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Pygmy Hardcover – May 5, 2009

263 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Palahniuk's 10th novel (after Snuff) is a potent if cartoonish cultural satire that succeeds despite its stridently confounding prose. A gang of adolescent terrorists trained by an unspecified totalitarian state (the boys and girls are guided by quotations attributed to Marx, Hitler, Augusto Pinochet, Idi Amin, etc.) infiltrate America as foreign exchange students. Their mission: to bring the nation to its knees through Operation Havoc, an act of mass destruction disguised as a science project. Narrated by skinny 13-year-old Pgymy, the propulsive plot deconstructs American fixtures, among them church (religion propaganda distribution outlet), spelling bees (forced battle to list English alphabet letters) and TV news reporters (Horde scavenger feast at overflowing anus of world history), before moving on to a Columbine-like shooting spree by a closeted kid who has fallen in love with the teenage terrorist who raped him in a shopping mall bathroom. Decoding Palahniuk's characteristically scathing observations is a challenge, as Pygmy's narrative voice is unbound by rules of grammar or structure (a typical sentence: Host father mount altar so stance beside bin empty of water), but perseverance is its own perverse reward in this singular, comic accomplishment. (May)
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From Bookmarks Magazine

"What will he think of next?" asked the flabbergasted critic from the New York Times Book Review. Indeed, while several reviewers praised the novel as a darkly humorous commentary on American society, most agreed it contained serious flaws. Palahniuk's tenth novel seems designed to flummox readers with its extreme profanity, graphic sexual violence involving minors, and portrayal of adults as either brainless buffoons or shameless perverts. Critics were also split on the author's repeated use of an undefined syntax, reminiscent of pidgin English, throughout. What readers, after all, will have the patience to read sentences like, "Revered soon dying mother, distribute you ammunitions correct for Croatia-made forty-five-caliber, long-piston-stroke APS assault rifle"? Overall, critics acknowledged that diehard Palahniuk fans might savor Pygmy but that most folks would find it too stomach-turning.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; First Edition edition (May 5, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385526342
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385526340
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (263 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #565,243 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

179 of 208 people found the following review helpful By Plopper on May 20, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Begins here first review citizen me, web host Amazon review maker 36. Review fiction propaganda pamphlet "Pygmy." First voice confusion direct previous many review. Former many review say, "grammar bad," say, "too much work." This reviewer find opposite truth. Same now pamphlets Irvine Welsh, Anthony Burgess, need full glossary comprehend. Not so fiction pamphlet "Pygmy." Most glorious spreader fiction propaganda Chuck Palahniuk make for simple comprehend absurd dialect.

Familiar theme fiction propagandist Chuck Palahniuk repeat here. Ask reader Project Mayhem "Fight Club" picture imagine foreign terrorist organized, same now Operation Havoc. Many describe interpret outside point view Tender Branson "Survivor," same now hilarious observation agent number 67. Tender Branson values conflicted upbringing modern capitalist America, same now agent number 67. Familiar similar but progress definite. For official record, agent number 67 most funny individual but know only serve state.

"Pygmy" make joke capitalist America gimme gimme, same now make joke ideology serve only state. Most hilarious jab capitalist American shortcoming. Most disturbing portrait ideology serve only state. For official record, grand final end "Pygmy" most disappoint. Chuck Palahniuk compromise gushy nonsense finish. Fortunate not detract from story. Glorious fiction propagandist redeem from mediocre "Snuff." This reviewer find "Pygmy" rank top most remembered pamphlets "Lullaby," "Survivor," "Choke."
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239 of 280 people found the following review helpful By Nicole Del Sesto on May 5, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
First, if you've never read a Palahniuk, I don't recommend starting here.

Second, I am Palahniuk fan. Not a die-hard, but I've read all the books except Snuff, and many are favorites. I love Chuckie P. I love the mood his books create; his unique point of view; sense of humor; and particularly his typical writing style.

I rushed out to get this book because I was so excited about it. The concept, the premise, sounded amazing. I've gotten to page 100, and unfortunately, I can't make myself go on.

I get that he wanted to do something different with this book, but the writing is so convoluted, that I am just not enjoying it.

Here's an example: "Location former chew gum, chocolate snack, salted chips of potato, current now occupy with cylinder white paraffin encase burning string, many tiny single fire."

I thought it might be like A Clockwork Orange, where it takes you a bit to get into the flow of the writing, and once you do it's great. And I'm sure a lot of people will ultimately feel this way about the book. For me, it was too much work and not enough payoff. If there was humor, I completely missed it.

If you are interested in this book, I definitely suggest reading the first chapter which is posted on Amazon before purchasing it. It's written in the same style throughout, so if that style works for you, it may turn out to be a highly entertaining read. It just didn't work for me.
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60 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Bill Oakes on May 5, 2009
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is NOT an easy book to read. That's a definite. The writing style is, to say the least, VERY interesting. Convoluted. Weird. Just downright strange.

But the story is intriguing. And while I was hoping after each chapter that the writing would be a bit more normalized in the next chapter, nonetheless, I kept reading. I had NO idea, at the end of each chapter, where in the hell this story was going. It's not often (with the exception of DeMille) that I'll sit down and read a book in one sitting. And yet, it happened with Pygmy.

So what we have is a VERY strange read, with a VERY well crafted story, told in a VERY different way. I liked it.

Oh...and some of the lines in it had me absolutely rolling. It's easy to see where a recent immigrant from an un-named country in the Pacific (read...China) could see porn as video instruction manuals that consistently fail in its premise of impregnating women. Or that jr HS dances were American pre-mating rituals. Hysterical stuff.
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60 of 74 people found the following review helpful By Ashley Loza on May 15, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This book is wildly unrealistic and over the top, and personally, I loved it. The writing style is more unusual than it is unreadable, and I didn't find it at all difficult to get through.

If anything, this book is better than Palahniuk's others for putting a mirror up to American culture and saying, "Hey look, guys! I can write a book that involves murder, rape, pedophilia, sodomy, abortion, drugs, teenage sex, school shootings, and the destruction of Washington D.C., and what are you bothered by most?! Bad grammar."
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By D. Buckley on October 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover
While Chuck Palahniuk's PYGMY clocks in at 241 pages in the hardback edition, it reads like a short story, launching the reader directly into its world without warning, careening rapidly towards its conclusion and ending abruptly. It is richly detailed with linguistic tricks, that often read like poetry, to amuse the reader. It's pages are blotted with black censorship scars which, while superficial, still amuse. It has been rounded out with chapters that include the back story and training of the narrator, while an action-packed drama with martial arts and espionage is played out in linear time.

An observant American reader, having completed this book, is left with the glow of a new terrorist fantasy to worry about and the acute paranoid question, "Do they really think Americans are like that?". While most reviews have centered upon this story as a cynical portrayal of America, it should probably be better viewed as a cynical portrayal of the "perception of America by the outside world", which is a very timely subject and, not surprisingly, territory for GREAT humor. This is a paranoid, self-conscious American nightmare deeply rooted in the American image problem.

PYGMY is a brilliant modern work of humor that is a darkly cynical narrative of American paranoia, wrapped in the most unlikely "coming of age" story you will ever read. It is written entirely in minimalistic "Chinglish" sentences by a (probably North Korean) teenaged boy who has been transplanted to an unspecified mid-western American city to perform grass-roots acts of terrorism and topple the American way of life.
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