should have put a name on it and sold it, because that’s all I did."
    • On the creation of Fight Club
    • Interview with Rolling Stone (2002-09-19)
  • I haven't had a TV in 10 years, and I really don't miss it. 'Cause it's always so much more fun to be with people than it ever was to be with a television.
    • Interview with the San Francisco Bay Guardian (2002-10-30)
  • It's easy to attack and destroy an act of creation. It's a lot more difficult to perform one.
  • Why have I sold out? You think I'm supposed to grow old, beating some trite old protest drum that people don't hear anymore? Please; protest is now just a backdrop for a Diesel clothing ad in a slick fashion magazine. My goal is to create a metaphor that changes our reality by charming people into considering their world in a different way. It's time — for me, at least — to be clever and seduce people by entertaining them. I'll never be heard if I'm always ranting and griping.
    • "You Ask The Questions," The Independent Review (2004-03-25)
  • How sweet! You still believe in death... that's just so... quaint. Well, sorry to pop your death bubble, but there's no such thing. So make the best of things. Any real belief in death is just wishful thinking. Don't waste good drugs on killing yourself. Share them with friends and have a party. Or send them to me.
    • "You Ask The Questions," The Independent Review (2004-03-25)
  • The first step — especially for young people with energy and drive and talent, but not money — the first step to controlling your world is to control your culture. To model and demonstrate the kind of world you demand to live in. To write the books. Make the music. Shoot the films. Paint the art.
    • Closing remarks made on an eClass forum (Barnes & Noble University) (2004-12-05)
  • I love being with people. But I need a script, a role, something that will help me overcome my fears of rejection and shame. Most religions and belief systems provide a blueprint for some sort of community. And the religion’s leaders model a way of being. For example, in my book Choke, a character enacts his own death and resurrection every night – as does the narrator in Fight Club. Here’s Jesus, allowing himself to look terrible in front of his peers. That’s the biggest purpose of religious gathering: permission to look terrible in public.
  • All I do is track a profane route to something (I hope) profound. Like swimming a river of shit for a kiss.
    • On what sets him apart from others in his genre.
    • Online chat transcript, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (2007-05-01)
  • If we can forgive what's been done to us... If we can forgive what we've done to others... If we can leave our stories behind. Our being victims and villains. Only then can we maybe rescue the world.
  • Going to spring break at Ft. Lauderdale, getting drunk and flashing your breasts isn't an act of personal empowerment. It's you, so fashioned and programmed by the construct of a patriarchal society that you no longer know what's best for yourself. A damsel too dumb to know she is even in distress.

Lullaby (2002)[edit]

  • The problem with every story is you tell it after the fact. Every play-by-play description on the radio, the home runs and strikeouts, even that's delayed a few minutes. Even live television is postponed a couple seconds. Even Sound and light can only go so fast.
    • Chapter 1
  • The muffled thunder of dialogue comes through the walls, then a chorus of laughter. Then more thunder. Most of the laugh tracks on television were recorded in the early 1950s. These days, most of the people you hear laughing are dead.
    • Chapter 3
  • You turn up your music to hide the noise. Other people turn up their music to hide yours. You turn up yours again. Everyone buys a bigger stereo system. This is the arms race of sound You don't win with a lot of treble. This isn't about quality. It's about volume. This isn't about music. This is about winning. You stomp the competition with the bass line. You rattle windows. You drop the melody line, and shout the lyrics. You put in foul language and come down hard on each cussword. You dominate. This is really about power.
    • Chapter 3
  • These people so scared of silence. These are my neighbors. These sound-oholics. These quiet-ophobics.
    • Chapter 3
  • We come from a generation of people who need their TV or stereo playing all the time. These people so scared of silence. These soundaholics, these quietophobics.
    • Chapter 3
  • No one wants to admit we're addicted to music. That's just not possible. No one's addicted to music and television and radio. We just need more of it, more channels, a larger screen, more volume. We can't bear to be without it, but no, nobody's addicted. We could turn it off anytime we wanted. I fit a window frame into a brick wall. With a little brush, the size for fingernail polish, I glue it. The window is the size of a fingernail. The glue smells like hair spray. The smell tastes like oranges and gasoline
    • Chapter 3
  • No detail is too minor to note.
  • Anymore, no one's mind is their own. You can't concentrate. You can't think. There's always some noise worming in. Singers shouting. Dead people laughing. Actors crying. All these little doses of emotion. Someone's always spraying the air with their mood.
    • Chapter 3
  • There are worse things than finding your wife and child dead. You can watch the world do it. You can watch your wife get old and bored. You can watch your kids discover everything in the world you've tried to save them from. Drugs, divorce, conformity, disease. All the nice clean books, music, television. Distraction.These people with dead children, you want to tell them, go ahead. Blame yourself. There are worse things you can do to the people you love than kill them. The regular way is just to watch the world do it. Just read the newspaper.
    • Chapter 3
  • Old George Orwell got it backward. Big Brother isn't watching. He's singing and dancing. He's pulling rabbits out of a hat. Big Brother’s busy holding your attention every moment you're awake. He's making sure you're always distracted. He's making sure you're fully absorbed. He's making sure your imagination withers. Until it's as useful as your appendix. He's making sure your attention is always filled. And this being fed, it's worse than being watched. With the world always filling you, no one has to worry about what's in your mind. With everyone's imagination atrophied, no one will ever be a threat to the world.
    • Chapter 3
  • When ancient Greeks had a thought, it occurred to them as a god or goddess giving an order. Apollo was telling them to be brave. Athena was telling them to fall in love. Now people hear a commercial for sour cream potato chips and rush out to buy them, but now they call this free will. At least the Greeks were being honest.
    • Chapter 3
  • The trick to forgetting the big picture is to look at everything close-up.
    • Chapter 3
  • In journalism school, what they want you to be is a camera. A trained, objective, detached professional. Accurate, polished, and observant. They want you to believe that the new and you are always two separate things. Killers and reporters are mutually exclusive. Whatever the story, this isn't about you.
  • You don't become a journalist because you're good at keeping secrets. Being a Journalist is about telling. It's about bearing the bad news. Spreading the contagion. The biggest story in history. This could be the end of mass media. The Culling song would be a plague unique to the Information Age. Imagine a world where people shun the television, the radio, movies, the Internet, magazines, and newspapers. People have to wear earplugs the way they wear condoms and rubber gloves. In the past, nobody worried too much about sex with strangers. Or before that, bites from fleas. Or untreated drinking water. Mosquitoes. Asbestos.
    • Chapter 7
  • Imagine the books burning. And tapes and films and files, radios and televisions, will all go into that same bonfire. All those libraries and bookstores blazing away in the night. People will attack microwave relay stations. People with axes will chop every fiber-optic cable.
    • Chapter 7
  • Power corrupts. And absolute power corrupts absolutely.
    So just relax, Helen Boyle told me, and just enjoy the ride.
    She said, "Even absolute corruption has its perks.
    • Chapter 9
  • Our footsteps echo against the concrete floor. The steel roof hums with rain. And she says, 'Don't you feel, somehow, buried in history?'
    • Chapter 10
  • These distraction-oholics. These focus-ophobics."
    • Chapter 14
  • Sticks and stones may break your bones but words can hurt like hell.
    • Chapter 14
  • Here's Big Brother, singing and dancing, force-feeding you, so your mind never goes hungry enough to think.
    • Chapter 14
  • Until you deal with your real personal issues, you'll never be able to control yourself.
    • Chapter 14
  • Down through the ceiling comes a fire siren and people screaming that we're supposed to ignore. The gunshots and tires squeeling, sounds wee have to pretend are okay. They don't mean anything. It's just television. An explosion vibrates down from the upstairs. A woman begs someone not to rape her. It's not real. It's just a movie. We're the culture that cried wolf.
    • Chapter 17
  • "When you think about it from a native plant perspective," Oyster says."Johnny Apple seed was a fucking biological terrorist."
    • Chapter 19
  • The way you can go to Paris or Beijing, Oyster says, and everywhere there's a McDonald's hamburger, this is the ecological equivalent of franchised life-forms. Every place is the same place. Kudzu. Zebra mussels. Water hyacinths. Starlings. Burger Kings. The local natives, anything unique gets squeezed out.. He says, "We're landscaping the whole world one stupid mistake at a time."
    • Chapter 19
  • Sure, everybody wants to play God, but for me it's a full-time job.
    • Chapter 20
  • According to Mona, you shouldn't kill people, because that drives you away from humanity. In order to justify killing, you have to make the victim your enemy. To justify any crime, you have to make the victim your enemy.

After long enough, everyone in the world will be your enemy. With every crime, Mona says, you're more and more alienated from the world. More and more, you imagine the whole world is against you.

    • Chapter 22
  • Doctor Sarah didn't start out by attacking and berating everybody who called her radio show," Mona says. "She used to have a little time slot and a little audience, and she seemed to really care about helping people."

And maybe it was after years and years of getting the same calls about unwanted pregnancies, about divorces, about family squabbles. Maybe it was because her audience grew and her show moved to prime time. Maybe it was the more money she earned. Maybe power corrupts, but she wasn't always a bitch.

    • Chapter 22
  • Still, he deserved to die. He called me an asshole.
    • Chapter 22
  • Centuries ago, sailors on long voyages used to leave a pair of pigs on every deserted island. Or they'd leave a pair of goats. Either way, on any future visit, the island would be a source of meat. These islands, they were pristine. These were home to breeds of birds with no natural predators. Breeds of birds that lived nowhere else on earth. The plants there, without enemies they evolved without thorns or poisons. Without predators and enemies, these islands, they were paradise. The sailors, the next time they visited these islands, the only things still there would be herds of goats or pigs. .... Does this remind you of anything? Maybe the ol' Adam and Eve story? .... You ever wonder when God's coming back with a lot of barbecue sauce?
    • Chapter 23
  • The masochist bullies the sadist into action. The most person person is actually the aggressor. Every day, just you living means the misery and death of plants and animals- and even some people. "Slaughterhouses, factory farms, sweatshops," she says, "like it or not, that's what your money buys."
  • In order to save the world, Jesus Christ suffered for about thirty-six hours on the cross. I am willing to suffer an eternity in hell for the same cause.
    • Chapter 26
  • Every generation wants to be the last. Every generation hates the next trend in music they can't understand. We hate to give up the reins of our culture. To find our own music playing in elevators. The ballad for our revolution, turned into background music for a television commercial. To find our generation's clothes and hair suddenly retro.
    • Chapter 26
  • Maybe you don't go to hell for the things you do. Maybe you go to hell for the things you don't do.
    • Chapter 28
  • History is is filled with brilliant people who wanted to fix things and just made them worse.
    • Chapter 39
  • I need to rebel against myself. It's the opposite of following your bliss. I need to do what I most fear.
    • Chapter 39
  • The trick to forgetting the big picture is to look at everything close-up.
  • The more people die, the more things stay the same.
  • Imagine immortality, where even a marriage of fifty years would feel like a one-night stand. Imagine seeing trends and fashions blur past you. Imagine the world more crowded and desperate every century. Imagine changing religions, homes, diets, careers, until none of them have any real value.Imagine traveling the world until you're bored with every square inch. Imagine your emotions, your loves and hates and rivalries and victories, played out again and again until life is nothing more than a melo-dramatic soap opera. Until you regard the birth and death of other people with no more emotion than the wilted cut flowers you throw away.
  • Maybe this is why so many serial killers work in pairs. It's nice not to feel alone in a world full of victims or enemies.
  • Sticks and stones will break your bones, but now words can kill, too.This is how we must look to God. As if everything's just fine.
  • This culling poem is a blessing. Why do you think it was created in the first place? It will save millions of people from the slow terrible death we're headed for from disease, from famine, drought, from solar radiation, from war, from all the places we're headed.
  • "The best way to waste your life is by taking notes. The easiest way to avoid living is to just watch.
  • Either an ancient cursed Egyptian mummy has come back to life and is trying to kill the people next door, or they're watching a movie.

Stranger Than Fiction: True Stories (2004)[edit]

  • If you haven’t already noticed, all my books are about a lonely person looking for some way to connect with other people.
    In a way, that is the opposite of the American Dream: to get so rich you can rise above the rabble, all those people on the freeway or, worse, the bus.
  • The journalist researches a story. The novelist imagines it.
    What’s funny is, you’d be amazed at the amount of time a novelist has to spend with people in order to create this single lonely voice. This seemingly isolated world.
    It’s hard to call any of my novels “fiction.”
  • All my friends with PalmPilots and cell phones, they’re always calling themselves and leaving reminders to themselves about what’s about to happen. We leave Post-it notes for ourselves. We go to that shop in the mall, the one where they engrave whatever shit you want on a silver-plated box or a fountain pen, and we get a reminder for every special event that life goes by too fast for us to remember. We buy those picture frames where you record a message on a sound chip. We videotape everything! Oh, and now there’s those digital cameras, so we can all email around our photos — this century’s equivalent of the boring vacation slide show. We organize and reorganize. We record and archive.
  • Everything is funnier in retrospect, funnier and prettier and cooler. You can laugh at anything from far enough away.

Haunted (2005)[edit]

  • People in France have a phrase: "Spirit of the Stairway." In French: esprit d'Escalier. It means that moment when you find the answer but it's too late. So you're at a party and someone insults you. You have to say something. So, under pressure, with everybody watching, you say something lame. But the moment you leave the party...As you start down the stairway, then - magic. You come up with the perfect thing you should've said. The perfect crippling put down. That's the Spirit of the Stairway. The trouble is, even the French don't have a phrase for the stupid things you actually do say under pressure. Those stupid, desperate things you actually think or do.
    • Chapter One, Guts
  • "To create a race of masters from a race of slaves, Mr. Whittier said, to teach a controlled group of how to create their own lives, Moses had to be an asshole."
    • Chapter 3
  • "It's not a matter of right and wrong," Mr. Whittier would say. Really, there is no wrong. Not in our minds. Our own reality. You can never set off to do the wrong thing. You can never say the wrong thing. In your own mind, you are always right. Every action you take--what you do or say or how you choose to appear--is automatically right the moment you act.
    • Chapter 4
  • What you have to love about drinking is, every swallow is an irrevocable decision. You charging ahead, in control if the game. It’s the same with pills, sedatives and painkillers, every swallow us a first definite step down some road.
    • Chapter 4, Slumming by Lady Baglady
  • Stink for privacy, the new way to protect personal space. Intimidation by odor.
    • Chapter 4, Slumming by Lady Baglady
  • "A journalist has a right... ...and a duty, to destroy the golden calves he helps create."
    • Chapter 5, Trade Secrets, A Poem About the Earl of Slander
  • "You are permanent, but this life is not," Mr. Whittier would say. "You don't expect to visit an amusement park, then stay forever."
    • Chapter 6
  • The earth, he'd say, is just a big machine. A big processing plant. A factory. That's your big answer. The big truth. Think of a rock polisher, one of those drums, goes round and round, rolls twenty-four/seven, full of water and rocks and gravel. Grinding it all up. Round and round. Polishing those ugly rocks into gemstones. That's the earth. Why it goes round. We're the rocks. And what happens to us--the drama and pain and joy and war and sickness and victory and abuse--why, that's just the water and sand to erode us. Grind us down. To polish us up, nice and bright.
    • Chapter 6
  • In the big factory of perfecting human souls, the Earth was a kind of tumbler. The same as the kind people use to polish rocks. All souls come here to rub the sharp edges off each other. All of us, we're meant to be worn smooth by conflict and pain of every kind. To be polished. There was nothing bad about this. This wasn't suffering. It was erosion. It was just another, a basic, an important step in the refining process.
    • Chapter 6
  • "Every apostle or disciple," Mrs. Clarke says, "as much as their running to follow they're savior-they're running just as hard to escape something else."
    • Chapter 8
  • For the rest of history, all over the world, people will be trying to save this same dead woman. This woman who just wanted to die.
    • Chapter 9, Exodus
  • You can't unfuck a kid. Once you fuck a kid, you can't get that genie back in the bottle.
    • Chapter 9, Exodus
  • This is just what human beings do-turn objects into people, people into objects. Back and forth. Tit for tat.
    • Chapter 9, Exodus
  • As a fundraiser, our first idea was 'Five Bucks to Punch a Mime.'
    • Chapter 10, Punch Drunk
  • "Yes, terrible things happen, but sometimes those terrible things- they save you." p205
    • Chapter 11, Ritual
  • "What matters," Sister Vigilante says, "is, people need a monster they can believe in." A true horrible enemy. A demon to define themselves against. Otherwise, it's just us versus us.
    • Chapter 13, Civil Twilight
  • With the angel of death going door to door, people stayed together. They quit bitching and behaved.
    • Chapter 13, Civil Twilight
  • I lost my virginity through my ear.
    • Chapter 15, Anticipation
  • The whole idea of men creating perfect robot women for their own pleasure, it happens every day. The most "beautiful" women you see in public, none of them are for real. They're just men perpetuating their perverted stereotypes of women. Just the oldest story in the world. There's a penis on every page of Cosmopolitan magazine if you know where to look.
    • Chapter 15, Speaking Bitterness, A Story by Comrade Snarky
  • "We should forgive God..."

For making us short. Fat. Poor.

We should forgive God for our baldness. Our cystic fibrosis. Our juvenile leukemia.

We should forgive God's indifference, His leaving us behind:

Us, God's forgotten Science Fair project, left to grow mold.

God's goldfish, ignored until we're forced to eat our own shit off the bottom.

  • Chapter 19, Absolution
  • That's how a scary story works. It echoes some ancient fear. It recreates some forgotten terror. Something we'd like to think we're grown beyond. But it can still scare us to tears. It's something you'd hoped was healed.
    • Chapter 19, Hot Potting, A story by Baroness Frostbite
  • If there's a trick to doing a job you hate... Mrs. Clark says it's to find a job you hate even more.
    • Chapter 20, Cassandra, Another story by Mrs. Clarke
  • We love drama. We love conflict. We need a devil or we'll create one.
    • Chapter 20, Cassandra, Another story by Mrs. Clarke
  • "Telling a story is how we digest what happens to us," Mr Whittier says, "It's how we digest our lives. Our experiences."
    • Chapter 21
  • If we can forgive what's been done to us... If we can forgive what we've done to others... If we can leave our stories behind. Our being victims and villains. Only then can we maybe rescue the world.
    • Chapter 21
  • "I used to think the secret to a happy ending was to bring down the curtain at the exact right time. A moment after happiness, then everything's all wrong again." p76
  • "The difference between how you look and how you see yourself is enough to kill most people. And maybe the reason vampires don’t die is because they can never see themselves in photographs or mirrors." p144
  • People fall so in love with their pain, they can’t leave it behind. The same as the stories they tell. We trap ourselves.
  • Some stories, Mr.Whitter would say, you tell them and you use them up. Other stories, they use you up. p288
  • Some stories, you use up. Others use you up.
  • The difference between how you look and how you see yourself is enough to kill most people. And maybe the reason vampires don’t die is because they can never see themselves in photographs or mirrors.
  • The world will always punish the few people with special talents the rest of us don’t recognize as real.
  • A book is as private and consensual as sex.
  • Leather shoes and fried chicken and dead soldiers are only a tragedy if you waste their gift sitting in front of the television. Or stuck in traffic. Or stranded at some airport.
  • That’s the American Dream: to make your life into something you can sell.
  • Their teeth white, as if they never used teeth for anything except to smile.
  • Some stories, she'd say, the more you tell them, the faster you use them up. Those kind, the drama burns off, and every version, they sound more silly and flat. The other kind of story, it uses you up. The more you tell it, the stronger it gets. Those kind of stories only remind you how stupid you were. Are. Will always be.
  • I used to think the secret to a happy ending was to bring down the curtain at the exact right time. A moment after happiness, then everything's all wrong, again.
  • "Until you can ignore your circumstances, and just do as you promise," he says, "you'll always be controlled by the world."
  • You will always have some excuse not to live your life.
  • Her dress, swimsuit-tight, leotard-tight, her pantyhose run with women pedaling bicycles going nowhere at a thousand calories an hour.

Damned (2011)[edit]

  • What makes earth feel like Hell is our expectation that it should feel like Heaven.
  • If you can watch much television, then being dead will be a cinch. Actually, watching television and surfing the Internet are really excellent practice for being dead.
  • The first time we meet another person an insidious little voice in our head says, 'I might wear eyeglasses or be chunky around the hips or a girl, but at least I'm not Gay or Black or a Jew.' Meaning: I may be me - but at least I have the good sense not to be YOU.
  • It simply makes sense that I should miss my parents more than they miss me, especially when you consider that they only loved me for thirteen years while I loved them my entire life.
  • In Hell you'd be foolish to count on people displaying high standards of honesty. The same goes for earth.
  • Yes, and I know that when a supersexy older girl with hips and breasts and nice hair wants to take off your glasses and to paint you a smokey eye she's merely trying to enroll you in a beauty contest she's already won. It's the kind of slummy, condescending gesture, like when rich people ask poor people where they summer. To me, this smacks of a blatant, insensitive 'let them eat cake' type of chauvinism.
  • If the living are haunted by the dead. Then the dead are haunted by their own mistakes."
  • I do hereby and forever abandon abandoning all hope. Honestly, I give up on giving up. I'm just not cut out to be some hopeless, disillusioned wretch with no aspirations for the rest of the eternity, sprawled catatonic in my own feces on a cold stone floor. In all probability the Human Genome Project will, someday, find that I carry some recessive gene for optimism, because despite all my best efforts I still can't scrape together even a couple of days of hopelessness. Future scientists would call it Pollyanna Syndrome, and if forced to guess, I'd say that mine has been a way-long case of history chasing rainbows.

External links[edit]

Works by Chuck Palahniuk
  Novels     Fight Club (1996) · Survivor (1999) · Invisible Monsters (1999) · Choke (2001) · Lullaby (2002) · Diary (2003) · Haunted (2005) · Rant (2007) · Snuff (2008) · Pygmy (2009) · Tell-All  
  (2010) · Damned (2011) · Invisible Monsters Remix (2012) · Doomed (2013) · Beautiful You (2014) · Make Something Up (2015)  
  Non‑fiction     Fugitives and Refugees: A Walk in Portland, Oregon (2003) · Stranger than Fiction: True Stories (2004)  
  Comic books     Fight Club 2 (2015–2016)  
  Film adaptations     Fight Club (1999) · Choke (2008)