If you thought that author Chuck Palahniuk didn’t have anything to say about the current political climate just because he’s not spouting off on social media or in news outlets, you’ve clearly missed the first two rules from his original breakthrough novel, Fight Club.
Rather than meaninglessly talk about the state of the world, Palahniuk’s turned to his preferred medium for social commentary by releasing Adjustment Day, his first novel since 2014’s Beautiful You. But for the delicate readers who are somehow expecting the author (whose last full-length prose work centered around mind-controlling sex toys) to publish a peaceful political protest complete with a happy ending, the 336-page dark satire may come as a bit of a dystopian shock.
“Please know that I’m not a monster,” Palahniuk says. “My father — who was white — was murdered by an avowed white supremacist. The book, Adjustment Day, is about exploring the current fantasy of separate nation states based on identity politics. I say: ‘Let’s try to imagine how well that idea would work out.’”
Of course, Palahniuk likely wouldn’t have to warn prospective readers if we weren’t all living in a world where people race each other to find new things to be offended by, but anyone who’s read one of his previous works knows the 56-year-old generally runs toward taboo subjects rather than playing it safe. After all, Palahniuk’s spent his last few years sharing a wide variety of potentially-offensive short stories with collections like Make Something Up and Bait (a coloring book you shouldn’t find in the children’s section of any bookstore) as well as creating the sequel to Fight Club in the form of a pill-popping comic book series.
Although the content of the pieces themselves never strayed from the twisted and comedic visions Palahniuk’s fans have come to expect from him, the stylistic differences — particularly in Fight Club 2 — forced the established author to change his own style in some ways. Constrained by the dialog limitations of illustrated panels, Palahniuk believes his venture into comics improved narrative skills for novels as well.
“In prose novels, I’ve never felt competent intercutting between multiple characters and plots,” Palahniuk says. “Too often, in books like Rant and Snuff, I could never make each voice distinct enough for my own satisfaction, but writing comics allows for so many different plots and realities. The narration can be in first-person while the panels are basically third-person. Cutting back and forth between all the different perspectives, realities, and flashbacks in Fight Club 2 gave me the confidence to write the epic, multi-character third-person perspective needed for Adjustment Day.”
To coincide with this week’s novel release, Palahniuk will also be stopping by Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena this Sunday (May 6) to do a signing session and take photos with his fans. But while most book signings consist of the author sitting behind a desk with a Sharpie, that would be far too mundane for the Washington native. Instead, the subversive scribe stays on his feet and channels his inner Tyler Durden by offering visitors one of two possible poses for their Instagram-worthy snapshots: getting choked out or fist-locked in a fighting stance.
“David Sedaris told me that few people know what to say when they meet an author,” Palahniuk says. “Carrie Fisher told me that it’s more important to touch people than to communicate anything in words. Physical contact creates a memory more lasting than talk, and that memory is reinforced by the photos taken at the time. For me, it’s about having fun and varying the tasks. The goofy choking and fighting also entertains the people still waiting.”
Even with another week of fake choking and fighting left of his tour, the prolific author — who’s now released a book every year for over a decade — is already looking toward his next projects. With a “writing book/memoir” due out next year and another collection of short stories coming down the pipeline, Palahniuk’s readers won’t have any shortage of reading material in the near future, and those who prefer his novels transformed into films will have the crowdfunded Lullaby to look forward to at some point.
As for his current novel, Palahniuk hopes people don’t read too far into it as a call to action or political statement. Just as his works have always been, Adjustment Day is as much a personal form of therapy as it is a product for public consumption.
“I write to vent my own frustration with seemingly resolvable situations,” Palahniuk says. “Once I’m done, my angst is expressed. The world isn’t mine to fix.”