Damned – Chuck Palahniuk

May 18

Damned – Chuck Palahniuk

This is Part One of a recent trilogy by Chuck Palahniuk. Thanks to my brother Casey for the suggestion.

In Damned, we meet Madison Spencer, a 13-year old who finds herself in Hell. Madison is well-read, she is chubby, she is the daughter of potentially the worst parents ever, and she is dead.  Maddy befriends her neighbors and finds a job as a telemarketer. Clever, Mr. Palahniuk. Of course all calls bothering you during dinner time originate in Hell. During one salient phone conversation, after having been *69’d, the caller wants to know if Maddy really is dead. The caller states, “The caller ID says your area code is for Missoula, Montana…” Maddy tells her: “Same deal.”  My friends that live in Bozeman, Montana, will love that reference.

The story unfolds with homages to Judy Blume (every chapter starts with “Are you there, Satan? It’s me, Madison”) and countless references to The Breakfast Club. Madison has a way with the words. She names all of her classmates/neighbors in a style all her own: There is the “Whorey Vanderwhore” neighbor, her parents friends worried at one point that she  may be a “Nymphy Nymphoheimer”, and rich people from Saudi would hire “Miss Coozey Coozerbilt” call girls. I love these plays on names; I do that all of the time, just not in this derogatory way. 🙂

Madison struggles with her death. She believes herself to be highly intelligent; that she winds up dead at such a young age, as the result of a “very poorly understood sex game”, shakes her self concept to the core.  She  discovers a penchant for recruiting folks to Hell,  and embarks on a journey that garners followers and affords her the right to beautify her new home.

This story is fast-paced and really well done. It is not for the faint of heart; you know Palahniuk will hit you with the gore and the weird sex images. I look forward to reading Part 2, entitled Doomed, where Maddy gets back to Earth.

According to the book, if you say the F-word more than 700 times, you, too, are going to Hell. Damned!

Update: I was so excited to get my hands on Doomed via the local library. Maybe I liked Damned too much; maybe I expected a lot from Doomed. Our protagonist Maddie has escaped from Hell and is back on Earth. A good portion of the story examines Maddie’s life before her untimely death at age 13. Perhaps this book should have come first, as much of it felt like an awkward backward slide. This sequel is Maddie’s personal purgatory; as a ghost she follows her utterly horrendous parents around the globe and reminisces about her disturbing, brief childhood.

Maddie’s interesting mix of a privileged upbringing, a well stocked vocabulary, and some highly unfortunate experiences at the hands of family members offers an interesting glimpse into this world and the next. The beginning scene of her first time at a public restroom had me laughing out loud; the denouement of that same incident is still making me cringe.

Chuck will shock you on many different levels. There is never any danger of him being politically correct. Ever. As Madison states: “This new idea was like seeing an Asian person speaking Spanish. It was too impossible a concept.”

As always, Mr. Palahniuk is not for the faint of heart. I just wish this story was a little more cohesive. I guess that is what purgatory is: purging a lifetime worth of sins, which in any case is pretty painful.

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  1. 2014- My Favorite Reads and Eats - SandBookWich - […] Damned-Chuck Palahniuk is always a good bet if you want to read something with a warped view. A 13-year…
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