Friday, April 12, 2013

Phoenix (ebook review)

All the hallmarks of Chuck Palahniuk's writing are on display in the short story "Phoenix" (available for download as a $0.99 Kindle Single): a sense of humor that tends toward the grotesque (Exhibit Aggh: a robotic vacuum cleaner crosses paths with a diarrhea-spewing cat); the running gags that function like narrative refrains (here involving hotel minibar items that cost more than the jewelry being hawked on the Home Shopping Channel); the knack for scripting evocative similes ("She tries not to ask, to stop asking, but the effort is like trying to un-pop a balloon"); a fondness for esoteric information (in this case, the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii); and the unrivaled ability to create offbeat storylines.

The narrative flashes back and forth seamlessly between a present in which the POV character Rachel tries on a nightly basis to elicit a single response from her sulking daughter during long-distance calls home, and a past that is rife with marital power struggles and Machiavellian schemes.  Let's just say that the fate that befalls Rachel's husband Ted's beloved feline Belinda Carlisle makes Poe's
"The Black Cat" read like an ASPCA pamphlet by comparison.  And only a warped genius like Palahniuk could come up with a scenario where a wife threatens to call Child Protective Services on her husband unless he physically abuses their daughter.  In "Phoenix," the author's talent for writing searing satire burns incredibly bright.  This one is a must-read for longtime acolytes and curious newcomers alike.

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