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Invisible Monsters: A Novel Paperback – September 17, 1999

4.2 out of 5 stars 556 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

When the plot of your first novel partially hinges on anarchist overthrows funded by soap sales, and the narrative hook of your second work is the black box recorder of a jet moments away from slamming into the Australian outback, it stands to reason that your audience is going to be ready for anything. Which, to an author like Chuck Palahniuk, must sound like a challenge. Palahniuk's third identity crisis (that's "novel" to you), Invisible Monsters, more than ably responds to this call to arms. Set once again in an all-too-familiar modern wasteland where social disease and self-hatred can do more damage than any potboiler-fiction bad guy, the tale focuses particularly on a group of drag queens and fashion models trekking cross-country to find themselves, looking everywhere from the bottom of a vial of Demerol to the end of a shotgun barrel. It's a sort of Drugstore Cowboy-meets-Yentl affair, or a Hope-Crosby road movie with a skin graft and hormone-pill obsession, if you know what I mean.

Um, yeah. Anyway, the Hollywood vibe doesn't stop these comparisons. As with Fight Club and Survivor, the book is invested with a cinematic sweep, from the opening set piece, which takes off like a house afire (literally), to a host of filmic tics sprayed throughout the text: "Flash," "Jump back," "Jump way ahead," "Flash," "Flash," "Flash." You get the idea. It's as if Palahniuk didn't write the thing but yanked it directly out of the Cineplex of his mind's eye. Does it succeed? Mostly. Still working on measuring out the proper dosages of his many writerly talents (equal parts potent imagery, nihilistic coolspeak, and doped-out craziness), Palahniuk every now and then loosens his grip on the story line, which at points becomes as hard to decipher as your local pill addict's medicine cabinet. However Invisible Monsters works best on a roller-coaster level. You don't stop and count each slot on the track as you're going down the big hill. You throw up your hands and yell, "Whee!" --Bob Michaels

From Publishers Weekly

Palahniuk's grotesque romp aims to skewer the ruthless superficiality of the fashion world and winds up with a tale as savagely glib as what it derides. Narrator Shannon McFarland, once a gorgeous fashion model, has been hideously disfigured in a mysterious drive-by shooting. Her jaw has been shot off, leaving her not only bereft of a career and boyfriend, but suddenly invisible to the world. Along comes no-nonsense, pill-popping diva Brandy Alexander, a resplendent, sassy, transgendered chick, who has modeled her body rearrangement--the breast implants, the hair, the figure--on what Shannon used to look like. Brandy suggests veils, high camp and no self-pity. Shannon wants revenge[...] Adding to the plot's contrivances are the relentless flashbacks, heralded at the beginning of almost every paragraph with "Jump back to..." and the author's pretentious device of using a fashion photographer's commands ("Flash. Give me adoration. Flash. Give me a break") to signpost the narrator's epiphanies. Palahniuk writes like he's overdosed on Details magazine. Though the absurd surprise ending may incite groans of disbelief, this book does have fun moments when campy banter tops the heroine's flat, whiny bathos. (Sept.) FYI: The film of Palahniuk's novel Fight Club will star Brad Pitt.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reissue edition (September 17, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780393319293
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393319293
  • ASIN: 0393319296
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (556 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,451 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Chuck Palahniuk's novels are the bestselling Fight Club, which was made into a film by director David Fincher, Diary, Lullaby, Survivor, Haunted, and Invisible Monsters. Portions of Choke have appeared in Playboy, and Palahniuk's nonfiction work has been published by Gear, Black Book, The Stranger, and the Los Angeles Times. He lives in the Pacific Northwest.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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Despite the tragedy of the storyline and the callousness of the lead characters, I promise you are going to get several belly laughs from this twisted piece of literature.

In a zany prose reminiscent of Candace Bushnell's 'Sex In The City' and the surrealism of Bret Easton Ellis's works, Palahniuk has written a twisted and sick tale of disfigurement, love, hate, and fashion here in Invisible Monsters.

Shannon McFarland's career as a picture perfect model was ruined the day her lower jaw was shot off while she was driving down the freeway. Her best friend Evie Cottrell steals all her clothing while she is in the hospital, and her fiancé Manus Kelley leaves her; but during her speech therapy classes she meets the enigma that is Brandy Alexander.

Brandy befriends Shannon, and together with friend Seth Thomas they set off on a wild cross country tour, viewing high end estates up for sale and stealing all of the prescription drugs from them. But believe me when I say, nothing is as it seems in this crazy story. You are in for several very big surprises.

Invisible Monsters is a book that is not about the plot, it is about the characters, and yet there are twists upon twists upon twists every turn of the page. Who is Brandy Alexander? Who is Shannon McFarland? Who is Seth Thomas? And who is Evie Cottrell? You'll just have to keep reading. Like me, you will probably wind out not caring about any of them, but they are going to make you laugh out loud with their outrageous plans and antics.

You'll have tears running down your face when Shannon's parents (in a flashback scene before her disfigurement) give her nothing but condoms for Christmas because her brother died of AIDS.
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If I had to recommend a single Palahniuk book, other than the justifiably overhyped Fight Club, it would be this one. Not as meandering as Choke, self-righteous as Survivor, and as brief as Lullaby. Invisible Monsters is another one of his books that plays itself as a film within your head...you try not to gasp in horror and laugh at the same time. It has a solid story and a concrete ending! Palahniuk needs to follow this model using his style as a assault on your imagination. I'm suprised that this is not as popular as Fight Club...seeing as how this is every bit as stylistic as it was. For those of you that can't get Brad Pitt out of your head when you read about Tyler Durden, this is a good one to pick up before a film version steals that purity from you. It's cheaply priced and a fun read...the pages blaze by.
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Trying to describe a Chuck Palahniuk novel is like trying to describe a freak show-you just kind of have to be there to appreciate it. The power of Palahniuk's novels isn't in the satire-he attacks fairly easy targets, and most of what he has to say about them has been said before. What make his novels enjoyable are the off-the-wall characters. Invisible Monsters is no exception.

This book is about people who want to be someone else-anyone other than themselves. The narrator says upfront that this is not going to be a linear story. It will jump from here to there. And it does. It's a hodgepodge of fragments that you have to piece together. When you do so, what you see is twisted. A former beauty queen who had half of her face shot off, along with a transvestite who wants to be a beauty queen, and a not-so-by-the-book cop are on a road trip, visiting upscale homes during open houses, stealing drugs from the medicine cabinets, and selling them to kids on the street. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

If there's one thing for which Palahniuk will never be criticized, it's being predictable. Still, there's predictability to his chaos. He has a formula: pick a target (in this case the fashion world), scrounge together some psychopaths, come up with a twisted plot with a handful of shocking surprises, chop is up so it's out of chronological order, and invent a couple of writing devices to help tell the story. The only problem is, once you've seen one freak show, the next one isn't quite as freaky. Once you've met a few Palahniuk characters, the psychotic becomes commonplace. Once you've experienced one or two Palahniuk endings, the next one isn't as surprising. Once you get used to the style and devices, they start to wear on you.
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You don't go to India if you aren't prepared to see humans squatting like dogs in the middle of a pedestrian-laden street to defecate. You don't go to Pattaya, Thailand, if you aren't keen to experience human sexuality with such a brain wrenching ferocity (including trans-species encounters) that it might require a few chats with your psychiatrist to achieve adequate decompression. You don't read about the My Lai massacre, or the historically recorded Maori warrior practice of stabbing captive women through the feet (so that they can't run), raping them, and then murdering them in the first post-ejaculatory moments unless you are willing to go eyeball-to-eyeball with the realities of male behavior in times of war. And you don't pick up a novel by Chuck Palahniuk if you have tidy illusions about human nature. Invisible Monsters was written before Palahniuk's successful novel Fight Club, but publishers reportedly rejected it as "too disturbing". With Fight Clubs' success, it appears that financial gain overwhelmed societal scruples (shocking!): Invisible Monsters went to press. You are forewarned.

Palahniuk's Invisible Monsters is a wrenching, hilarious, nauseating, illuminating tour of the fashion world, transexuality, family, homosexuality, plastic surgery, prescription drug abuse, and love. On first pass, it might be mistaken for the deranged ramblings of an author on a horribly derailed psychedelic jaunt. One glitch with that hypothesis: Palahniuk knows that of which he speaks. His own life experiences, including volunteering with the homeless and with hospice, the brutal murder of his father in sordid circumstances, and his personal knowledge of not-heterosexual sex, give him authority to speak, and through Invisible Monsters, speak he does.
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