Monday, October 31, 2011

Books: Damned by Chuck Palahniuk

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Madison Spencer is the chubby, precocious daughter of a pair of wildly narcissistic movie stars condemned to Hell for "overdosing on marijuana." In this wicked satire of Christian mythology, adult greed and teen drama, Madison finds out that Hell is often like the infamous teenage movie The Breakfast Club, as she joins forces with teen stereotypes: the jock, the stoner, the diva, in order to make her way through the afterlife. Starting every chapter with a snarky jab at the teen fiction nugget "Are You There God, It's Me Margaret," Madison describes her time in Hell, working in the Satanic call center where calls are placed to the living during the dinner hour asking inane questions about consumer products. Madison also recounts her brief life with her super wealthy and self-absorbed parents, a brutal send-up of the celebrity worship culture we live in in America today. As Madison travels through hell, she meets historical figures of the past, from the expected like Adolf Hitler to the unusual like Charles Darwin. Slowly Madison begins to change, and the obsequious and servile child grows more brazen and literally discovers her true self... in Hell. This was a pretty well done satire, and one of Palahniuk's more successful books (he tends to be wildly great or spectacularly awful.) The narrative is a little choppy and underdeveloped at times (possibly over-edited do to the subject matter?) but he makes his characters convincing and believable, and the satire and in-jokes are quite amusing. While certainly not for the Christian Conservative crowd, any open minded reader looking for a sharply worded satire should enjoy this book. Damned -

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