Victor Mancini is a ruthless con artist. Victor Mancini is a med-school dropout who’s taken a job playing an Irish indentured servant in a colonial-era theme park in order to help care for his Alzheimer’s-afflicted mother. Victor Mancini is a sex addict. Victor Mancini is a direct descendant of Jesus Christ. All of these statements about the protagonist of Choke are more or less true. Welcome, once again, to the world of Chuck Palahniuk.
“Art never comes from happiness.” So says Mancini’s mother only a few pages into the novel. Given her own dicey and melodramatic style of parenting, you would think that her son’s life would be chock-full of nothing but art. Alas, that’s not the case. In the fine tradition of Oedipus, Stephen Dedalus, and Anthony Soprano, Victor hasn’t quite reconciled his issues with his mother. Instead, he’s trawling sexual-addiction recovery meetings for dates and purposely choking in restaurants for a few moments of attention. Longing for a hug, in other words, he’s settling for the Heimlich.
Thematically, this is pretty familiar Palahniuk territory. It would be a pity to disclose the surprises of the plot, but suffice it to say that what we have here is a little bit of Tom Robbins’s Another Roadside Attraction, a little bit of Don DeLillo’s The Day Room, and, well, a little bit of Fight Club. Just as with Fight Club and the other two novels under Palahniuk’s belt, we get a smattering of gloriously unflinching sound bites, including this skeptical bit on prayer chains: “A spiritual pyramid scheme. As if you can gang up on God. Bully him around.”
Whether this is the novel that will break Palahniuk into the mainstream is hard to say. For a fourth book, in fact, the ratio of iffy, “dude”-intensive dialogue to interesting and insightful passages is a little higher than we might wish. In the end, though, the author’s nerve and daring pull the whole thing off–just barely. And what’s next for Victor Mancini’s creator? Leave the last word to him, declaring as he does in the final pages: “Maybe it’s our job to invent something better…. What it’s going to be, I don’t know.” –Bob Michaels
Victor Mancini, a medical-school dropout, is an antihero for our deranged times. Needing to pay elder care for his mother, Victor has devised an ingenious scam: he pretends to choke on pieces of food while dining in upscale restaurants. He then allows himself to be “saved” by fellow patrons who, feeling responsible for Victor’s life, go on to send checks to support him. When he’s not pulling this stunt, Victor cruises sexual addiction recovery workshops for action, visits his addled mom, and spends his days working at a colonial theme park. His creator, Chuck Palahniuk, is the visionary we need and the satirist we deserve.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
From the Inside Flap
From the author of the international sensation Fight Club, a powerful (and hilarious) novel about love and strife between mothers and sons, the addictive power of sex, the terrors of aging, the ugly truth about historical theme parks, and much else…
Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk’s controversial and blazingly original debut novel, introduced a fresh and even renegade talent to American fiction, one who has retooled the classic black humor of Terry Southern and Kurt Vonnegut for the lunacy of the millennial age. In his new novel, Choke, he gives readers a vision of life and love and sex and mortality that is both chillingly brilliant and teeth-rattlingly funny.
Victor Mancini, a dropout from medical school, has devised a complicated scam to pay for his mother’s elder care: Pretend to be choking on a piece of food in a restaurant and the person who “saves you” will feel responsible for the rest of his life. Multiply that a couple of hundred times and you generate a healthy flow of checks, week in, week out. Between fake choking gigs, Victor works at Colonial Dunsboro with a motley group of losers and stoners trapped in 1734, cruises sex addiction groups for action (“You put twenty sexaholics around a table night after night and don’t be surprised.”), and visits his mother, whose anarchic streak made his childhood a mad whirl and whose Alzheimer’s disease now hides what may be the startling truth about his (possibly divine?) parentage. An antihero for our deranging times, Victor’s whole existence is a struggle to wrest an identity from overwhelming forces. His creator, Chuck Palahniuk, is the visionary we need and the satirist we deserve.
From the Back Cover
Praise for Chuck Palahniuk:
“Palahniuk is one of the freshest, most intriguing voices to appear in a long time. He rearranges Vonnegut’s sly humor, DeLillo’s mordant social analysis, and Pynchon’s antic surrealism (or is it R. Crumb’s?) into a gleaming puzzle palace all his own.”
“Palahniuk displays a Swiftian gift for satire, as well as a knack for crafting mesmerizing sentences that loom with stark, prickly prose and repetitive rhythms.”
–San Francisco Examiner
“Even I can’t write this well.”
“Palahniuk’s language is urgent and tense, touched with psychopathic brilliance, his images dead-on accurate….[He] is an author who makes full use of the alchemical powers of fiction to synthesize a universe that mirrors our own fiction as a way of illuminating the world without obliterating its complexity.”
“Maybe our generation has found its Don DeLillo.”
–Bret Easton Ellis
About the Author
Chuck Palahniuk’s three novels are the bestselling Fight Club, which was made into a film by director David Fincher, Survivor, and Invisible Monsters. Portions of Choke have appeared in Playboy, and his nonfiction work has been published by Gear, Black Book, The Stranger, and the Los Angeles Times. He lives in Portland, Oregon.