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Damned by Chuck Palahniuk

Damned (2011)

by Chuck Palahniuk

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You have to love the crazy mind of Chuck Palahniuk. Always fun to read but saying that I have to admit Damned was a tad disappointing. Hoping the sequel to this is better. Still some mental images I will surely never forget. ( )
  Fearshop | Aug 20, 2015 |
Over the decades since the publication of Fight Club in 1996 Chuck Palahniuk has mastered the format of the short, self-contained novel, readable in a single longish plane flight. So now, it seems, he's embraced ambitions for multi-volume narrative. He's writing the Fight Club sequel (more to follow the film than the novel, and as a comic book series), and Damned is the first volume of a trilogy, for which only the second (Doomed) has yet followed.

The foregrounded cultural allusions in Damned's po-mo Inferno are to Judy Blume's Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret and to the John Hughes film The Breakfast Club. As is typical of Palahniuk's early novels, the plot turns on an anagorisis regarding the protagonist's personal history, although in this case, there have only been thirteen years of such history: Madison Spencer has kicked the bucket in the onset of puberty, and this book is the first volume of the saga of her afterlife.

Anecdotal review and rumor cautioned me that Palahniuk's Hell would be especially disgusting, with a surfeit of revolting details. That wouldn't be inconsistent with his other books, which have often deployed medical details for their gross-out potential. But Madison, who tells the story, is not a fount of clinical knowledge. As a zealous reader of Jane Austen and a self-identified "smart" girl, she does have a robust vocabulary, and in a Palahniuk-style refrain, she recurrently protests any reader's suspicions that it's excessive for her age. But even though Hell's geography contains many features made of accumulated bodily wastes, such concerns didn't seem to dominate the story. Maybe I'm just desensitized.

What did stand out was the bureaucracy of Hell, its candy-based economics, a bit of Cabell-esque metafiction, and Palahniuk's usual satirical disdain for consumer luxuries and celebrity culture. The book's ending is neither a full resolution nor a cliffhanger. Though Damned wasn't nearly my favorite of the author's novels so far (that would be Rant), I suppose I'll go ahead and snag Doomed at some point. Given how quickly these books read, though, prospective readers might be advised to wait for the third to see print, so they can be taken at a single go.
2 vote paradoxosalpha | Aug 4, 2015 |
This book started out slow; like some kind of twist to Dante's version. Then things picked up and I was really getting into Madison's story and thinking I would totally love this book. Unfortunately, there is an anti-climactic twist and the ending fizzled out. ( )
1 vote jimocracy | Apr 18, 2015 |
"Are you there, Satan? It's me, Madison." 13-year-old self-described fat girl finds herself locked in tiny foul cage in hell, after dying from a supposed marijuana overdose. She gradually gathers her wits and a Breakfast Club gang of fellow damned, assembles an army of demons, and marches on the very gates of Satan himself. Along the way, she discovers some truths about herself and the life she so recently left. Palahniuk weaves the tale with his own brand of weirdness, humor and insight. ( )
  zenhead | Apr 8, 2015 |
3.5 stars.

Dear God,

I want to go to Hell, ‘kay? Thanks bunches!

Damned is the first book I’ve enjoyed from Palahniuk since… Diary, I think. His first four or five novels were fantastic, and then we received such disasters as Tell Tale, Snuff, and Pygmy (The latter was written entirely in phonetic English. Le sigh…). Because I was so shell shocked by Pygmy I completely skirted Rant, because it seemed to be written in the form of interviews, a style I’ve never enjoyed. The only reason I picked up Damned is that I found a hardcover edition for three bucks. Boy, am I ever glad I bought it.

I had big fun traversing Chuck Palahniuk’s version of Hades. His descriptions are vivid and disgusting, just the way I like my hellish landscapes. A place where candy bars are used as a form of currency and Hitler gets what’s coming to him is a place I want to vacation. A standout section of this book for me was the gang riding a giantess into the central hub of Hell. What preludes this ride is some of the funniest adult entertainment I’ve ever read. Gives a whole new meaning to the term giving head.

I must note that I was rather taken aback by the way the author tackled a sensitive subject: having a boy brag about being a school shooter. Even though the kid’s lying, it took me out of the story for a second so that I could consider whether or not I wanted to continue. If you think you’d be put off by such, you might want to skip this book. I don’t know why I was surprised, given that Palahniuk’s never been known for being politically correct, but my own personal opinion is that the scene was tactless and unnecessary.

One of the major selling points of a Chuck Palahniuk book is the guarantee of a twist. Damned is no different. Somehow, I didn’t see the mid-point mindfuck coming, even though it was pissing in my face the entire time, so my hat’s off to the author for that one. Yet, I was disappointed in the final curve ball. Seemed… oddly enough, very Stephen King-ish. You’ll have to read this one to understand why I say that, but if you liked the final three Dark Tower novels, you should love Damned.

In summation: Not Palahniuk’s best, but well worth the read. I will be reading the sequel, Doomed, in the near future, and I’m looking forward to more of the author’s unique imagings. I’ve heard it said that readers of Palahniuk judge one another on which of his books are their favorite. Here’s mine: Invisible Monsters. Nuff said.

( )
  Edward.Lorn | Feb 13, 2015 |
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Are you there, Satan? It's me, Madison.
Trust me, the being-dead part is much easier than the dying part. If you can watch much television, then being dead will be a cinch. Actually, watching television and surfing the Internet are really excellent practice for being dead.
No, it's not fair, but what makes earth feel like Hell is our expectation that it should feel like Heaven. Earth is earth. Dead is dead. You'll find out for yourself soon enough. It won't help the situation for you to get all upset.
Probably I woke up because someone was screaming in Hell, someone is always screaming. Anyone who's ever flown London to Sydney, seated next to or anywhere in the proximity of a fussy baby, you'll no doubt fall right into the swing of things in Hell. What with the strangers and crowding and seemingly endless hours of waiting for nothing to happen, for you Hell will feel like one long, nostalgic hit of deja vu. Especially if your in-flight movie was The English Patient. In Hell, whenever the demons announce they're going to treat everyone to a big-name Hollywood movie, don't get too excited because it's always The English Patient or, unfortunately, The Piano.
Another detail to remember about Hell ... whenever you ask why anyone is damned for all eternity, she'll tell you "jaywalking" or "carrying a black purse with brown shoes" or some such pretty nonsense. In Hell you'd be foolish to count on people displaying high standards of honesty. The same goes for earth.
Don't get me wrong. Hell isn't so dreadful, not compared to Ecology Camp, and especially not compared to junior high school. Call me jaded, but not much compares to having your legs waxed or getting your navel piercing done at a mall kiosk.
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As thirteen-year-old Madison tries to figure out how she died and ended up in Hell, she learns how to manipulate the corrupt system of demons and bodily fluids.

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