Viciously incisive and lethally funny social commentary in a novel cast as an oral biography.
Palahniuk’s latest (Haunted, 2005, etc.) provides a parody of the oral biography format (Edie, Capote), offers homage to both James Dean and J.G. Ballard’s Crash and serves to show just how much teenage angst has degenerated since the innocence of Holden Caulfield—all this before a time-warped finale that turns genealogy into some sort of Mobius strip. Though his voice appears minimally in the narrative, the hero (or is he?) of the novel is Buster (or Buddy) “Rant” Casey, who lives a short life of escalating destruction just to be able to do something, feel something and escape from the rural town that is living death to those who don’t manage to leave it. A boy of peculiarly (even mystically) sensual intuition, he initially amuses himself by seeking bites from various animals and insects, launching a rabies epidemic as he passes his infections along through sexual encounters. With his move to the bigger city, he attracts a posse of “Party Crashers,” joy riders who spend their evenings in wedding attire crashing into each others’ vehicles. One crash kills Rant, who is dead (or is he?) as the novel begins and is eulogized by a Greek chorus of friends, neighbors, relatives and enemies, along with an eyewitness reporter for DRVR Radio Graphic Traffic and an historian whose involvement in the proceedings sustains a mystery through much of the novel. Many of the themes in the author’s exploration of the dark underbelly of modern life and culture will be familiar to his ardent fans, but the formal inventiveness of the fictional oral biography provides a fresh twist.
Not for everyone, but readers who like to walk on the novelist’s wild side will rave.