Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Librarian Recommends: Damned by Chuck Palahniuk

Madison Spencer is the chubby, precocious daughter of a pair of wildly narcissistic movie stars condemned to Hell for dying of a drug overdose. In this wicked satire of the afterlife, 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 rebel and the diva, in order to make her way through the afterlife. Starting every chapter with a snarky jab at Judy Blune's teen fiction nugget Are You There God, It's Me Margaret, Madison describes her time in Hell, working in the Satanic call center where telephone solicitations 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 quiet and servile child grows more brazen and literally discovers her true self... in Hell. This was a well done satire, and one of Palahniuk's more successful books. The narrative is a little choppy and underdeveloped at times (possibly over-edited do to the potential controversial subject matter) but he makes his characters convincing and believable, and the satire and in-jokes are quite amusing. While certainly not for everybody, any open minded reader looking for a sharply worded satire should enjoy this book.

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