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Stranger Than Fiction: True Stories Paperback – May 10, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This collection from shock novelist Palahniuk (Choke; Lullaby) is an eye-opening look at the raw material that goes into Palahniuk's fiction, as well as proof that the novelist's art is derived from keen observation and recording of details. Often these are as grotesque as a closeup in a horror film (e.g., in talking to a group of wrestlers enduring Olympic tryouts, Palahniuk focuses on their injuries, both physical and emotional). Half the essays are magazine assignments and include insightful profiles of rock star Marilyn Manson, indie-movie queen Juliette Lewis and a high schooler who wants to explore space via a homemade rocket. Others offer the author's impressions of a demolition derby, the Rock Creek Lodge Testicle Festival and life aboard the USS Louisiana. Palahniuk often philosophizes, dwelling on the effects his fiction has had on "reality," especially the obsession his fans have had with his novel Fight Club. Palahniuk is fixated on the transformation of life's raw material into fiction and the writing process itself, which he sees as having the potential for self-fulfillment. (Incidentally, Brad Pitt, who played Fight Club's protagonist, emerges as Palahniuk's alter ego, and a number of the essays play on this theme, creating a patchwork memoir.) Palahniuk's fans will undoubtedly revel in the secrets the author reveals. Newcomers might initially feel queasy, but they're likely to warm up to his visceral prose and come to enjoy it.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

From Fight Club (1996) and the guys who fight for sport to Choke (2001) and a young man who might literally be the son of Jesus, Palahniuk's novels are consistently populated with extraordinary eccentrics. So it's no surprise that in this collection of previously published magazine pieces, he writes mostly of the bizarre. Palahniuk focuses on themes of solitude and community, on our need to feel simultaneously special and a part of something. He attends the Olympic wrestling trials, for instance, and examines why men endure cauliflower ear and debilitating injury to participate in a sport that no one watches or cares about. The personal essays (Palahniuk describes a romp through Seattle while wearing a dog costume, for instance) don't shine as much as the journalistic pieces, although fans will be interested to learn personal details about Chuck and his experiences with quasi celebrity. But the best narratives here-- particularly a lengthy one on Americans who build European-style castles--show Palahniuk's deep compassion for oddballs and misfits, a hard-boiled kindness for which his fans revere him. John Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (May 10, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385722222
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385722223
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (90 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #64,669 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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

68 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Charles S. Houser on August 14, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was fascinated by the level of thinking that went into the movie FIGHT CLUB. It motivated me to read Palahniuk's novel which was the film's basis. The thinking, the cleverness, was there too. And though the novel was extreme, on the verge of being sci-fi or a futurist fable, there was something quite plausible about it as well. The emotional jadedness, the fear of emasculation, the fakery by which the nameless main character lived out his life all seemed quite authentic. I was genuinely intrigued by what Palahniuk had created and made a mental note to read more by this author.

STRANGER THAN FICTION is a collection of articles written by Palahniuk for a variety of magazines. If you're fascinated by the "fight club" phenomenon, you'll find some satisfying glimpses into that story's little sojourn into Hollywoodland and the popular consciousness scattered among these articles. But even more so, STRANGER THAN FICTION offers glimpses into the absurdities, shallowness, and violence that constitute the end-of-the-millennium, life-in-America backdrop for that novel: the world of amateur wrestling ("Where Meat Comes From"), conferences where writers have seven minutes to pitch their stories to agents, publishers, or movie producers ("You Are Here"), a demolition derby in Washington State for combine drivers ("Demolition"), people obsessed with building medieval castles in the late 20th century U.S.A. ("Confessions in Stone"), users of steroids ("Frontiers"), the homoerotic nature of life on a submarine ("The People Can"), and an amateur rocket-maker seeking to win a ten million dollar prize being offered to the first private group to put a rocket into the atmosphere ("Human Error").
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By D. Bakken on June 17, 2004
Format: Hardcover
From the author whose novels have always focused on people out of the mainstream, "Stranger Than Fiction" is a collection of essays/stories/articles that focus on real-life weirdos and other non-conformists.
- Demolition Derby drivers that crash around in farm combines.
- Amateur wrestlers trying out for the Olympics
- Men who build castles
- Disaster rescue people and their dogs
- etc...
While most of the pieces are very good, there are a couple weak spots, most of which consist of the person just talking and very little writing by Chuck. I am a fan of his writing style and would have liked to see more of that instead of those couple interviews. My guess is that they were just thrown in to fill out the book.
I gave it 5 stars because of those 6-8 pieces that I really liked (worth the book price alone).
If you like this book, check out "Fugitives and Refugees", also by Chuck Palahniuk. It is a collection of pieces and lists about his hometown of Portland, Oregon.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Samuel McKewon on June 20, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Though he refers to himself as an Amy Hempel knockoff, Chuck Palahniuk resides among the best phrase-turners in American pop fiction - if he does nothing else - teasing readers with jabs for rabbit punches and haymakers to come even when the narrative runs from the rails.
Palahniuk's distinct talent for clipped, blunt prose still punctuates "Stranger Than Fiction," an anthology of essays and rants collected from recent magazine assignments, but every other aspect of the book is uneven: It is shabbily assembled, and few pieces are in depth or well-considered enough to be stand-alone gems. A moneymaker for both author and publisher Doubleday but not much more, "Stranger Than Fiction" hardly lives up to its title: Steroids, Marilyn Manson and castles are interesting enough, but not in the realm of Palahniuk's novels. Revealing himself more than ever before, Palahniuk comes off as a guy's guy with a taste for adventure and socializing and multitasking, more content, at least in the non-fiction arena, to hit and run than turn a subject inside-out.
For each segment that creates a full-bodied portrait - Palahniuk's committed, admiring feature on amateur wrestlers - there is the rootless, immature opener, "Testy Festy," a piece on a Montana sex carnival so pornographic it'll run off more potential buyers than it will attract, or the Tim O'Brien wannabe, "The People Can," as Palahniuk catalogs the life of a submarine well enough to frustrate the reader for its brevity. Palahniuk has planned an "on writing" book soon enough; in that case, best to leave out a short paean to Hempel and her minimalist style ("Not Chasing Amy") and expand it to the treatise Palahniuk intends, as evidenced by his Internet workshop.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By D. Rahmel on December 1, 2005
Format: Paperback
I think this is Palahniuk's best work since Fight Club. Each story in the collection takes the reader into a fascinating fringe land. From the shocking tour of the world of amateur wrestling ("Where Meat Comes From") to the poignant experiences of a rescue dog trainer ("Bodhisattvas"), the author uses the words of his subjects as well as his own to make darkly honest literary jewels.

Most interesting to me was the story of three Americans building castles in the modern world. They press on despite money-shortages, questioning neighbors, zoning problems, and hostile bankers. What really got me was the contrasting natures, goals, and backgrounds of the three builders. Each so different, yet they share a common but unusual achievement. It's striking that while they live within driving distance of one another, they don't even know of each other's existence.

The only true negative of the book is a puff piece on shock-artist Marilyn Manson. Mostly an interview, the author merely reiterates Manson's shopworn yarn about his life, tragedies, art, yada, yada. This article alone doesn't reach for some deeper truth and comes across as inauthentic.

I recommend you read this book today or, at the very latest, tomorrow.
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