ADJUSTMENT DAY

A caustic fantasy about emasculated men, power reversals, proletariat revolution, and extreme violence. Sound familiar?

An uprising in Portland, Oregon, leads to social revolution and terror in this relentless satire of our splintered times.

Many writers have complained recently that current events are distracting them from doing the work. Clearly, Palahniuk (Make Something Up, 2015, etc.) has embraced the madness, crafting a dystopian nightmare that takes all the fractures of our modern society and escalates them to a perverted climax. The United States is on the brink of war, and millennials are expected to be mowed down by the thousands, a deliberate plan by a crooked senator to avoid an American Arab Spring. But two new developments emerge. The first is The List, an internet site where anyone can post the names of people they deem a threat to society. The more votes a person gets, the more danger they are in. The second is a revolutionary manifesto by a man named Talbott Reynolds that contains wisdom like “We must kill those who would have us kill one another” and is advertised with the slogan "A Smile Is Your Best Bulletproof Vest!" And then...Adjustment Day, during which The List’s targets are exterminated, journalists murdered, and a “Declaration of Interdependence” setting new rules is written. Only those who killed are granted rights. They are elevated to the rank of barbaric “chieftains,” their serfs marked by a severed ear. The country is split into divided states: “Blacktopia,” “Gaysia,” and “Caucasia.” “Democracy was a short-lived aberration,” Palahniuk writes, taking the anarchist conviction of Fight Club (1996) Project Mayhem and letting it run unchecked. Once Palahniuk turns society on its ear, it’s a rich milieu in which the author can experiment with characters, form, style, and an acidic wit that savages social constructs, conspiracies, and norms with abandon. Or, perhaps not. “Palahniuk,” Reynolds mutters. “All of his work is about castration. Castration or abortion.”

A caustic fantasy about emasculated men, power reversals, proletariat revolution, and extreme violence. Sound familiar?

Pub Date: May 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-393-65259-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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THE SECRET HISTORY

The Brat Pack meets The Bacchae in this precious, way-too-long, and utterly unsuspenseful town-and-gown murder tale. A bunch of ever-so-mandarin college kids in a small Vermont school are the eager epigones of an aloof classics professor, and in their exclusivity and snobbishness and eagerness to please their teacher, they are moved to try to enact Dionysian frenzies in the woods. During the only one that actually comes off, a local farmer happens upon them—and they kill him. But the death isn't ruled a murder—and might never have been if one of the gang—a cadging sybarite named Bunny Corcoran—hadn't shown signs of cracking under the secret's weight. And so he too is dispatched. The narrator, a blank-slate Californian named Richard Pepen chronicles the coverup. But if you're thinking remorse-drama, conscience masque, or even semi-trashy who'll-break-first? page-turner, forget it: This is a straight gee-whiz, first-to-have-ever-noticed college novel—"Hampden College, as a body, was always strangely prone to hysteria. Whether from isolation, malice, or simple boredom, people there were far more credulous and excitable than educated people are generally thought to be, and this hermetic, overheated atmosphere made it a thriving black petri dish of melodrama and distortion." First-novelist Tartt goes muzzy when she has to describe human confrontations (the murder, or sex, or even the ping-ponging of fear), and is much more comfortable in transcribing aimless dorm-room paranoia or the TV shows that the malefactors anesthetize themselves with as fate ticks down. By telegraphing the murders, Tartt wants us to be continually horrified at these kids—while inviting us to semi-enjoy their manneristic fetishes and refined tastes. This ersatz-Fitzgerald mix of moralizing and mirror-looking (Jay McInerney shook and poured the shaker first) is very 80's—and in Tartt's strenuous version already seems dated, formulaic. Les Nerds du Mal—and about as deep (if not nearly as involving) as a TV movie.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 1992

ISBN: 1400031702

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1992

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HOUSE OF LEAVES

The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and...

An amazingly intricate and ambitious first novel - ten years in the making - that puts an engrossing new spin on the traditional haunted-house tale.

Texts within texts, preceded by intriguing introductory material and followed by 150 pages of appendices and related "documents" and photographs, tell the story of a mysterious old house in a Virginia suburb inhabited by esteemed photographer-filmmaker Will Navidson, his companion Karen Green (an ex-fashion model), and their young children Daisy and Chad.  The record of their experiences therein is preserved in Will's film The Davidson Record - which is the subject of an unpublished manuscript left behind by a (possibly insane) old man, Frank Zampano - which falls into the possession of Johnny Truant, a drifter who has survived an abusive childhood and the perverse possessiveness of his mad mother (who is institutionalized).  As Johnny reads Zampano's manuscript, he adds his own (autobiographical) annotations to the scholarly ones that already adorn and clutter the text (a trick perhaps influenced by David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest) - and begins experiencing panic attacks and episodes of disorientation that echo with ominous precision the content of Davidson's film (their house's interior proves, "impossibly," to be larger than its exterior; previously unnoticed doors and corridors extend inward inexplicably, and swallow up or traumatize all who dare to "explore" their recesses).  Danielewski skillfully manipulates the reader's expectations and fears, employing ingeniously skewed typography, and throwing out hints that the house's apparent malevolence may be related to the history of the Jamestown colony, or to Davidson's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a dying Vietnamese child stalked by a waiting vulture.  Or, as "some critics [have suggested,] the house's mutations reflect the psychology of anyone who enters it."

The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and cinema-derived rhetoric up the ante continuously, and stunningly.  One of the most impressive excursions into the supernatural in many a year.

Pub Date: March 6, 2000

ISBN: 0-375-70376-4

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2000

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