Almost a week now, I ran up to Minneapolis in the middle of the work day to catch Chuck Palahniuk at the Triple Rock Social Club. This was his second stop on his two or three week tour around the US, which came just one day after his new novel, Snuff, was released to the public. I've been to a few book signings before, but this one was a completely different experience despite, fundamentally, being the same thing.
The Triple Rock's venue is clearly a music venue. The elevated stage overlooks a sizable dancing pit-like area with a lounge area surrounding it and there's a bar in the back to pick up drinks. Unlike the book signings I've been to before, it was standing room only, minus a couple of tables of chairs here and there. The place was setup as if some band was about the crash the stage and everyone would rock along and, quite honestly, that's pretty much what happened.
After Chuck signed a bunch of books at the front, the moderator of the venue got up on stage and introduced him.
He greeted the crowd and laid out the events for the rest of the evening. Chuck introduced Don Pollack to the stage and Don began to read from his book, Knockemstiff. The vibe of the audience was quite the same of any book reading. Everyone was quite polite and gave Don their ears. However, the tone and content of the book sent the audience into a joyous hysteria. The book was pretty funny, and no one held back any laughter.
Afterwards, Chuck took the stage again and began to read a short story he'd written, Loser, which he has no plans to publish. The atmosphere erupted again with laughter, hanging off of each word Chuck spoke. The excitement and joy of the crowd really elevated the story and brought it to life.
That atmospheric involvement worked incredibly well with Chuck's writing style. Chuck's writing is always in first person and illustrates the characters thoughts and emotions thoroughly and comically. I really feel like I'm inside the character's head and can understand his motives and reasons for doing what they do. And experiencing it within the same bubble as everyone else, and being on the same page is a very collective feeling.
The variety of poeple that came to this event was far from homogeneous, yet through the brunt dark reality of Loser we're all connected. I think it takes a certain personality to really thoroughly enjoy Chuck's writing, a dark honest side we can relate to but never live.. and it's interesting seeing all the people that probably feel the same way and how they look just like anyone you'd ever meet.
Aside from the readings...
Anyways, aside from the readings, Chuck interspersed a few games between the night's events. The game, which we played twice, we see how fast you could inflate blow-up dolls that he through into the audience. Winner's of the game would receive a copy of Don's book, Knockemstiff. I have some pretty decent lungs, but the people in the front row were just a little bit quicker.
After the games, Chuck held a Q&A session, where most of the questions came from the moderator :rolls eyes:. Thankfully, the questions weren't really all that bad. For each little question she asked, Chuck really owned the answer and brought it back to something that was probably rehearsed.
He said that he really isn't that big a talker, but he loves to listen to people. He listens on how they talk about others.. and how they're really talking about themselves. When you're talking about another person, you're really describing yourself through them. You elevate and highlight what emotions you feel when you think of them, whether it's good or bad, and paint a separate picture of them that's distinct from who they actually are.
I found this interesting because that's exactly how his recent novels are written, contrary to his early novels which were the opposite. All of his first novels centered on a single character and you read from their point of view the entire book. Everything was first-person and about you. Actually, Diary was the first one that really changed this pattern where he tried to write in third-person, but from the first-person perspective of some one else.
In my opinion, Rant was his first success in writing this way. Rant had the first-person perspective of many people focusing on the third-person view of a single character. Snuff is laid out the same way, but I haven't read it yet to fully comment on it.
He also spoke about using props within the context of the book to keep the characters centered, and always bring the reader back to a point or theme. Themes are pretty good for describing and flushing out characters, but I think using props to enforce those themes is a little too obvious. Like having flowers for a symbol of love..
Chuck said that Snuff has several props throughout the book, two of which were a blow-up doll and an autograph hound. He had already thrown a bunch of blow-up dolls into the audience for the games, but he had several garbage bags full of autograph hounds he gave to the crowd as another thank you for coming. ^_^
Luckily, I'm tall, so catching all this stuff above the crowd is pretty easy.
Also, every participant of the reading got a pre-signed copy of the Snuff novel with a Choke bookmark. The bookmark has a rather symbolic prop from Choke attached to it.
Speaking of Choke, we were also treated to the Trailer for the Choke movie which comes out in theaters this coming September. Choke is Chuck's third novel, and the movie has been "in the works" for the past 8 years. The initial movie rights were sold a year after Fight Club came out in theaters.
The Trailer is online today, and you can find it HERE, at MTV's website. It'd probably be the first movie I've ever seen where I've actually read the book FAR in advance of the movie's release. I should probably read it again before September.
Anywho, I had a great time ^_^ and hopefully next time I'll hear about tickets far in advance, so I can get some more of my books signed by him.