Thursday, October 6, 2011

Damned: A Read to Die For

Known for writing some of the raunchiest and most disturbing stories, Chuck Palaniuk has turned his attention to the afterlife with his upcoming novel Damned, to be released by Doubleday on October 18th. In an Are You There God? It's Me Margaret. mock up (penned to Satan instead), the story chronicles 13 year old Madison's experience as she begins her new life in Hell after allegedly overdosing on marijuana.

We first find Madison in a grungy cell block in the underworld, where she meets a group resembling an eternally damned version of The Breakfast Club. The socially awkward, unattractive girl among the brain, the jock, the rebel, and the prom queen, Madison joins the group in a trek past the "greasy, flaky Dandruff Desert" near the "Great Plains of Broken Glass" to Hell's processing center. There, Madison applies for an appeal on her condemnation and finds employment in one of only two professions in Hell: starring in internet porn or telemarketing. Choosing the latter, she joins the underworld's workforce in earning candy bars and other treats to pay off her debt and gain salvation.

Like many of Palahniuk's novels, Damned is chock full of random, slightly useful information. Did you know, for instance, that if you honk your car horn more than 500 times in your life, you're automatically condemned to Hell? There's a similar rule for discarded cigarette butts too, apparently, and passing gas in crowded elevators. And before you die, make sure you're wearing a nice sturdy pair of shoes, because it is Hell after all; it's hot! Cheap shoes will melt and you'll spend an eternity walking around on broken glass. These are just a couple of the things Madison learns while acclimating to quotidian life in the underworld.

While alive, Madison was the daughter of ex-communist, ex-hippy movie star parents and grew up in the lap of luxury. In Hell, though, Madison must rely on her new acquaintances while coming to terms with her former life, her death and her condemnation. Palahniuk's creative view of Hell, which rivals that of Dante, might instill in readers a bit of sympathy for Madison, yet the recently dead teenage girl develops into a headstrong, outspoken resident of the underworld. This strong character along with fascinating, if not disturbing, imagery make Damned a read to die for.

William - Reference

No comments: