Tell-All Review

If you’ve read “l(a”, you know that I’m a big Chuck fan.  Or, if I’m not a fan, then at least I’m someone who appreciates his style.

The reason I like his early works so much is because of the original style in which he wrote them.  If you read Fight Club, or Choke, or Survivor, you’ll see what I mean.  He tells the story in present tense (which, in itself is rare) and every once in a while, he’ll stop the story to sum of what just happened in one semi-profound line.

For example: in Fight Club, there is a big scene where the narrator is talking with his imaginary friend about what’s important in life.  After they decide that the only thing that’s important is to have something to look forward to, Chuck stops the story and says,

May I never be complete.

May I never be content.

May I never be perfect.

That’s pretty profound and it adds to the story.  I like Chuck because I’ve never seen anything like it.  I copied his style for “l(a” because I think it lends itself well to a panel-by-panel comic format.

Since Choke, he’s been trying out new stuff. I have to commend him – one author to another – for trying some new things.  He’s constantly trying to do something no one else does.  Sometimes it works beautifully (see Diary for an excellent example of “original”), sometimes it’s just awkward (see Haunted for an excellent example of “vision beyond ability”).

In Tell-All, I think he falls flat.  Not because it’s sort of a hackneyed premise, and not because I saw the “surprise” ending coming from a mile away, Tell-All falls flat because of the way it‘s presented.

The idea of the book is that a past-her-prime actress in the 50’s (maybe 40’s?  maybe 60’s?) is trying to stage a comeback.  Meanwhile, she’s being taken advantage of by her new boyfriend and her assistant.  Because this story is mostly about Hollywood and Hollywood clichés, a lot of the book involves name-dropping.  Yes, it fits the premise; yes, it fits the style.  But it wasn’t necessary; I think it distracts from the story.  Here’s an example:

Easily half of twentieth-century history sits at this table: Prince Nicholas of Romania, Pablo Picasso, Cordell Hull and Josef von Sternberg. The attendant celebrities seem to stretch from Samuel Beckett to Gene Autry to Marjorie Main to the faraway horizon.

I know that doesn’t seem like much of a distraction, but with the bolded text, I found myself skipping over the paragraphs with a lot of it.  Here’s another:

…Seat Desi Arneaz to the left of Hazel Court.  Put Rosemarry Clooney across from Lex Barer.  Fatty Arbuckle always spits as he speaks, so place him opposite Billie Dove, who’s too blind to notice.  Using my own pen, I elbow into Terry’s work, drawing arrows from Jean Harlow to Lon Chaney Sr. to Douglas Fairbanks Jr.  Like Knute Rockne sketching football plays, I circle Gilda Gray and Hattie McDaniel, and I cross out June Haver.

Just in those two paragraphs, it got kind of annoying, huh?  Did you find yourself skipping to the end?  Now imagine 175 pages of it.

I love Chuck’s originality, but I don’t like Tell-All.  If you have to spend some money, buy “l(a”; you’ll like it more.

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4 Responses

  1. Palahniuk has a tendency to lean on research as a means of filling his books. Or, if not research proper, associated factoids.

    These excerpts, though, seem to be on a whole new level. They seem more akin to the deliberately tedious prose of Bret Easton Ellis, which is successful, in that it is as tedious as intended.

    Speaking of which, has anyone heard anything out of him (Ellis) since American Psycho? I mean, I could look him up on wikipedia, but has anyone actually HEARD anything about him?

  2. I read Glamorama not too long after I saw Zoolander and it was completely ruined for me.
    I heard his newest one was a very good mixture of fiction and nonfiction.

    • Lookit all my well-read fans…
      I’ve never read anything by that dude. As a matter of fact, I try not to read anything when I’m writing (which sucks since I’ve been writing Tiny Life for MANY years).

  3. I enjoy non-fiction.

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