I’ve never read any of Chuck Palahniuk’s novels, and I basically only read this book because my boyfriend checked it out from the library and read enough passages from it to me to make me intrigued about the book as a whole. I am not at all sure that I want to read any of Chuck Palahniuk’s novels, and I’m not sure how much overlap there is between his taste in books and mine, but I nevertheless enjoyed this collection of essays that’s a very readable mix of memoir and writing advice, with stories of Palahniuk’s experiences from book tours interspersed with advice on technique and recommendations of fiction and nonfiction to read. “This book is, in a way, a scrapbook of my writing life,” Palahniuk writes in the introduction, and the way it combines lots of different things, scrapbook-style, is part of what I find appealing about it (xvi).

I was more reading this book for the memoir/personal history aspect than the writing advice aspect of it, though as a reader I can thoroughly get behind this recommendation: “To add new texture to any story never hesitate to insert a list” (22). Yes! Lists in fiction! I am so into them! I don’t share Palahniuk’s dislike of “unattributed speech,” though (12). And there are a few places in the book where he talks negatively about “gorgeous stuff with very little plot momentum or drive,” which I don’t have a problem with: there are definitely times I am happy to read for language, mood, or setting as much or more than for plot (192). I like his emphasis on paying attention, though: as he puts it, “You never know when you’ll encounter the remarkable idea, image, remark”—he talks about walking past a construction site and hearing a bricklayer call out to the guy delivering buckets of mortar, “Dude, I love the way you keep the mud alive,” which is totally great (130). And I appreciate his point that “our existence is a constant flow of the impossible, the implausible, the coincidental”—so you shouldn’t necessarily have to tone down fiction to make it “believable” (186).

Also: two stories near the end of the book about wild experiences, one in London and one in Paris, are so great that I couldn’t put the book down even though it was bedtime when I got to them. I brushed my teeth, started making my way toward the bedroom, then changed my mind and sat on the floor in the hallway to finish reading, because I couldn’t imagine waiting ’til morning. So I guess Palahniuk can give advice about engaging writing.

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