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Tell-All Hardcover – May 4, 2010

2.9 out of 5 stars 143 customer reviews

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Questions for Chuck Palahniuk on Tell-All

Q: A casual observer might be surprised at the depth of knowledge of 50’s-era movies that you display in Tell-All. Where does this come from?
A: That vast wealth of 50's film info comes from my editor, Gerry Howard (who has a life-long crush on Gene Tierney, so feel free to tease him about it. He still carries her photo inside his wallet). Originally I'd written Tell-All chock-a-block with references to silent movie stars from the 'teens and 1920's, but Gerry thought they were too, too esoteric and forgotten. Ask me anything about silent movies--did you know that Lon Chaney was such a brilliant master of gesture because both his parents were deaf and mute--and I will bore you with trivia until you weep like a little girl.

Q: What is your favorite movie of that time, and why?
A: Anything by Douglas Sirk. All I have to do is hear the opening strains of Earl Grant singing the theme to Imitation of Life and I collapse into a quivering heap. Susan Kohner throwing herself across her dead mother's casket... that's movie magic!

Q: What is your favorite star of that time, and why?
A: Gloria Grahame, and I don't want to know anything intimate about her. In my mind she must remain a glorious, perfect object. In particular I do NOT want to know if she was dubbed when she sang in Oklahoma!.

Q: What is your favorite black and white movie, and why?
A: This question is nowhere near fair. Almost all of my favorite films are black-and-white: Wuthering Heights ("I am Heathcliff!"), Suddenly Last Summer ("So we went to Cabeza de Lobo...") and The Last Picture Show (Hank Williams is god) are all my favorite of the moment. No, wait, now my new favorite is Mildred Pierce. See...it changes by the minute.

Q: How do the films of that era differ from, say, the movie adaptations of Choke and Fight Club?
A: Back then, the studio system seemed dead-set on producing stories with happy endings. Now we're willing to accept something closer to real life, i.e. everyone gets divorced and dies.

Q: How has movie star celebrity changed since that time?
A: My guess is that the explosion of media outlets--the internet, cable television--have fragmented the world of celebrity into smaller and smaller fames. The growing monster of mass media needs so many new "reality stars" that the entire world has become a stool at the counter of Schwab's Drugstore. Hey, anytime I can work in a Lana Turner reference, I gotta go there.

Q: Speaking of Kitty Kelley, what do you think of the whole Oprah phenomenon?
A: I think Oprah should invite me on her show, then shower me with endorsements. She and I will become best-friends-forever and bad mouth about Jonathan Franzen. As her new BFF, I promise I will make her thin.

Q: What are some favorite recent movies?
A: Notes on a Scandal. The Hunger. Paper Moon. Wait, what year is this? Did George Cukor die?

Q: What did you think of Avatar?
A: I haven't seen it yet; I'm waiting for the Douglas Sirk remake with Lana Turner and Sandra Dee. Just imagine... Sandra Dee in 3-D. When Troy Donahue beats up the black girl, it will be like he's slapping me around.

Q: What are you reading these days?
A: Honestly, no lie, I'm reading Judy Blume books. Of course I'm reading her to study her style and "voice" but as an added bonus I now know how it feels to have my hymen broken by a high school boy who didn't really love me that much in the first place. Sigh.

Q: What are you listening to?
A: The internet machine is playing some thing-y called Pandora, and that's playing Blondie's Heart of Glass. Otherwise, Hank Williams is god. Because I somehow love both Country music and New Wave... that should qualify me for a handicapped parking permit.

Q: Any particular challenges/joys in writing this novel?
A: For me, anything involving keyboarding is a challenge. Oh, and spelling. The joy came mostly from reading 75+ Joan Crawford biographies and getting to tax deduct them all.

Q: You’ve been coming out with a book a year for some time now. Is that a pace that works for you for any specific reason? Any thoughts on producing more or less?
A: The moment I find something that's more fun than writing--and is NOT drugs--I will retire so fast it will make your head spin. I am addicted to the fantasy, research, the writing process. Seriously, I need an intervention.

My only other dream job would be to work as Oprah's butler.

Q: What would you like to say about your next novel?
A: My next novel, the one for 2011--argh, my life is so mapped out--is a novel called Damned about an eleven-year-old girl who finds herself in Hell and learns how to manipulate the corrupt system of demons and bodily fluids. Imagine if the Shawshank Redemption had a baby by The Lovely Bones and it was raised by Judy Blume, and you have my next new project. It's so frustrating when this girl, Madison, realizes that she'll never grow up and become an adult...and believe me, I know just how she feels. Each new day, I look at my chest in the bathroom mirror, sideways, and hope it's grown. Maybe if they could invent a 3-D mirror...

(Photo © Shawn Grant)

From Publishers Weekly

Palahniuk's rude sendup of name-dropping and the culture of celebrity worship revolves around the fate of Katherine Kenton, a much-married star of stage, screen, and television, living in obscurity and searching for a comeback vehicle. Her story is told by Mazie Coogan—her Thelma Ritterish, straight-shooting confidant and protector—whose warning system sounds when Miss Kathie meets Webster Carlton Westward III, who quickly seduces his way into her Manhattan townhouse. It's soon revealed he's working on a memoir about his affair with Miss Kathie, the last chapter of which ends with her anticipated death, the details of which keep changing. The affair coincides with Miss Kathie's comeback in a bombastic Broadway extravaganza penned by Lillian Hellman (who receives inexplicably savage treatment). Throughout, Palahniuk drops names from the famous to the head-scratchingly obscure, peppers the narrative with neologisms supposedly coined by famous gossip columnists (ex-husbands are was-bands), and annoyingly styles the text so that nearly every name, brand name, and fabulous venue appears in bold. Unfortunately, this gossipy fantasia is a one-joke premise that, even at its modest length, wears out its welcome well before Miss Kathie's final fade-out. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 179 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1st edition (May 4, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385526350
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385526357
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.8 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (143 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #876,393 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Joseph Mccully on August 15, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Before I begin, I would prefer to give a bit of my background. I have been following Chuck since 2003, and have a 1/1 (1st edition 1st printing) signed of all his books (Random side note: if anyone is interested in having your books singed, and can not make the book Tour, go to Chuck's webpage and there is a link to a book store called St. Helen's Bookstore. He will go their a few times a year to sign books). The purpose of the latter setence is not to brag, but to explain just how much of a fan I am.

I believe that fans need to realize that Chuck will probably never write another Fight Club, Invisible Monsters, Lullaby, or Survivor. The reason I believe the latter is that the basis for those books were in his head for decades. He is now publishing a book once a year, but it takes time for the book to be edited, published, distributed, etc. My point is that how much actual time is he putting into his newer novels? Personally, I feel very little, and it shows in certain books.

Also, people need to realize that Chuck's style has completely changed starting around Haunted. At his point in his career we all know what we are going to get American satire. Personally, I continue to read to see how he delivers his message. I agree with another reviewer that Chuck is trying to experiment with different styles of writing. In Haunted each chapter had a poem about a character, followed by their back story, then interwoven into the actual story. There was no actual narrator in Rant, instead it was a collection of people giving telling their stories of the main character (IMO this is his most underrated book, and is in my Top 3). Snuff, didnt Chuck just use this style of story telling in Rant?
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Discovering someone has gone missing is nothing short of tragic.

There's just no other possible explanation. Tell-All cannot be written by the same Chuck Palahniuk who wrote the brilliant novels Fight Club, Choke, and Survivor. Alien abduction, demonic possession, mind control, something. Anything. I refuse to accept depreciation of creativity and talent as a viable option.

That being said, let me explain.

Slightly Commendable:
- There's a somewhat amusing span of three pages that describes Katherine's attempt at adoption. Matching the correct shade of pink paint to a baby's skin is of the utmost importance.
- Occasionally, the shock and awe Palahniuk loves so much is relevant and entertaining (although often overdone).
- It's quite short, at less than 200 pages.

Consider Yourself Warned:
- The bolded name-droppings are annoying; fine, I get it, Hollywood revolves around brands and people.
- Speaking of unnecessary, the breaking down of the text into acts and scenes is a weak and unoriginal device. The narrator rhetorically asking me if breaking down the fourth wall is acceptable whenever I'm supposedly being made privy to some great piece of information is also ineffective.
- There is nothing prolific about exaggerated, blatant irony. Don't even try to pull the "the obvious irony is ironic" excuse.
- The characters are flat, uninteresting, and generic.
- The storyline is predictable, and in all honesty, pretty uneventful.
- Palahniuk should be beyond recycling, already having done the "poking fun at guilty pleasures" genre with Haunted, where he spoofs reality television.

Biographies are not literature. When I read fiction I want something to hold on to; characters, plot, themes, or great writing.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In his newest book, Chuck Palahniuk gives us Tell All, a tedious recitation vintage Hollywood names, places, and objects that saturate the pages so thoroughly that the story itself becomes secondary. Told via narrator Hazie Coogan, the maid and confidant for movie star Katherine Kenton, the book is a regurgitation of Palahniuk's well researched style which usually captivates. It follows the pair through the politics, scandals and dangers of Hollywood's elite until a shocking surprise changes Kenton's life forever.

Chuck's got a niche carved out, and his literary hook carves it. In Survivor it is cleaning tips. In Pygmy it is crazy martial arts moves. In Lullaby it's ads in the paper and counting one, counting two, counting three...

This time the hook is a tool used by screenwriters, a bold application to names, places, objects. The problem is that it's self-referentially described as a name-dropping form of Tourette's Syndrome. It doesn't work. A complete distraction that glazed my eyes over with an insatiable desire to nap. To hibernate. To skip sentences. It is literally a reason to skip entire paragraphs, inserted for no other reason than to show of the efforts of extensive research. For less than a 200-page book, it took me an eternity to read.

I'm a big fan of Chuck, and I don't mind the change, the risk, but this is a clear misfire.
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Poor plot, worse execution. The plot first: boring, above all. A Hollywood icon from the golden years is revealed to be invented and thereafter managed by her lifelong companion, Hazie. And so what? There is some slight universal appeal here, but not much. Mostly it's just a kind of comment on the duplicity of the entertainment industry. But we all know the entertainment industry is duplicitous (and in just what ways) so slogging through this book isn't much fun.

Execution: frustratingly bad. Seems phoned in, or like previous Palahniuk books but with the names changed. Trivia (in the form of name-dropping this time) used as filler, repetition used badly, and then overused. Ideas are repeated endlessly: something happens, or something is said, and then the same thing happens, or the same thing is said, just in a slightly different form to fill out a chapter, or "act," as Palahniuk calls them in this book. Again and again, one idea, just juggled around a bit in an attempt to make it seem new.

For example, much of the text centers around death plots involving Katherine, Palahniuk's lead (after the narrator). But if you read one, then you've pretty much read them all. Whether she is to die by falling from a building or getting hit by a bus, we get it. And don't want to read about it over and over again until the end of the book.

The author also appears to have bought a copy of Who's Who of the times and thrown every name he could in -- and what's creative about that?

I was sick and tired of reading animal sounds after the first couple pages, yet Palahniuk kept throwing them in there. Yep, cows say moo, dogs bark, pigs oink, people speak without meaning anything, just sounds. We got it the first ten times around. Stop saying it.
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