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Pygmy by Chuck Palahniuk
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Pygmy (original 2009; edition 2010)

by Chuck Palahniuk (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,089745,998 (2.88)40
"Begins here first account of operative me, agent number 67 on arrival midwestern American airport greater _____ area. Flight _____. Date _____. Priority mission top success to complete. Code name: Operation Havoc." Thus speaks Pygmy, one of a handful of young adults from a totalitarian state sent to the United States, disguised as exchange students, to live with typical American families and blend in, all the while planning an unspecified act of massive terrorism. Palahniuk depicts Midwestern life through the eyes of this thoroughly indoctrinated little killer, who hates Americans with a passion, in this cunning double-edged satire of a xenophobia that might, in fact, be completely justified.… (more)
Member:cajdavidson
Title:Pygmy
Authors:Chuck Palahniuk (Author)
Info:Anchor (2010), Edition: Reprint, 256 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:
Tags:to-read, owned

Work Information

Pygmy by Chuck Palahniuk (2009)

  1. 10
    A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (fugitive)
    fugitive: I make this recommendation primarily based on the unique artificial dialects created by both Palahniuk and Burgess.
  2. 00
    The Mysteries of Algiers by Robert Irwin (paradoxosalpha)
    paradoxosalpha: Narrative from a twisted, terroristic, undercover anti-protagonist
  3. 00
    Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer (souci)
    souci: Actually a better look at fractured English.
  4. 01
    Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban (fugitive)
    fugitive: The protagonist uses a fractured, and manufactured language which takes some getting used to.
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» See also 40 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 75 (next | show all)
Exchange Terrorists

Chuck Palahniuk casts a jaundiced eye on and takes a highly satirical pen to American life, and in the end American life wins out, sort of. There was a time when we called an idea like Pygmy high camp, meaning a whole conglomeration of things, exaggerated, vulgar, ostentatious, and the like. Palahniuk’s novel is all of these things, and maybe a bit more. While it will probably not be to everybody’s liking, especially those who dislike reading dialect (here a stylized Engrish with a distinct Mr. Spock attitude), those who revel in over the top humor will appreciate it.

A nameless nation that feels like North Korea and ISIS rolled into one has trained almost from birth an elite core of terrorists. When the novel begins, they have just become teenagers and have been brought to the U.S.A. by an evangelical church in a Midwestern city as exchange students. The idea, of course, is to inculcate them with American and Christian values. However, they come over on a mission, code name Operation Havoc. Chief among the group of adolescent terrorists is “agent number 67.” He relates the story of their arrival, their training, the purpose of their mission, and he in particular their take on various aspects of American life, which he approaches as a decadent society busy destroying the world. Seen through his eyes, life here gets exposed for its absurdity. Unrequited love for his host family’s daughter whom he calls Cat Sister (the father is Cow Father, the mother is Chicken Mother, and the brother Pig Dog Brother, which gives you idea of the novel’s tone), this unrequited love undoes him, or does him, if you’re of that mindset.

Palahniuk’s inventiveness in describing and skewering aspects of American life makes the novel enjoyable. After all, not only is seeing how you live from another, albeit extreme, vantage point funny, but it also can be enlightening. Let’s be honest here, not everybody views America as the pinnacle of living well, including many living the American dream. So, from Agent 67’s perspective we have “retail product distribution facilities” (Walmart), “religion propaganda distribution outlets” (church), “domestic structure Cedar” (his host family’s house), “public education institutions” (school), and the like.

In keeping with the tone of the novel, the characters are more caricatures, highlighting certain aspects of their personalities for humorous effect. Pig Dog Brother thinks only about sex, evaluates women on their physical characteristics, and lobs more euphemisms for breasts than you probably thought existed. Sex obsesses Chicken Mom, who keeps a vibrator handy and, on the Thanksgiving recounted in the story, in her. Cat Sister practices stealth thievery from her father’s business to keep herself well stocked in office supplies. And, not to be outdone, Agent 67 has sex on his mind, though purely as a means of producing more warriors.

To keep the story moving, Palahniuk packs the novel with plenty of humorous, often slapstick violent, set pieces, among them the science fair massacre, the school dance brawl, the Thanksgiving dinner drugging, Devil Tony’s (Agent 67’s name for the pastor) murder in the church, the exploding dildo experiment, and these are just samples. What will happen next, you’ll wonder, and how outrageous will it be?

So, should you give Pygmy a try? If you like your funny novels very broad, absolutely you should. And if you break a smile at the following short excerpt from the science fair, you’ll certainly want to grab a copy:

“Next, parade learned academics arrive experiment invented stealth cat sister. Rested atop table, display moderate missile comparable to light mortar round Japan artillery, caliber fifty-millimeter Type 89 ‘leg’ mortar shell. Missile encased skin pink-color plastic. Smooth polished. Painted letter across placard, written: ‘Bliss 2.0.’”

( )
2 vote write-review | Nov 4, 2021 |
Exchange Terrorists

Chuck Palahniuk casts a jaundiced eye on and takes a highly satirical pen to American life, and in the end American life wins out, sort of. There was a time when we called an idea like Pygmy high camp, meaning a whole conglomeration of things, exaggerated, vulgar, ostentatious, and the like. Palahniuk’s novel is all of these things, and maybe a bit more. While it will probably not be to everybody’s liking, especially those who dislike reading dialect (here a stylized Engrish with a distinct Mr. Spock attitude), those who revel in over the top humor will appreciate it.

A nameless nation that feels like North Korea and ISIS rolled into one has trained almost from birth an elite core of terrorists. When the novel begins, they have just become teenagers and have been brought to the U.S.A. by an evangelical church in a Midwestern city as exchange students. The idea, of course, is to inculcate them with American and Christian values. However, they come over on a mission, code name Operation Havoc. Chief among the group of adolescent terrorists is “agent number 67.” He relates the story of their arrival, their training, the purpose of their mission, and he in particular their take on various aspects of American life, which he approaches as a decadent society busy destroying the world. Seen through his eyes, life here gets exposed for its absurdity. Unrequited love for his host family’s daughter whom he calls Cat Sister (the father is Cow Father, the mother is Chicken Mother, and the brother Pig Dog Brother, which gives you idea of the novel’s tone), this unrequited love undoes him, or does him, if you’re of that mindset.

Palahniuk’s inventiveness in describing and skewering aspects of American life makes the novel enjoyable. After all, not only is seeing how you live from another, albeit extreme, vantage point funny, but it also can be enlightening. Let’s be honest here, not everybody views America as the pinnacle of living well, including many living the American dream. So, from Agent 67’s perspective we have “retail product distribution facilities” (Walmart), “religion propaganda distribution outlets” (church), “domestic structure Cedar” (his host family’s house), “public education institutions” (school), and the like.

In keeping with the tone of the novel, the characters are more caricatures, highlighting certain aspects of their personalities for humorous effect. Pig Dog Brother thinks only about sex, evaluates women on their physical characteristics, and lobs more euphemisms for breasts than you probably thought existed. Sex obsesses Chicken Mom, who keeps a vibrator handy and, on the Thanksgiving recounted in the story, in her. Cat Sister practices stealth thievery from her father’s business to keep herself well stocked in office supplies. And, not to be outdone, Agent 67 has sex on his mind, though purely as a means of producing more warriors.

To keep the story moving, Palahniuk packs the novel with plenty of humorous, often slapstick violent, set pieces, among them the science fair massacre, the school dance brawl, the Thanksgiving dinner drugging, Devil Tony’s (Agent 67’s name for the pastor) murder in the church, the exploding dildo experiment, and these are just samples. What will happen next, you’ll wonder, and how outrageous will it be?

So, should you give Pygmy a try? If you like your funny novels very broad, absolutely you should. And if you break a smile at the following short excerpt from the science fair, you’ll certainly want to grab a copy:

“Next, parade learned academics arrive experiment invented stealth cat sister. Rested atop table, display moderate missile comparable to light mortar round Japan artillery, caliber fifty-millimeter Type 89 ‘leg’ mortar shell. Missile encased skin pink-color plastic. Smooth polished. Painted letter across placard, written: ‘Bliss 2.0.’”

( )
  write-review | Nov 4, 2021 |
This is an odd book to try and place. Its written in pidgin English, which makes getting into the flow of reading somewhat difficult. The style never lets up. If you don't get it by Chapter 3 or so, you're never going to finish. It has a decent story - however, it fails to actually elaborate on the most interesting bits sticking to a fairly cliched coming-of-age high school story. There are some laughs, some groans, one or two really disgusting bits, and one of the best damned explanations about dodge ball I have ever come across. If you haven't read anything else by Chuck, I'd give this one a pass and pick up Invisible Monsters or Fight Club. ( )
  illmunkeys | Apr 22, 2021 |
One of my dog-walking clients has this book in his apartment. After I'm done walking his dog, I eat some of his candy and I read a couple of chapters from this book on the couch.

I suppose it was time I grew up anyways: Chuck Palahniuk is a hipster. Whatever subversive themes you can dredge up out of his books are pretty well battered by cliche, and too-obvious tropes. Drugs, rape, racism, violence, sex, shock shock shlock. No underlying spirit. Fake nihilism that makes us say, "welp, glad that's not my life, let's go shopping."

The ending is such a disappointment. I was looking for subversive evil tragedy. But I just got bullshit capitulation. I hope that was an editor's insistance and not from the author.

The use of rape in this book is casual, which is meant to shock/tittilate the reader. I can't read books like that anymore. It's only funny/shocking/tittilating if you've remained blind and ignorant to the rape that happens to friends and family too often. If you understand it, then you don't treat it with hipster casualty.

PS: If you want to read a book in Engrish, try Everything is Illuminated. It doesn't have the hipster scorn for all humanity, so it's a geniunely different book. But that's what makes it better. ( )
  magonistarevolt | Apr 28, 2020 |
very clever. very difficult to read. ( )
  subspacer | Mar 25, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 75 (next | show all)
Readers of Palahniuk’s excellent early work (“Fight Club,” “Invisible Mon­sters”) will sense a shallow, phoned-in quality to his new novel. Despite its transgressive trappings and cultural-­critique posturing, “Pygmy” is as defanged as Marilyn Manson.
 
For all its satirical tail-swallowing, however, the novel's strongest currents of feeling swirl around the hero's experiences in the education system. Behind the often quite funny overkill and casually exiguous plot, it's essentially a fantasy about being a small, picked-on outsider in high school while fancying yourself a secret agent on a mission of revenge.
 
Sloppy yet smart, Chuck Palahniuk's "Pygmy" veers from sublimely ridiculous to just plain ridiculous, sometimes within a single paragraph.
 
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Epigraph
He alone, who owns the youth, gains the future. - Adolf Hitler.
Dedication
To Amy Hempel - There is no other cheese.
First words
Begins here first account of operative me, agent number 67,
on arrival Midwestern American airport greater ##### area.
Quotations
All beauty created of the deity eventual to pass through American mouth, viscera, excreted anus.
Perhaps true profound affection defined by no entering vagina without consent.
Thank you, much esteemed madam living skeleton.
Succulent barrier much thrusting mammary glands shield operative me, swinging lady buttocks further thwart attacks.
Tongue of operative me lick, licking, touching back tooth on bottom, molar where planted inside forms cyanide hollow, touching not biting.
Last words
Information from the Italian Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Information from the Italian Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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Wikipedia in English (1)

"Begins here first account of operative me, agent number 67 on arrival midwestern American airport greater _____ area. Flight _____. Date _____. Priority mission top success to complete. Code name: Operation Havoc." Thus speaks Pygmy, one of a handful of young adults from a totalitarian state sent to the United States, disguised as exchange students, to live with typical American families and blend in, all the while planning an unspecified act of massive terrorism. Palahniuk depicts Midwestern life through the eyes of this thoroughly indoctrinated little killer, who hates Americans with a passion, in this cunning double-edged satire of a xenophobia that might, in fact, be completely justified.

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