Stranger Than Fiction
Chuck Palahniuk
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Buy *Stranger Than Fiction: True Stories* online

Stranger Than Fiction: True Stories
Chuck Palahniuk
256 pages
May 2005
rated 2 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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The author of Fight Club turns a focused and microscopic eye upon the world in which we live. This nonfiction collection looks at everything from Marilyn Manson to wrestling and demolition derbies. If the devil is in the details, then this book probably sits upon Beelzebub's own shelf, crammed as it is with micro-investigations of people and places and things.

These are engaging though not necessarily insightful forays into the idiomatic and bizarre pursuits of the common man. The introduction is, in fact, one of the most compelling chapters inasmuch as the writer attempts to spell out the differences between his work as a fiction writer and a journalist. He says, "The journalist researches a story. The novelist imagines it." A succinct and compact little ditty meant to guide us, the reader, in the right direction.

But this type of book has been tackled by others, in the main by Tom Wolfe. His numerous collections shine brilliantly in the light of his own masterful prose and his ability to unearth the essential emotion of a piece. The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and The Right Stuff represented expanded journalistic treks into the heart of a subject. Unlike contemporary Hunter S. Thompson, who also dived into the world of reportage, Wolfe never inserted himself inside his stories in the way the Gonzo writer did. He sat on the sidelines and only reported the information he had gathered. Similarly, Palahniuk presented only the facts but his essays just laid on the page.

Like an expanded schematic, a graphic depicting the minituae of an object, the author does part the various layers to arrive at its core. When he arrives there, however, there is little to be revealed, and the reader is left with a chapter both empty and wasteful.

On numerous occasions, the writer makes reference to his writing of the Fight Club book and all the accoutrements that accompanied it: book signings, the movie, the hoopla. As if he's trying to defend this compendium in light of the success of that highly-regarded novel. A strange tactic, but nonetheless, these moments are repeated many times. An author, feeling he must bring out the big guns in order to defend the very book he's now writing, is not a good sign. That is stranger than fiction.

© 2004 by Steven Rosen for Curled Up With a Good Book

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