Chuck Palahniuk’s advance for Fight Club was just $7000 dollars and both the film and the book were failures. At least initially. That’s two of the things I learned at the Chuck Palahniuk reading on Wednesday. I also learned that he likes to throw candy at his audience and I mean at, not to.
The event was part of the Vancouver International Writers Festival and if you live in or near Vancouver, it’s well worth keeping an eye on their website – they bring some great authors to their annual festival in October and other events throughout the year.
Chuck’s visit kicked off with a limited signing for people who had bought one of the one hundred book-and-event tickets that were available. I was lucky enough to be able to get one so I arrived early, got my copy of Damned inscribed and a couple of photos and then sat down and waited for the reading to start.
It was obvious the evening was going to be special when Chuck came on stage, explained how important it was to pay attention and then proceeded to throw candy around the packed theatre. And this wasn’t small candy either, it was whole bars or bags of chocolate. And he wasn’t just lobbing them gently he was throwing them…in random directions.
Next up was a race to blow up one of the a giant inflatable brains that Chuck and ‘Satan’s Little Helpers’ threw into the audience. In a nice touch, the prizes for the contest were other people’s books – a novel (The Devil All The Time by Donald Ray Pollack) and a memoir (The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch), both highly recommended by Chuck himself.
Of course, there were also readings. The first, Romance, was a warped love story with some classic Palahniuk moments – the bus scene got the entire audience cringing. He also read Guts, the short story that became the opening chapter to his novel, Haunted. If you’re not familiar with it…let’s just say it’s Chuck at his graphic best. At previous readings, people have fainted and on Wednesday there were a lot of very uncomfortable people in the audience, including one guy with his fingers in his ears trying to block out the words. It’s gruesome stuff.
Then, anecdotes, more candy, a Q&A and another contest, this time with blow up squeaking skeletons. And more candy. It was during this last round that I was able to snag myself a bag of Chuck Palahniuk’s balls.
Chuck was friendly, intelligent, funny and gross and although I wouldn’t recommend a public reading as the best place to experience Chuck Palahniuk’s particular brand of storytelling for the first time, as someone who enjoys reading his books (most of the time), it was a fantastic evening.
Chuck Palahniuk’s Balls