Survivor is the second novel by Chuck Palahniuk. You may recognize the author’s name from his first novel, Fight Club. Like the first novel, Survivor satirizes contemporary commercial culture. The setup for the story is obscure: the protagonist has commandeered a Boeing 747, emptied it of all its passengers, and flies it randomly until it runs out of fuel and crashes. The protagonist does this in order to tell his life story into the “black box” flight recorder.

From the back cover:

Tender Branson– last surviving member of the so-called Creedish Death Cult- is dictating his life story into the flight recorder of Flight 2039, cruising on autopilot at 39000 feet somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. He is all alone in the airplane, which will crash shortly into the vast Australian outback. but before it does he will unfold the tale of his journey from an obedient Creedish child and humble domestic servant to an ultra-buffed, steroid- and collagen-packed media messiah.

Unpredictable and unforgettable, Survivor is Chuck Palahniuk at his deadpan peak: a mesmerizing, unnerving, and hilarious satire on the wages of fame and the bedrock lunacy of the modern world.

Bookworm‘s Michael Silverblatt defines this genre of writing as transgressive fiction. This literary genre graphically explores taboo subjects– drugs, sex, violence, incest, pedophilia, crime– and dysfunctional family relationships with the underlying premise that knowledge is to be found at the edge of experience and that the body is the site for gaining knowledge: “Subversive, avant-garde, bleak, pornographic — and these are compliments.” With that definition I am reminded of a number of books and authors I have enjoyed over the years: Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, Girlfriend in a Coma and Generation X by Douglas Coupland, Story of the Eye by Georges Bataille, Lolita and Ada by Vladimir Nabokov. That Palahniuk’s writing style was turned on by the aesthetic he heard in punk bands like the Germs and Generation X, and he admires the works of Shirley Jackson and Stephen King— these bits do not surprise me. They excite me. I look forward to reading this book all the more for learning them.

I think I’m going to take this book on the plane with me to Colorado, tomorrow. Somehow, that just seems right.

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