Damned

I knew the person who wrote Fight Club had written some other books, but for some reason I never got the motivation to look any of them up.  Then a friend told me to read and let me borrow her copy of Damned by Chuck Palahniuk.  If I’ve said it a million times I still haven’t said it enough, thank goodness for well read friends that are generous with recommendations and loaning their books out!  Damned is about a thirteen year old girl who dies from and is sent to Hell because of overdosing on marijuana. If you’re anything like me you scoffed a little bit after reading that and immediately felt like you didn’t want to read the book.  Bear with me and Chuck for a moment because there’s a lot more going on here.

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Putting aside the ridiculous overdosing on marijuana thing for just one moment (it’s  not actually possible, for the record…ok, now putting it aside), this narrator is a hoot and a half.  The story follows and is narrated by Madison “Maddy” Spencer, the thirteen year old daughter of celebrity parents.  Sometimes having a young teen narrator can be a little tiresome because, for most people, a big part of being that age is awkwardness and having thoughts that are bigger than the words available to us, and this sensation is very rarely conveyed via novels.  This is true of Maddy, but her life experience is so far from anything I recognize and relate to that it seems more probable that she would be capable of properly articulating the thoughts she’s thinking.  She’s witty, self conscious, defensive, and a little naive.  All of which makes seeing Hell through her eyes a pretty awesome reading experience.

At the beginning of this story there is a lot that is not known and while Maddy’s narration is entertaining, very early on she establishes herself as an unreliable narrator.  Partly by saying that people in Hell lie about why they’re in Hell, which immediately calls into question her given reason for being in Hell, but also because she is so defensive.  A go to line for her is, “Yes, I know the word convey. I’m dead, not a mental defective.”  It’s repeated so many times that it forces me to start questioning what she does know.  It’s like someone telling you “I made brownies.” Then, completely unprompted, adding, “There’s no marijuana in them.”  I didn’t think there was until you said that, now I’m not so sure.

The story itself is an entertaining and interesting one, but it does start to slow in the third fourth.  It felt like Chuck Palahniuk knew how it began and ended but wasn’t entirely sure how to get from one to the other.  The setting offers the flexibility to be just about as weird and unbelievable as needed for the story and he uses that to his advantage. This propels the story to the end, but for a moment it feels like you’re slogging through to get to the good bit.  I think the end is worth it. It’s a very open ended book, so it was a relief to discover there is a second called Doomed.  You can count on seeing that book on this blog sometime soon, because I just have to know what’s going to happen!

Common Place Book Entries:

“Hell is…well, hell on shoes; anything plastic melts, and you don’t want to walk barefoot over broken glass for the rest of eternity.  When it comes your time, when the proverbial bell tolls for thee, seriously consider wearing a basic low-heel Bass Weejun penny loafer in a dark color that won’t show dirt.”

-Damned by Chuck Palahniuk

“In hell you’d be foolish to count on people displaying high standards of honesty.  The same goes for earth.”

-Damned by Chuck Palahniuk

“Critics and movie reviewers really, really count on there being no actual hell.”

-Damned by Chuck Palahniuk

“The only thing that makes earth feel like Hell, or Hell feel like Hell, is our expectation that it ought to feel like Heaven. Earth is Earth. Dead is Dead.”

-Damned by Chuck Palahniuk

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