Invisible Monsters


Good news: I'm finally making progress on my list of books to write about, I sat down at a picnic table in the park outside my dad's apartment yesterday and wrote for a good couple of hours. I tried to do some writing Canada Day weekend but I didn't end up getting anything done—too busy enjoying the good weather.

The decision to read Invisible Monsters was an easy one, I liked Fight Club so much I had to read more of Chuck Palahniuk's work. The philosophy here is oddly similar to that of Fight Club, in the way the characters break free from their everyday monotony by doing something completely absurd. The satire is thick; the plot could pass for a Twizzler in a dark alleyway; and beneath it all is a purity that only comes from something as raw as what's presented here.

This book is about making the biggest mistakes you can possibly make and using this self-propelled failure to break away from discontentment with one's life. Palahniuk effectively suggests that we set ourselves on fire in hopes we can be reborn like a phoenix from the ashes.

Another characteristic reminiscent of Fight Club is the way Palahniuk sets up the timeline of the story. The way he plays with the typical novel format is a testament to the creativity that can come from having a few simple restrictions or rules; this probably has to do with the necessary balance between order and chaos. Instead of sticking to the expected chronological ordering, Palahniuk relies on established patterns of rhetoric to guide the reader. While reading, this feels like an inside joke shared between only you and the book; something to be brought up time and time again and enjoyed together. The consistency is the north star; persistent among all the twists, time skips, and rewinds; always showing the way forwards.

"The murderer, the victim, the witness, each of us thinks our role is the lead" Probably that goes for anybody in the word.

While Palahniuk rebels against snowflake culture by bluntly pointing out each character's self-interest, he also manages to take a person of a specific class/group and make them completely unique. He takes someone who is transgender and strips them of their sovereignty, making the subject human and more approachable. This breaking down of social barriers is a breath of fresh air for me. While some days can feel like walking on eggshells in an effort to stay within the norm, Invisible Monsters is a book I can pick up and know I'm getting everything actually as it is.

"Relax," Brandy says, "Whatever you're thinking, a million other folks are thinking. Whatever you do, they're doing, and none of you is responsible. All of you in coop-operative effort."

Sometimes it helps to not be responsible for anything—at the least it's an easy cop-out from reality—but I think it's more fulfilling to take responsibility. What Brandy says is heavily contradicted by the action of the characters. Their story shows them getting to a point in their lives where they realized that they weren't responsible for what they had and then making the decision to throw it all away in the hopes of rebuilding themselves into something more; as if the sky being the limit was too restricting. From that point on, they were responsible for everything that happened afterwords.

"Everything before now, before now, before now, is just a story I carry around. I guess that would apply to anybody in the world. What I need is a new story about who I am. What I need to do is fuck up so bad I can't save myself."

This is making mistakes the solution. It seems to me that tiny events build up over time and you end up being created by them. When tiny things continue to happen, they keep building on top of each other, but what's at the bottom of the pile still persists. To get a fresh start, something so drastic needs to happen that everything else gets nullified; the present siphons all the meaning out of the past.

I remember a conversation with a friend; I was telling him the story of my tragic life, and he was there for me, or whatever. But what I remember most vividly is that after I finished my story, he said: "None of this will matter once you go off to University". He was right. "Furthermore", I think there's an element of choice in regards to which parts of the past have meaning. It's entirely too easy to let certain events—usually negative, but not always—persist past their expiry date where they then proceed to rot the mind. I need more practice in recognizing my thoughts for what they are and choosing to let them go.

What I'm left wondering is how Palahniuk manages to pull this style of writing off; I'm not sure what comes first, the philosophical stance on life or the characters that manifest it—either way it makes for a great read.