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Writer, Father. Entrepreneur. Bum. Atheist. Recluse. Garhwali. Foodie. Downloader. Drifter. In no particular order.

24.7.07

chuck

Chuck is best known for his novel 'Fight Club'. I've been reading up about him. Here are some of the things I unearthed. Enjoy!

1. Quotes
2. On Amy Hempel (An essay)
3. 13 writing Tips

1. Chuck Palahniuk Quotes

Fight Club quotes

What would Marilyn Monroe be doing if she were alive right now? Clawing at the lid of her coffin.

It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything.

If you could be God's worst enemy or nothing, which would you choose?

This is why I loved the support groups so much. If people thought you were dying, they gave you their full attention. If this might be the last time they saw you, they really saw you… People listened instead of just waiting for their turn to speak. And when they spoke, they weren’t telling you a story. When the two of you talked, you were building something, and afterward you were both different than before.

A minute of perfection was worth the effort. A moment was the most you could ever expect from perfection.

Sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken.

Our fathers were our models for God. If our fathers failed, what does that tell you about God?

Look up at the stars and you're gone. Not your luggage. Nothing matters. Not your bad breath. The windows are dark outside and the horns are blaring around you. The headlights are flashing high and low and high in your face, and you will never have to work again. You will never have to get another haircut.

This is your life and it's ending one minute at a time.

I want to have your abortion.

I just don't want to die without a few scars.

You know that saying about how you always kill the one you love? It works both ways.

If I could wake up in a different place, at a different time, could I wake up as a different person?

You just had a near life experience.

We are selling women their fat asses back to them.
Invisible Monsters quotes

If I can't be beautiful I want to be invisible.

When did the future switch from being a promise to a threat?

Nothing of me is original. I am the combined effort of everybody I've ever known.

When we don't know who to hate, we hate ourselves.

Your birth is a mistake you'll spend your whole life trying to correct

Beauty is power like money is power like a gun is power.

Your heart is my pinata.

Given the choice between grabbing a strange tongue and watching a monster poop into a giant snail shell, the face retreats and slams the door behind it.

The one you love and the one who loves you are never, ever the same person.

There are worst things you can do to the people you love than kill them. No matter how much you think you love somebody, you'll step back when the pool of their blood edges up too close.

As soon as we become boring we die. Never ever become boring.

And married people always think love is the answer.

The only way to find true happiness is to risk being completely cut open.
Survivor quotes

Today is the kind of day where the sun only comes up to humilate you.

Reality means you live until you die...the real truth is nobody wants reality

The only difference between martyrdom and suicide really is press coverage.

It's only in drugs or death that we experience anything new and death is just too controling

Everybody thinks their whole life should be at least as much fun as masturbation

What we call chaos is just patterns we haven't recognized yet.

Since change is constant, you wonder if people crave death because it is the only way they can really get anything finished.

The only thing I know is everything you love will die. The first time you meet that someone special, you can count on them one day being dead and in the ground.

Right now, me getting killed would be redundant.

The cultures that don't castrate you to make you a slave, they castrate your mind. They make sex so filthy and evil and dangerous that no matter how good you know it would feel to have sexual relations, you won't.

The joke is, we all have the same punch line.
Choke quotes

Nothing is ever as good as you can imagine it

Just keep asking yourself: 'What would Jesus NOT do?'

Art never comes from happiness.

'We don't live in the real world anymore,' she said. 'We live in a world of symbols.'

Until you find something to fight for, you settle for something to fight against.

I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a hot-gushing, butt-cramping, gut-hosing orgasm.

Without access to true chaos, we'll never have true peace. Unless everything can get worse, it won't get any better.
Lullaby quotes

No matter how much you think you love somebody, you'll step back when the pool of their blood edges up too close.

Maybe we don't go to hell for the things we do, maybe we go to hell for the things we don't do.

There are no ghosts. When you die, you're dead. There's no afterlife. People who claim they can see ghosts are just looking for attention. People who believe in reincarnation are just postponing their lives.

We are all haunted and haunting.

The only biodeversity we're going to have left is Coke versus Pepsi.

After long enough, everyone in the world will become your enemy.
Diary quotes

What you don't understand you can make mean anything.

Just for the record, the weather today is bitter with occasional fits of jealous rage.

Leonardo's Mona Lisa is just a thousand smears of paint. Michelangelo's David is just a million hits with a hammer. We're all of us a million bits put together the right way.

A couple drinks. A couple aspirin. Repeat.

Just for the record, she still loves you. She wouldn't bother to torture you if she didn't.

We have no scar to show from happiness. We learn so little from peace.
Haunted quotes

You can't unfuck a kid. Once you fuck a kid, you can't get that genie back in the bottle.

It's been fourteen weeks since I had that head cold and you still have not kissed me.

If you don't work, you don't sleep. Day and night, you're half awake, bored.

You can spend your whole life building a wall of facts between you and anything real.

If you love something set it free...but don't be surprised when it comes back with herpes.

This is just what human beings do--turn objects into people, people into objects.

If death meant leaving the stage long enough just to change costumes and become a new character, would you speed up? Or slow down?

That's the American Dream: to make your life into something you can sell.

Some stories, you use up. Others use you up.
Chuck in his own words

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.' -- Chuck Palahniuk

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. -- Chuck Palahniuk

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. -- Chuck Palahniuk

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. -- Chuck Palahniuk

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. -- Chuck Palahniuk


he Breaks Your Heart

2. Chuck Palahniuk on Amy Hempel (An essay)
Wednesday, September 18, 2002 - 12:00 am

WHEN YOU STUDY MINIMALISM IN THE NOVELIST Tom Spanbauer's workshop, the first story you read is Amy Hempel's The Harvest. After that, you're ruined. I'm not kidding. You go there, and almost every other book you ever read will suck. All those thick, third-person, plot-driven books torn from the pages of today's news -- after Amy Hempel, you'll save yourself a lot of time and money.

Or not. Every year on my tax return's itemized C schedule, I deduct more money for new copies of Hempel's three books, Reasons To Live, At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom and Tumble Home. Every year, I want to share these books. What happens is they never come back. Good books never do. This is why my office shelves are crowded with nonfiction too gross for most people, mostly forensic autopsy textbooks, and a ton of novels I hate.

At a bar in New York last year, the literary bar KGB in the East Village, Hempel told me her first book is out of print. The only copy I know of is behind glass in the rare-book room at Powell's Books in Portland, a first-edition hardcover selling for $75 without a signature. I have a rule about meeting the flesh-and-blood version of people whose work I love -- that rule I'm saving for the end.

Unless Hempel's books are reprinted, I may end up spending more or making fewer friends. You cannot not push these books on people, saying, "Read this," saying, "Is it just me, or did it make you cry, too?" I once gave Animal Kingdom to a friend and said, "If you don't love this, we have nothing in common."

Every sentence isn't just crafted, it's tortured over. Every quote and joke, what Hempel tosses out comedian-style, is something funny or profound enough you'll remember it for years. The same way, I sense, Hempel has remembered it, held on to it, saved it for a place where it could really shine. Scary jewelry metaphor, but her stories are studded and set with these compelling bits. Chocolate chip cookies with no bland "cookie" matrix, just nothing but chips and chopped walnuts.

In that way, her experience becomes your experience. Teachers talk about how students need to have an emotional breakthrough, an "ah-hah!" discovery moment in order to retain information. Fran Lebowitz still writes about the moment she first looked at a clock and grasped the concept of telling time. Hempel's work is nothing but these flashes, and every flash makes you ache with recognition.

Right now, Spanbauer's teaching another batch of students by photocopying The Harvest from his old copy of The Quarterly, the magazine edited by Gordon Lish, the man who taught minimalism to Tom and Amy. And me.

At first, The Harvest looks like a laundry list of details. You have no idea why you're almost weeping by the end of seven pages. You're a little confused and disoriented. It's just a simple list of facts presented in the first person, but somehow it adds up to more than the sum of its parts. Most of the facts are funny as hell, but at the last moment, when you're disarmed by laughter, it breaks your heart.

She breaks your heart. First and foremost. That evil Amy Hempel. That's the first bit Spanbauer teaches you: A good story should make you laugh, and a moment later, break your heart. The last bit is: You will never write this well. You won't learn this part until you've ruined a lot of paper, wasting your free time with a pen in one hand for years and years. At any horrible moment, you might pick up a copy of Hempel and find your best work is just a cheap rip-off of her worst.

To demonstrate minimalism, students sit around Spanbauer's kitchen table for 10 weeks taking apart The Harvest. The first thing you study is what Tom calls "horses." The metaphor is -- if you drive a wagon from Utah to California, you use the same horses the whole way. Substitute the word "themes" or "choruses" and you get the idea. In minimalism, a story is a symphony, building and building, but never losing the original melody line. All characters and scenes, things that seem dissimilar, they all illustrate some aspect of the story's theme. In The Harvest, we see how every detail is some part of mortality and dissolution, from kidney donors to stiff fingers to the television series Dynasty.

The next aspect, Spanbauer calls "burnt tongue." A way of saying something, but saying it wrong, twisting it to slow down the reader. Forcing the reader to read close, maybe read twice, not just skim along a surface of abstract images, short-cut adverbs, and clichés.

In minimalism, clichés are called "received text."

In The Harvest, Hempel writes, "I moved through the days like a severed head that finishes a sentence." Right here, you have her "horses" of death and dissolution and her writing a sentence that slows you to a more deliberate, attentive speed.

Oh, and in minimalism, no abstracts. No silly adverbs like sleepily, irritably, sadly, please. And no measurements, no feet, yards, degrees or years-old. The phrase "an 18-year-old girl" -- what does that mean?

In The Harvest, Hempel writes, "The year I began to say vahz instead of vase, a man I barely knew nearly accidentally killed me."

Instead of some dry age or measurement, we get the image of someone just becoming sophisticated, plus there's burnt tongue, plus she uses her "horse" of mortality.

See how these things add up?

What else you learn about minimalism includes "recording angel." This means writing without passing any judgments. Nothing is fed to the reader as fat or happy. You can only describe actions and appearances in a way that makes a judgment occur in the reader's mind. Whatever it is, you unpack it into the details that will re-assemble themselves within the reader.

Amy Hempel does this. Instead of telling us the boyfriend in The Harvest is an asshole, we see him holding a sweater soaked with his girlfriend's blood and telling her, "You'll be okay, but this sweater is ruined."

Less becomes more. Instead of the usual flood of general details, you get a slow drip of single-sentence paragraphs, each one evoking its own emotional reaction. At best, she's a lawyer who presents her case, exhibit by exhibit. One piece of evidence at a time. At worst, she's a magician, tricking people. But reading, you always take the bullet without being told it's coming.

SO, WE'VE COVERED "HORSES" AND "BURNT tongue" and "recording angel." Now, writing "on the body." Hempel shows how a story doesn't have to be some constant stream of blah-blah-blah to bully the reader into paying attention. You don't have to hold readers by both ears and ram every moment down their throats. Instead, a story can be a succession of tasty, smelly, touchable details. What Spanbauer and Lish call "going on the body," to give the reader a sympathetic physical reaction, to involve the reader on a gut level.

The only problem with Hempel's palace of fragments is quoting it. Take any piece out of context, and it loses power. The French philosopher Jacques Derrida likens writing fiction to a software code that operates in the hardware of your mind. Stringing together separate macros that, combined, will create a reaction. No fiction does this as well as Hempel's, but each story is so tight, so boiled to bare facts, that all you can do is lie on the floor, face down, and praise it.

My rule about meeting people is -- if I love their work, I don't want to risk seeing them fart or pick their teeth. Last year in New York, I did a reading at the Barnes & Noble in Union Square where I praised Hempel, telling the crowd that if she wrote enough I'd just stay home and read in bed all day. The next night, she appeared at my reading in the Village. I drank half a beer and we talked without passing gas.

Still, I kind of hope I never see her, again. But I did buy that first edition for $75.

3. 13 Writing Tips
by Chuck Palahniuk

Twenty years ago, a friend and I walked around downtown Portland at Christmas. The big department stores: Meier and Frank… Fredrick and Nelson… Nordstroms… their big display windows each held a simple, pretty scene: a mannequin wearing clothes or a perfume bottle sitting in fake snow. But the windows at the J.J. Newberry's store, damn, they were crammed with dolls and tinsel and spatulas and screwdriver sets and pillows, vacuum cleaners, plastic hangers, gerbils, silk flowers, candy - you get the point. Each of the hundreds of different objects was priced with a faded circle of red cardboard. And walking past, my friend, Laurie, took a long look and said, "Their window-dressing philosophy must be: 'If the window doesn't look quite right - put more in'."

She said the perfect comment at the perfect moment, and I remember it two decades later because it made me laugh. Those other, pretty display windows… I'm sure they were stylist and tasteful, but I have no real memory of how they looked.

For this essay, my goal is to put more in. To put together a kind-of Christmas stocking of ideas, with the hope that something will be useful. Or like packing the gift boxes for readers, putting in candy and a squirrel and a book and some toys and a necklace, I'm hoping that enough variety will guarantee that something here will occur as completely asinine, but something else might be perfect.

Number One: Two years ago, when I wrote the first of these essays it was about my "egg timer method" of writing. You never saw that essay, but here's the method: When you don't want to write, set an egg timer for one hour (or half hour) and sit down to write until the timer rings. If you still hate writing, you're free in an hour. But usually, by the time that alarm rings, you'll be so involved in your work, enjoying it so much, you'll keep going. Instead of an egg timer, you can put a load of clothes in the washer or dryer and use them to time your work. Alternating the thoughtful task of writing with the mindless work of laundry or dish washing will give you the breaks you need for new ideas and insights to occur. If you don't know what comes next in the story… clean your toilet. Change the bed sheets. For Christ sakes, dust the computer. A better idea will come.

Number Two: Your audience is smarter than you imagine. Don't be afraid to experiment with story forms and time shifts. My personal theory is that younger readers distain most books - not because those readers are dumber than past readers, but because today's reader is smarter. Movies have made us very sophisticated about storytelling. And your audience is much harder to shock than you can ever imagine.

Number Three: Before you sit down to write a scene, mull it over in your mind and know the purpose of that scene. What earlier set-ups will this scene pay off? What will it set up for later scenes? How will this scene further your plot? As you work, drive, exercise, hold only this question in your mind. Take a few notes as you have ideas. And only when you've decided on the bones of the scene - then, sit and write it. Don't go to that boring, dusty computer without something in mind. And don't make your reader slog through a scene in which little or nothing happens.

Number Four: Surprise yourself. If you can bring the story - or let it bring you - to a place that amazes you, then you can surprise your reader. The moment you can see any well-planned surprise, chances are, so will your sophisticated reader.

Number Five: When you get stuck, go back and read your earlier scenes, looking for dropped characters or details that you can resurrect as "buried guns." At the end of writing Fight Club, I had no idea what to do with the office building. But re-reading the first scene, I found the throw-away comment about mixing nitro with paraffin and how it was an iffy method for making plastic explosives. That silly aside (… paraffin has never worked for me…) made the perfect "buried gun" to resurrect at the end and save my storytelling ass.

Number Six: Use writing as your excuse to throw a party each week - even if you call that party a "workshop." Any time you can spend time among other people who value and support writing, that will balance those hours you spend alone, writing. Even if someday you sell your work, no amount of money will compensate you for your time spent alone. So, take your "paycheck" up front, make writing an excuse to be around people. When you reach the end of your life - trust me, you won't look back and savor the moments you spent alone.

Number Seven: Let yourself be with Not Knowing. This bit of advice comes through a hundred famous people, through Tom Spanbauer to me and now, you. The longer you can allow a story to take shape, the better that final shape will be. Don't rush or force the ending of a story or book. All you have to know is the next scene, or the next few scenes. You don't have to know every moment up to the end, in fact, if you do it'll be boring as hell to execute.

Number Eight: If you need more freedom around the story, draft to draft, change the character names. Characters aren't real, and they aren't you. By arbitrarily changing their names, you get the distance you need to really torture a character. Or worse, delete a character, if that's what the story really needs.

Number Nine: There are three types of speech - I don't know if this is TRUE, but I heard it in a seminar and it made sense. The three types are: Descriptive, Instructive, and Expressive. Descriptive: "The sun rose high…" Instructive: "Walk, don't run…" Expressive: "Ouch!" Most fiction writers will only use one - at most, two - of these forms. So use all three. Mix them up. It's how people talk.

Number Ten: Write the book you want to read.

Number Eleven: Get author book jacket photos taken now, while you're young. And get the negatives and copyright on those photos.

Number Twelve: Write about the issues that really upset you. Those are the only things worth writing about. In his course, called "Dangerous Writing," Tom Spanbauer stresses that life is too precious to spend it writing tame, conventional stories to which you have no personal attachment. There are so many things that Tom talked about but that I only half remember: the art of "manumission," which I can't spell, but I understood to mean the care you use in moving a reader through the moments of a story. And "sous conversation," which I took to mean the hidden, buried message within the obvious story. Because I'm not comfortable describing topics I only half-understand, Tom's agreed to write a book about his workshop and the ideas he teaches. The working title is "A Hole In The Heart," and he plans to have a draft ready by June 2006, with a publishing date set in early 2007.

Number Thirteen: Another Christmas window story. Almost every morning, I eat breakfast in the same diner, and this morning a man was painting the windows with Christmas designs. Snowmen. Snowflakes. Bells. Santa Claus. He stood outside on the sidewalk, painting in the freezing cold, his breath steaming, alternating brushes and rollers with different colors of paint. Inside the diner, the customers and servers watched as he layered red and white and blue paint on the outside of the big windows. Behind him the rain changed to snow, falling sideways in the wind.

The painter's hair was all different colors of gray, and his face was slack and wrinkled as the empty ass of his jeans. Between colors, he'd stop to drink something out of a paper cup.

Watching him from inside, eating eggs and toast, somebody said it was sad. This customer said the man was probably a failed artist. It was probably whiskey in the cup. He probably had a studio full of failed paintings and now made his living decorating cheesy restaurant and grocery store windows. Just sad, sad, sad.

This painter guy kept putting up the colors. All the white "snow," first. Then some fields of red and green. Then some black outlines that made the color shapes into Xmas stockings and trees.

A server walked around, pouring coffee for people, and said, "That's so neat. I wish I could do that…"

And whether we envied or pitied this guy in the cold, he kept painting. Adding details and layers of color. And I'm not sure when it happened, but at some moment he wasn't there. The pictures themselves were so rich, they filled the windows so well, the colors so bright, that the painter had left. Whether he was a failure or a hero. He'd disappeared, gone off to wherever, and all we were seeing was his work.