[Read Laura Miller's review of "Diary."]
Dear Laura Nelson [sic],
I have never responded to a review, perhaps because I’ve never gotten such a cruel and mean-spirited one.
Please send me a copy of your latest book. I’d love to read it.
Until you can create something that captivates people, I’d invite you to just shut up. It’s easy to attack and destroy an act of creation. It’s a lot more difficult to perform one. I’d also invite you to read the reviews Fitzgerald got for “Gatsby” from dull, sad, bitter people — like yourself.
– Chuck Palahniuk
[Readers respond to letters from Palahniuk fans.]
Last summer, I was unlucky enough to have to work a Chuck Palahniuk reading. This is not to say Mr. Palahniuk himself wasn’t delightful; although I am mostly unfamiliar with his work, he was a fine reader, a gracious man, and a large source of revenue for the store. The reason for my irritation had everything to do with his fans.
I have never seen a crowd of bigger poseurs in my life. There were Angry Young Men wearing sunglasses indoors and Angry Young Men with wallet chains. There was even a group of about five Angry Young Men with matching dyed black hair and matching gray suits and matching boots with spurs. It was as though the bookstore had been sucked through a teleporter and was transformed into a Nine Inch Nails concert circa 1995. These 18- to 34-year-old white men were so disaffected! They vented their societal frustrations by freaking out the squares. Problem was, the only squares nearby were we 20-something independent-bookstore clerks.
Palahniuk’s reading was unique in that his fans treated him like a rock star. They whooped and hollered and whistled when he appeared, and clapped loudly when he read something they liked. To their credit, I found this refreshing. At the end of the reading, they lined up to meet Palahniuk. To his credit, he mocked them. There was a lad of about 19 with a moustache that appeared to have been drawn on with a Sharpie. Palahniuk said something to the effect of, “What the fuck is on your face, son?” This, too, was refreshing.
It was with great horror that I read the angry letters to Laura Miller. I want to give everybody the benefit of the doubt, including the poseurs I saw that night. Reading those letters upset me because, as it turns out, some fans are as dumb as they look. Against what, exactly, are these dudes rebelling? The very same patriarchy that force-feeds them cheap Swedish furniture shares their hatred for radical feminists and literary critics. Self-styled rebels who defer to Barnes & Noble recommended reading lists should be locked in a room where Kathleen Hanna will read them the Baffler.
– Eugenia Williamson
It’s a pity that, thus far, all of the letters defending Palahniuk (and attacking, alternately, the reviewer and all women) were written by men. I find the criticism that Palahniuk’s novels are written for one kind of audience to be lazy and, worse, boring. That the published responses only support such a criticism is execrable. There’s plenty I could say to respond to those flaws Miller found in the book itself, but I prefer to say simply, for the record, that I, a very well educated and astute woman who drools only a little, like Palahniuk’s work.
– Kimberly McColl
I’ll have to say that I agree with the men who responded to Laura Miller’s review of Chuck Palahniuk (and I am a 47-year-old female librarian). The “truth” in Palahniuk’s books should not be sought out by trivial fact-finding, but in the parable he tells. Why are women so distraught about his portrayal of men and women? Are we afraid that the story tells us of something “real” in our society?
– Jan Bailey