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{ personal log }


I am giddy. And it's not just because I'm jetlagged and my body thinks it's 6am (though it's probably a contributing factor). I am giddy because I just shook hands with someone I admire. A lot.

The admiring, that is. Not the hand-shaking, though I did do it twice.


chuck speaksI don't have a lot of heroes. People my heart goes all staccato around. I mean, if I met Tom Waits in a greasy diner (and, really, where else would I meet him), I'd go pale for sure. Maybe there are others, but I can't think of any, except one.

Chuck Palahniuk. Author of Fight Club. Yeah, you saw the movie. If you didn't, you should. Or skip it and go read the book. And Survivor. And Invisible Monsters. And the latest, Choke. The book I read in Poland. Twice.

I love this man's work. And not just because it's dark. It's the way he writes. The flow of the words. His books are like songs with choruses that keep coming back. His books are like short stories all strung together to make something greater. His books are like the way my mind sounds in my head.

And I met him tonight. Well, I attended a reading. He read from books he had to borrow from the audience because he didn't bring any of his own. He took questions from the audience (his top three desert album CDs: Nine Inch Nails: Downward Spiral, some obscure twenties jazz CD "from when you could tell cocaine was legal," and Radiohead: Pablo Honey) and then did the whole signing thing, warning us that he likes to take time with each person so the wait would be long. The packed room of freaks and weirdoes at the Page Street library didn't seem to mind. When the time came, I ran for the table. I was second.

Yeah, I gave him some {fray} stickers. I couldn't help myself. And, yeah, he signed my copy of Choke. And, yeah, he'll probably write the same thing in a hundred books tonight.

But I got to shake his hand. Twice.

i am a fanboy

If you've read the book, you get the inscription.

{ 9:13pm }



» Glad you got to meet your hero, Derek.
Mine was Ayrton Senna, a racing driver.
I'd worshipped him since I was 6. I never met him. He died in a crash back in 1994.

I liked the film Fight Club a lot...but I never picked up the book, or any of Palahniuk's others. Maybe I will someday...

Tom Cosgrave  { 6.6.01 @ 3:01am }

» Gosh! I got those 'goose pimples' after reading this! What a feeling to meet your hero!!!

lucky u, derek!

– anisha bordoloi  { 6.6.01 @ 3:14am }

» I loved the film Fight Club, and just read Survivor, which was awesome. This guy is a hell of a writer, that's for sure. Did you tell him you're writing a book, too?!

James McNally  { 6.6.01 @ 6:00am }

» Good obscure Tom Waits recording: He sings on minimalist composer Gavin Bryars' "Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet" as back up to an old recording of a tramp singing a few lines of an old hymn on the streets of London.

Gavin had originally produced this composition in the 70's and Tom said it was his favorite recording. So when Gavin decided to rerecord it, Tom offered to sing accompaniment to the tramp. Excellent piece! You can read the review of it at If you'd ever like to hear it, let me know and I'll rip an MP3 of it for you!

Welcome back!!!

Mike Thomas  { 6.6.01 @ 8:29am }

» I saw Chuck read in Seattle . The day before I saw him was his first reading on the tour, and he packed our much-loved Elliot Bay bookstore with more than 350 fans. I went to the reading the next day, where there were probably closer to 100 people, and came away from his 2 hour extravaganza where every question spawned a great personal story, quite inspired. Whether it was opening up cadavers in exchange for letting his friend meet Brad Pitt, or taking acid in Portlands largest mausoleum, or how he went to church and went to the tree of favors and was asked to take a hospice patient on a date, it seemed like this guy was living the Fight Club dream, being the all-singing, all-dancing, kick-ass story collector for the disenchanted.

Then I read his new book, Choke. One a scale of 1 to 5, I would give it a 2. He seemed to have good ideas, but didn't know how to justify them in a plot. Entire scenes that lacked any kind of character interaction other than the main character's hopeful, and biased, opinions, seemed to be wrapped around Chuck's desire to make a point about addiction, or Chuck's desire to find a metaphor for the work against addiction (rocks), or Chuck's desire to find a metaphor for tension and build-up (tantric balls).

Everyone seemed to love this character, but there was no reason anyone should. He himself had a tremendously high opinion of himself, and his views on society were coated with ignorance and self-importance (see also: his views on women). I couldn't help but think that Chuck believed what this character was saying, since he himself said that he did at the reading.

Luckily, the ending wasn't as bad as it could've been. But again, I felt like Chuck just threw in a bunch of surprises that he thought of at the moment, and didn't go back to justify with the story. Every metaphor and theme came cheap, straight out of the mouth of the main character, no justification other than the fact that it sounded interesting. But interesting isn't good enough. It needs to have a purpose in the story.

"Overambitious," isn't quite the right word, but it's the first word that comes to mind.

I don't mean to try to lessen your own opinion of him, and I have to admit that his reading was great. I've been thinking about it for a couple weeks now and think I have a long way to come before living a life like his, and envy his head start. He did a great job of describing the writing process, and explaining how a writer thinks. He himself was a total inspiration, I just don't happen to like his book.

erik  { 6.6.01 @ 10:34am }

» Hey Eric -- I don't want to turn this thread into a critique of the new book. You're welcome to your opinions, of course. I did want to ask, though, have you read any of his other books? I think some of the things you list as negatives could also be referred to as qualities of his writing style. I don't think they were any more pronounced in Choke, but, then, like I said, I'm a fan.

Also, Mike -- Amazingly, I have a CD single of Tom Waits doing "Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet" that I picked out of a 99 cent bin in college when I was first getting into him. Trippy stuff. Thanks for reminding me of it!

dmp  { 6.6.01 @ 10:42am }

» No, I haven't read any of his other books. They all sound very interesting though, when described to me. I especially liked what he wanted to do with Invisible Monsters. He wanted to have the book's chapters shuffled in random order, forcing you to flip back and forth between chapters as you read it. This meant that you would never know when you were reaching the end of the story. The really interesting part of the plan was that there would be long descriptive passages planted in the middle of the book that would never be read. But while flipping back and forth, you might come across these chapters and speculate on how the story would ever progress to that point. He didn't end up doing this because his friend said it would be too strange. He said he really regretted taking that friend's advice. I really regret it too, as that would have been a very interesting book to read, I think.

And I guess the writing style just isn't for me. Lots of other people seem to like it a lot, so I'll just leave it at that. Nevertheless, I'm selling my signed copy of the book.

erik  { 6.6.01 @ 11:31am }

» I saw Chuck last night too (I asked what he writes with: pen and paper), and the dude kicked ass. If there's one thing I took away from his friendly, rambling, down-to-earth talk, it's that it's important to have fucked up friends. 'Cause then you get lots of free material for your books without having to go to the trouble of being all 32 flavors of fucked up yourself.
It's so easy to dismiss someone as a terminally fucked up person and move on, but Chuck seems really good at learning what these folks have to offer. And that inspired me, 'cause everybody's fucked up somehow, but at the same time, everybody's got something to share.

– t  { 6.6.01 @ 2:04pm }

» I'm oozing with jealousy!! Oozing!!! Speechless and oozing is what I am.

Goddess  { 6.6.01 @ 6:56pm }

» It's a shame that all of my heroes are dead or seemingly anti-fan.

– dls  { 6.7.01 @ 5:56am }

» I once went to a reading by Redmond O'Hanlon, that great bushybearded English adventurer (Borneo, the Amazon, Congo). He signed my book too. It said: 'To Koen/ a fine healthy young stud.'
I don't look like that at all, really. It couldn't be further from the truth. I had only been in the sun a day or so, and looked flushed, perhaps. It's completely and ridiculously misplaced - just like O'Hanlon was in Congo and those other horrible places.
Like Derek, I flatter myself thinking that I've been given a pearl of English humor, uniquely oystered for me.

– Koen Kleijn, Amsterdam  { 6.8.01 @ 2:54am }

» I'm not usually impressed by celebrities, but the day I was backstage with Julie Andrews (who was sitting quietly in a chair, waiting to get on again), I just stood there and stared at her, speechless (exceedingly rare for me). She smiled and I went red. I can hum everything she ever sang.

(Jeremy Irons squeezed my arm that evening, too, wishing me and my fellow chorines luck before our number. Very cool, but not nearly as heartstopping.)

And then there was the day I caught a glimpse of Gabriel Garcia Marquez as he walked onstage, surrounded by the cast, after the last performance of Chronicle of A Death Foretold, in the Apple. I think if I'd had the chance to shake his hand I'd have fainted.

mirla  { 6.8.01 @ 9:29pm }


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