Chuck Palahniuk

Chuck Palahniuk
Chuck Palahniuk

Chuck Palahniuk, September 21, 2004, on tour at the University at Albany to promote Diary.
Born February 21, 1962 (1962-02-21) (age 49)
Pasco, Washington
Occupation novelist, essayist
Nationality American
Alma mater University of Oregon
Period 1996 - present
Genres Transgressional fiction, satire, horror
Literary movement
Postmodernism, Minimalism
Notable work(s) Fight Club, Choke, Rant
Notable award(s) Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Award
1997 Fight Club
Oregon Book Award
1997 Fight Club – Best Novel
Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Award
2003 Lullaby
Oregon Book Award
1999 Survivor – Best Novel (nomination only)
Bram Stoker Award
2002 Lullaby – Best Novel (nomination only)
Bram Stoker Award
2005 Haunted – Best Novel (nomination only)

Charles Michael "Chuck" Palahniuk (play /ˈpɔːlənɪk/;[1] born February 21, 1962) is an American transgressional fiction novelist and freelance journalist. He is best known for the award-winning novel Fight Club, which was later made into a film directed by David Fincher and starring Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, and Helena Bonham Carter. He lives near Portland, Oregon and spends time in Washington state near Seattle.[2]


Early life

Palahniuk was born in Pasco, Washington. He is the son of Carol and Fred Palahniuk, and grew up living in a mobile home in nearby Burbank, Washington with his family. His parents later separated and divorced, often leaving him and his three siblings to live with their grandparents at their cattle ranch in Eastern Washington.[3] His paternal grandfather was Ukrainian and immigrated to New York from Canada in 1907.[4]

In his twenties, Palahniuk attended the University of Oregon's School of Journalism, graduating in 1986. While attending college he worked as an intern for National Public Radio member station KLCC in Eugene, Oregon. He moved to Portland soon afterwards. After writing for the local newspaper for a short while, he began working for Freightliner as a diesel mechanic, continuing in that job until his writing career took off. During that time, he also wrote manuals on fixing trucks and had a stint as a journalist (a job he did not return to until after he became a successful novelist). After casually attending a free, introductory seminar held by an organization called Landmark Education, Palahniuk quit his job as a journalist in 1988.[5] Palahniuk did volunteer work for a homeless shelter; later, he also volunteered at a hospice as an escort; he provided transportation for terminally ill people and brought them to support group meetings. He ceased volunteering upon the death of a patient to whom he had grown attached.[6]

Palahniuk became a member of the rebellious Cacophony Society in his adulthood. He is a regular participant in their events, including the annual Santa Rampage (a public Christmas party involving pranks and drunkenness) in Portland. His participation in the Society inspired some of the events in his writings, both fictional and non-fictional.[7] Most notably, he used the Cacophony Society as the basis for Project Mayhem in Fight Club.


Palahniuk began writing fiction in his mid-thirties. By his account, he started writing while attending writer's workshops, hosted by Tom Spanbauer, which he attended to meet new friends. Spanbauer largely inspired Palahniuk's minimalistic writing style. His first book, Insomnia: If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home Already, never was adapted due to his disappointment with the story[citation needed] (though a small part of it was later salvaged for use in Fight Club). When he attempted to publish his next novel, Invisible Monsters, publishers rejected it for its disturbing content.[citation needed] This led him to work on his most famous novel, Fight Club, which he wrote as an attempt to disturb the publisher even more for rejecting him[citation needed]. Palahniuk wrote this story in his spare time while working for Freightliner. After initially publishing it as a short story (which would become chapter 6 of the novel) in the 1995 compilation Pursuit of Happiness, Palahniuk expanded it into a full novel, which—contrary to his expectations—the publisher was willing to publish.[8] While the original hardcover edition of the book received positive reviews and some awards, it had a short shelf life.

Initially, Palahniuk struggled to find a literary agent and went without one until after the publication of Fight Club.[9] After he began receiving attention from 20th Century Fox, Palahniuk was signed by actor and literary agent Edward Hibbert[9][10][11] Hibbert eventually guided and brokered the deal that took Fight Club to the big screen.[9] In 1999, three years after the novel's publication, the film adaptation by director David Fincher was released. The film was a box office disappointment (although it was #1 at the U.S. box office in its first weekend) and critical reaction was mixed but a cult following soon emerged as the DVD of the film was popular upon release. The novel has been re-released three times in paperback, in 1999, in 2004 (with a new introduction by the author about the success of the film adaptation), and in 2005 (with an afterword by Palahniuk).

Cover to Choke, Palahniuk's first bestseller

A revised version of Invisible Monsters, as well as his fourth novel, Survivor, were also published that year. A few years later Palahniuk managed to make his first New York Times bestseller, the novel Choke.

The year 1999 brought a series of great personal tragedies to Palahniuk's life. At that time, his father, Fred Palahniuk, had started dating a woman named Donna Fontaine, whom he had met through a personal ad under the title "Kismet". Fontaine's ex-boyfriend Dale Shackleford had recently been imprisoned for sexual abuse. Shackleford had vowed to kill Fontaine as soon as he was released from prison. Palahniuk believes that through her personal ad, Fontaine was looking for "the biggest man she could find" to protect her from Shackleford and Palahniuk's father fit this description.[12] After his release, Shackleford followed Fontaine and the senior Palahniuk to Fontaine's home in Kendrick, Idaho, after they had gone out for a date. Shackleford then shot them both and dragged their bodies into Fontaine's cabin home, which he set on fire immediately afterwards. In the spring of 2001, Shackleford was found guilty for two counts of murder in the first degree and sentenced to death. In the wake of these events, Palahniuk began working on the novel Lullaby. According to him, he wrote the novel to help him cope with having helped decide to have Shackleford get the death sentence.

In September 2003, Palahniuk was interviewed by Entertainment Weekly's Karen Valby. During the interview, Palahniuk in confidence mentioned information pertaining to his partner. While it had been previously believed by many that he was married to a woman (some members of the press had claimed he had a wife), Palahniuk had in fact been living with his boyfriend. Some time later, Palahniuk believed that Valby was going to print this information in her article, without his consent. In response, he put an angry audio recording of himself on his web site, not only revealing that he is gay, but also making negative comments about Valby and a member of her family. However, Palahniuk's fears turned out to be ungrounded, and Valby's article did not reveal anything about his personal life outside of the fact that he is unmarried. The recording was later removed from the website, making some fans believe that Palahniuk is embarrassed by his homosexuality. According to Dennis Widmyer, the site's webmaster, the recording was not removed because of the statements regarding his sexuality, but because of the statements about Valby. Palahniuk would later post a new recording to his site, asking his fans not to overreact to these events. He also apologized for his behavior, claiming that he wished he had not recorded the message.[13] Palahniuk is now openly gay, and he and his unnamed male partner, according to a profile and interview in The Advocate in May 2008, live in "a former church compound outside Vancouver, Wash."[14][15]

While on his 2003 tour to promote his novel Diary, Palahniuk read to his audiences a short story titled "Guts", a tale of accidents involving masturbation, which appears in his book Haunted. It was reported that to that point, 40 people had fainted while listening to the readings.[16] Playboy magazine would later publish the story in their March 2004 issue; Palahniuk offered to let them publish another story along with it, but the publishers found the second work too disturbing. On his tour to promote Stranger Than Fiction: True Stories in the summer of 2004, he read the story to audiences again, bringing the total number of fainters up to 53, and later up to 60, while on tour to promote the softcover edition of Diary. In the fall of that year, he began promoting "Haunted", and continued to read "Guts". At his October 4, 2004 reading in Boulder, Colorado, Palahniuk noted that, after that day, his number of fainters was up to 68. The last fainting occurred on May 28, 2007, in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, where 5 people fainted, one of which occurred when a man was trying to leave the auditorium, which resulted in him falling and hitting his head on the door. Palahniuk is apparently not bothered by these incidents, which have not stopped fans from reading "Guts" or his other works. Audio recordings of his readings of the story have since circulated on the Internet. In the afterword of the latest edition of "Haunted", Palahniuk reports that "Guts" is now responsible for 73 faintings.

At a 2005 appearance in Miami, Florida, during the Haunted tour, Palahniuk commented that Haunted represented the last of a "horror trilogy" (including Lullaby and Diary). He also indicated that his then-forthcoming novel Rant would be the first of a "sci–fi trilogy".

In 2008 Palahniuk took a role as an instructor for the Clarion West Writers Workshop, spending a week teaching his writing methods and theory of fiction to eighteen students.[17]

Writing style

Palahniuk's books prior to Lullaby have distinct similarities. The characters are people who have been marginalized in one form or another by society, and who react with often self-destructive aggressiveness (a form of story that the author likes to describe as transgressive fiction). Starting with Lullaby, his novels have been satirical horror stories.

The narratives of Palahniuk's books are often structured in medias res, starting at the temporal end, with the protagonist recounting the events that led up to the point at which the book begins. Lullaby used a variation of this, alternating between the normal, linear narrative and the temporal end after every few chapters. However, exceptions to this narrative form include the more linear Choke and Diary. There is often a major plot twist that is revealed near the end of the book which relates in some way to this temporal end (what Palahniuk refers to as "the hidden gun"). His more linear works also include similar plot twists.

Palahniuk's writing style has been influenced by authors such as the minimalist Tom Spanbauer (who taught Palahniuk in Portland from 1991 to 1996),[18] Amy Hempel, Mark Richard, Denis Johnson, Thom Jones, and Bret Easton Ellis.[19] In what the author refers to as a minimalistic approach, his writings use a limited vocabulary and short sentences to mimic the way that an average person telling a story would talk. In an interview, he said that he prefers to write in verbs instead of adjectives. Repetitions of certain lines in the stories' narratives (what Palahniuk refers to as "choruses") are one of the most common aspects of his writing style, found dispersed within most chapters of his novels.[citation needed] Palahniuk has said that there are also some choruses between novels; the color cornflower blue and the city of Missoula, Montana appear in many of his novels. The characters in Palahniuk's stories often break into philosophical asides (either by the narrator to the reader, or spoken to the narrator through dialogue), offering numerous odd theories and opinions, often misanthropic or darkly absurdist in nature, on complex issues of death, morality, childhood, parenthood, sexuality, and God.

Many of the ideas in his novels are traced to Continental thinkers such as Michel Foucault and Albert Camus.[20]

When not writing fiction, Palahniuk tends to write short non-fiction works. Working as a freelance journalist in between books, he writes essays and reports on a variety of subjects; he sometimes participates in the events of these writings, which are heavy in field research. He has also written interviews with celebrities, such as Juliette Lewis and Marilyn Manson. These works appear in various magazines and newspapers, such as the Los Angeles Times and Gear magazine. Some of these writings have shown up in his book Stranger Than Fiction: True Stories. Palahniuk also includes some non-fiction factoids within his fictional works. According to the author, these are included in order to further immerse the reader in his work.


The content of Palahniuk's works has earned him a reputation as a nihilist. Palahniuk however rejects this label, claiming he is a romantic, and that his works are mistakenly seen as nihilistic because they express ideas that others do not believe in.[21]

Laura Miller of wrote a scathing review of Diary, saying that Palahniuk's books "traffic in the half-baked nihilism of a stoned high school student who has just discovered Nietzsche and Nine Inch Nails" and that "everything even remotely clever in them has been done before and better by someone else".[22]In response, Palahniuk (who had never responded to a review before) sent an angry e-mail to Salon's Letters section. Palahniuk observed "Until you can create something that captivates people, I'd invite you to just shut up. It's easy to attack and destroy an act of creation. It's a lot more difficult to perform one."[23]

In Tasha Robinson's review of Haunted in The A.V. Club, Robinson wrote that gruesome scenes are "piled up to such extremes that it seems like Palahniuk is just double-daring himself to top each new vile degradation with something worse."[24]


Other than the film, Fight Club was also adapted into a fighting video game loosely based on the film, which was released in October 2004 to universally poor reviews.[25] Palahniuk has mentioned at book readings that he is working on a musical based on Fight Club with David Fincher and Trent Reznor.[26] Edward Norton has said that he thinks it is unlikely that he and Brad Pitt, who "can't sing", would reprise their film roles for the musical.[27]

Graphic novel adaptations of Invisible Monsters and Lullaby, drawn by comic artist Kissgz, aka Gabor, are available online.[28]

Following the success of the movie of Fight Club, interest began to build in adapting Survivor to film.[citation needed] The film rights to Survivor were first sold in early 2001, but no movie studio had committed itself to filming the novel. After the attacks on The Pentagon and World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, the movie studios apparently deemed the novel too controversial to film because it includes the hijacking and crashing of a civilian airplane.[29] However, in mid-2004 20th Century Fox decided to commit itself to adapting Palahniuk's novel. Palahniuk has said that the people who made the film Constantine will be working on this film.[30]

In the meantime, the film rights to Invisible Monsters and Diary were also sold. While little is known about some of these projects, it is known that Jessica Biel was signed on to play the roles of both Shannon and Brandy in Invisible Monsters, which was supposed to begin filming in 2004 but as of 2010 is still in development.[31]

On January 14, 2008, the film version of Choke premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, starring Sam Rockwell and Anjelica Huston with Clark Gregg directing.[32] David Fincher has expressed interest in filming Diary as an HBO miniseries.[33][34]

Television appearances

Besides his various promotional outings, Palahniuk has also made several notable television appearances to discuss cultural issues, including Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations exploring his beloved Pacific Northwest in 2007[35] and the BBC's Hardtalk Extra in 2004.[36]


Palahniuk has won the following awards:

  • the 1997 Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Award (for Fight Club)
  • the 1997 Oregon Book Award for Best Novel (for Fight Club)[37]
  • the 2003 Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Award (for Lullaby)[38]

He was also nominated for the 1999 Oregon Book Award for Best Novel for Survivor and for the Bram Stoker Award for Best Novel for Lullaby in 2002 and Haunted in 2005.



Short fiction

  • "Guts" in Playboy (2004)
  • "Fetch" in Dark Delicacies III (2009)
  • "Loser" in Stories (2010)
  • "Romance" in Playboy (2011)


  • Fugitives and Refugees: A Walk in Portland, Oregon (2003)
  • Stranger Than Fiction: True Stories (2004)
  • You Do Not Talk About Fight Club: I Am Jack's Completely Unauthorized Essay Collection (2008) (introduction)


See also

Book collection.jpg Novels portal


  1. ^ "[1]". Retrieved June 1, 2006.
  2. ^ Palahniuk, Chuck. "Chuck Palahniuk F.A.Q.". Retrieved August, 8, 2011. 
  3. ^ Jenkins, Emily. "Extreme Sport". The Village Voice. October 19, 1999.
  4. ^ Interview to Izvestia, Russian newspaper. "Izvestia". Izvestia. April 29, 2005.
  5. ^ "Fright club". The Observer. May 8, 2005.
  6. ^ Palahniuk, Chuck. Stranger Than Fiction: True Stories. Garden City: Doubleday, 2004. pp.195-199 ISBN 0-385-50448-9
  7. ^ Palahniuk, Chuck. Stranger Than Fiction: True Stories. Garden City: Doubleday, 2004. p. 56. ISBN 0-385-50448-9
  8. ^ Tomlinson, Sarah. "Is it fistfighting, or just multi-tasking?". October 13, 1999.
  9. ^ a b c Author FAQ: "How did he land an agent? Believe it or not, Chuck had to go through hell and back to land an agent..."
  10. ^ Author FAQ: "Who is his agent? Edward Hibbert of Donadio & Olson, Inc. is Chuck's book agent. Check out Edward's double life as an actor..."
  11. ^ Glitz, Michael (December 25, 2001). "Hibbert on: out actor Edward Hibbert talks about the Noises Off revival, his side career as an agent, and the best antidote to anthrax". The Advocate. Archived from the original on 2007-11-01. Retrieved May 23, 2008. 
  12. ^ "Palahniuk, Slapstick, Skyspace". Studio 360, NPR. February 12, 2006.
  13. ^ Chalmers, Robert. "Chuck Palahniuk: Stranger than fiction". The Independent. August 1, 2004.
  14. ^ Bunn, Alstin (May 21, 2008). "Open Book: Chuck Palahniuk writes stories that fearlessly expose the darkest parts of the human experience. So why is it that when it comes to his sexuality there are still some things he likes to keep hidden?". The Advocate. Retrieved August 31, 2011. 
  15. ^ "Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk is talking dirty". The Times (London). July 25, 2008. Retrieved April 30, 2010. 
  16. ^ "I dare you". The Guardian. March 13, 2004.
  17. ^ "Clarion West Turns 25". Locus Magazine, September 2008: Page 5
  18. ^ Tom Spanbauer - The Man Who Taught Chuck
  19. ^ "What Authors Influenced You?", Retrieved on July 10, 2007.
  20. ^ The Unexpected Romantic: An Interview with Chuck Palahniuk, AlterNet.
  21. ^ Williams, Laura J. "Knock Out". Ann Arbor Paper. Retrieved June 20, 2005.
  22. ^ Miller, Laura. "review of Diary". August 20, 2003.
  23. ^ " Letters". Response by Palahniuk to Laura Miller's review. August 26, 2003.
  24. ^ Robinson, Tasha. "Haunted". The AV Club. May 17, 2005.
  25. ^ Game Rankings: Fight Club
  26. ^ Chang, Jade. "tinseltown: fight club and fahrenheit". July 2, 2004.
  27. ^ "The Scoop: Elisabeth Hasselbeck invited to Palin rallies/Plus: Ed Norton disses Brad Pitt's singing; Katie Holmes no ratings winner". Microsoft/MSN. October 23, 2008. Retrieved July 9, 2009. 
  28. ^ The Cult
  29. ^ Postcards from the Future: The Chuck Palahniuk Documentary. Kinky Mule Films. DVD Video. 2003.
  30. ^ Epstein, Daniel Robert. "Chuck Palahniuk: Author of Haunted". Retrieved May 12, 2006.
  31. ^
  32. ^ Widmyer, Dennis. April 30, 2007.
  33. ^ Sciretta, Peter. The Chuck Palahniuk Update. June 17, 2005.
  34. ^ Retrieved October 12, 2006.
  35. ^ "Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations" Pacific NW (2007)
  36. ^ "HARDtalk Extra" Chuck Palahniuk (2006)
  37. ^ Oregon Book Awards. Literary Arts, Inc. Retrieved June 20, 2005.
  38. ^ Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Awards. Retrieved June 20, 2005.
  39. ^ "First Details For Chuck Palahniuk's 2010 Novel, "Tell-All"". March 7, 2009. Retrieved March 7, 2009. 
  40. ^ "Chuck's Next Novel Is "Damned"". May 2, 2010. Retrieved May 2, 2010. 

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

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  • Chuck Palahniuk — 2004 Chuck Palahniuk [ˡpɑlənɪk], bürgerlich Charles Michael Palahniuk (* 21. Februar 1962 in Pasco, Washington) ist ein amerikanischer Autor und freiberuflicher Journalist. Er wohnt derzeit in Vancouver …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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  • Palahniuk's Laughter — Infobox Single Name = Palahniuk s Laughter Artist = Fightstar from Album = They Liked You Better When You Were Dead Released = flagicon|United Kingdom January 2005 Format = Video Only Recorded = 2004 Genre(s) = Alternative Metal Post hardcore… …   Wikipedia

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  • Charles Michael Palahniuk — Chuck Palahniuk am 28. Februar 2006, auf der Roses and Shit 2006 tour an der University of British Columbia Chuck Palahniuk [ˡpɑlənɪk], bürgerlich Charles Michael Palahniuk (* 21. Februar 1962 in …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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