Make Something Up by Chuck Palahniuk

I went through a Chuck Palahniuk phase in university, which culminated in a highly memorable Edinburgh Fringe event. To celebrate the launch of Snuff, audience members at his Book Festival talk were invited to win the, ah, wonderful prize of blow up sex dolls. Alas, I went out into the world sex-doll-less, but with an abiding love of Haunted, an interlinked collection of Palahniuk’s short stories. Lurking in the library this weekend (an outing inspired by my last read, Ali Smith’s Public Library), I happened across another such collection and added it to my pile immediately.

Make Something Up was a very uneven read. Some of the stories have little going for them beyond shock value and/or gore (“Cannibal”, “The Facts of Life”, “The Toad Prince”), while some are forgettable in the extreme (“Cold Calling”, “Smoke”, “Liturgy”, “How a Jew Saved Christmas”). “Eleanor” is essentially just a stylistic experiment. Three of the stories (“How Monkey Got Married, Bought a House and Found Happiness in Orlando”, “Why Coyote Never Had Money For Parking” and “Why Aardvark Never Landed on the Moon”) share a universe, told in a modern fable style. I enjoyed them, though think they’d lose a lot if the animals were just substituted with real names. The longest is also easily the best – “Inclinations” – the story of a band of boys who conspire to have themselves sent to a homosexual reformatory, only to discover their imagined holiday of hookers and steroids falls far from the mark.

Overall, this collection didn’t have me wild for more, and in places was a bit of a slog, but when it was good it was brilliant.

[Read from 8-9 October 2016]

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