Day 88: Rant–An Oral Biography of Buster Casey

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During the last two days I read Chuck Palahniuk’s latest novel Rant. It is certainly not as bad as Haunted, but far from as good as some reviews indicated. It’s the story of “Rant” Buster Casey, serial killer, sex virtuoso and rabies spreader, told through the point of view of a large series of characters (somewhat of an As I Lay Dying on a Black Widow poison trip in a postapocalyptic future). Not bad reading overall, but certainly not a great novel. Palahniuk is once again trying too hard to out-Palahniuk himself, if that makes sense (he sadly never truly got back to the Palahniuk of Fight Club, even though Diary was not all bad). The enjoyable things are the occasional nice Palahniuk-esque insights that still have the power to amuse me. Consider this:

Beginning with Santa Claus as a cognitive exercise, a child is encouraged to share the same idea of reality as his peers. Even if that reality is patently invented and ludicrous, belief is encouraged with gifts that support and promote the common cultural lies.

The novel also has an interesting marketing campaign. Check out this site. There is also a game included in this, if you click on the Black Widow. They’ll send you a “Just Married” bumper sticker, which is an allusion to an activity in the novel called “Party Crashing,” in which people put on bridal dresses, write “Just Married” on their cars, decorate them and then go out hunting for other player’s cars to crash into. From the novel: “the activity casually referred to as Party Crashing rejects the idea that driving time is something to be suffered in order to achieve a more useful and fulfilling activity.”

Marcuse for the Day:

To the degree to which freedom from want, the concrete substance of all freedom, is becoming a real possibility, the liberties which pertain to a state of lower productivity are losing their former content. Independence of thought, autonomy, and the right to political opposition are being deprived of their basic critical function in a society which seems increasingly capable of satisfying the needs of the individuals trough the way in which it is organized.

***EDIT: just wanted to express how funny I find the national outrage the ad campaign of an all-female Chicago law firm has sparked. The billboard features a well-endowed woman in lingerie and a naked, muscular man (both, of course, headless–Mulvey would love it) and the slogan: “Life’s short. Get a divorce!” Here an example of the conservative, religious right’s response, who apprently feel this is truly worth debating. Here a blog that features the ad.***

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3 Comments

  1. I haven’t read Rant but mentioning Palahniuk leads me to ask for help. At the moment I’m working on the topic of my thesis. In the past I have written several term papers about the loss of identity and reality. My idea is to point out how the film genre ‘mindfuck’ (like Fight Club) was influenced by literature which includes loss of identity and reality. There are several motives like the Doppelgänger in romanticism, but maybe you know some novels I haven’t read yet which deal with this topic, especially if they are so extreme like Palahniuk’s Fight Club.

    By the way, you really should write something about Strange Days again and if you haven’t seen it yet, I still recommend eXistenZ.

  2. Let’s see. I do not think one would not necessarily be able to link literature and film in such a one-dimensional way–the way cultural representation works is just a little more complex and this argument would inevitably end up somewhat reductive. Instead it would be necessary to link the mindfuck genre to a very specific historical juncture of which it is a mediation and ask what the ideological and representative work is that it does in that juncture (and: what makes us think that it qualifies it as a genre–is there really such uniformity that has any critical/descriptive basis?). This also means that the mindfuck genre is by no means new, but it has gained a special significance within what we (also reductively) refer to as postmodernity. In fact, the mindfuck genre is well known to be the most common popular narrative that represents issues raised by postmodern thought such as the de-centering of the subject. However, the mindfuck genre too often gets lost in its own coquetterie, troubling linear narratives of subjectivity without offering any deeper insight (so you would also have to say something about what the project of such narratives actually accomplishes other than troubling the conception of reality, which has been debated since Plato–so: what does the genre add to the discussion?). All that is to say: the mindfuck genre as a postmodern artifact has been talked about a lot and you should begin by familiarizing yourself with the large amount of critical approaches to it. Also, if you want to make a historical argument about this genre, you would have to be very precise about the ways in which the genre functions in each historical context, as it operated within a completely different context in, say Poe, or Hawthorne, to name the most popular examples, than in postmodernity. If you want to examine the present situation I would recommend radically limiting the scope of your project, since you would otherwise have to address hundreds of already existing examinations of this problem. Maybe one way to fuse film and literature without running the risk of reducing the complexity of representation and the differences between both genres, would be to look at filmic adaptations of literary works.
    In terms of suggesting further reading, it is quite hard to name a postmodern author who has not toyed with this problem (hence the large body of critical approaches to it that has been produced since the late 60s–it would be hard to engage in this discussion without repeating existing arguments, or without having to do a LOT of prior reading, working throgh the already existing body of work). The most important (i.e. canonized) names here are obviously: Barth, DeLillo, Pynchon, Auster, Barthelme, Vonnegut, and, and, and. Also you would have to account for how this narrative signifies completely differently when it comes to even just the classically discussed areas such as race, gender and class. Consider here for example _Beloved_, or _Song of Solomon_, Cha’s _Dictee_, Kingston’ _The Woman Warrior_, _Almanac of the Dead_, the novels of William Gibson and Neal Stephenson, Kathy Acker,…
    As I said, I think the first step would be to radically limit the scope of your project and then read through all the critical material that already exists on that subject. Ideally, you would also have to read a LOT of postmodern, poststructuralist and psychoanalytic theory, but that is probably not feasible, so curtailing the scope of your project can also save you from having to spend a few additional years in order to do that. 🙂

  3. […] de Internet: Solo de Libros, Bajo el signo de libra, Cerebral Jetsam, Dolor de […]


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