Saturday, November 10, 2007

Chuck's Women (some spoilers)

Just finished another Chuck Palahniuk novel (Invisible Monsters) featuring crazy people doing crazy things. I've only read three Palahniuk novels, but in the last two, women were the protagonists. Well, as much as there is a protagonist in any of Palahniuk's novels.

Though Diary is written in the voice of a woman, it was really Invisible Monsters that got me thinking about the way Palahniuk treats women in his novels. Palahniuk's worlds are magical in a grotesque kind of way, but his characters always have one foot in reality. Even if it's an unsteady foot.

Diary is the diary of a woman trapped in a city that happens to be sucking the life out of her for the sake of tourism dollars. Misty Marie Wilmot keeps a "coma diary," keeping track of her husband's attempted suicide coma. Misty is unwittingly at the mercy of the town, but she's a strong, sensible woman (again, to the degree that anyone's sensible in a Palahniuk novel). I think he did a good job here.

But Invisible Monsters was more my speed. The book takes place in a supermodel, Hollywood, sex-change fantasy. The main character is a model. When we meet her, her jaw has just been shot off. She can't speak, has to write everything down. She's hideous. She meets a man who's going through a sex change op. Brandy Alexander takes the main character on a wild ride where the main goal is to score pills from old ladies as they pretend to look at said old ladies' houses. A man joins them, but the main character, who goes by many different names, starts feeding him female hormones to make him un-lovable.

The plot has a lot of twists, some more predictable and believable than others, but the woman in this novel...her goal is to be ugly. Her goal is to leave a life where everyone is telling you how to breathe, how to look, where to sit. Her life has been a lie.

When looking at Palahniuk's women, (in the two I've read with women for main characters) you have to remember that his worlds are fantastical. Okay, normally I wouldn't buy that a woman shot her own face off because it was the only thing she could think of to make her less beautiful. And Misty has a very real relationship with her daughter...until she believes that her daughter's dead based on loose evidence. But within the walls of these worlds, Palahniuk writes very honestly. His women have a true voice. And it's one of the main reasons I like his work so much.

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