By day Victor Mancini works at an historical theme park, where acting out of character (by wearing a watch, for example) is a disciplinary offence – punishable by spending time in the stocks. For reasons that you didn’t learn in history class, this is dangerous without a friend to watch your back. Some evenings Victor attends sex-addict therapy sessions, as he figures it’s a great place to meet nymphomaniacs. Occasionally he visits his mother in her incredibly expensive hospital bed, where he argues with the doctor over the necessity of tube feeding.
The remaining evenings he hits the town, for a near-death experience. “There’s Thai. Greek. Ethiopian. Cuban. There’s still a thousand places I haven’t gone to die.” Victor chooses to fund his mother’s healthcare by enlisting heroic volunteers to save his life, as he chokes himself on the restaurant’s finest cuisine. He then uses emotional blackmail to persuade his saviours to part with their cash – making them the hero over and over again.
Choke is a riot of reverse psychology, perversion, dementia and disillusionment. Following much the same pattern as his three previous novels, once more Palahniuk employs his trademark literary devise – repetition of set phrases – to humorous effect. Necessarily all the major characters have obsessional disorders and live sex lives you only read about in the most obscure adult chatrooms. Much like Fight Club, this book will appeal to young truth-seekers or anyone who retains the ability to be surprised by some of the less obvious transgressions of the human mind.
Palahniuk’s characters are vulnerable and intriguing, his environments refreshing and his observations revolutionary. However, all four novels seem to have been written around identical structures and if you were to read them one after another, the repetition trick might grow tiresome. So split them up by reading something romantic and fanciful in-between.
Choke seizes the dirty truth disguised beneath our modern glamours and screams it loudly into your ear. You may find yourself feeling unusually militant after reading Choke – consider this a warning.