The A. Tasha Robinson. Share This Story. The Root The Grapevine. Share Tweet. Kinja is in read-only mode. We are working to restore service. Across the country, men build their own full-size castles and rocketships that will send them into space. Palahniuk himself experiments with steroids, works on an assembly line by day and as a hospice volunteer by night, and experiences the brutal murder of his father by a white supremacist.
With this new direction, Chuck Palahniuk has proven he can do anything. The pieces that comprise Stranger than Fiction , his first nonfiction collection, prove just how different, in ways both highly entertaining and deeply unsettling. He is also the… More about Chuck Palahniuk. These stories are true to him and no one else. This is a pretty great book.
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Acts that give spice to his novels are made more menacing when encountered in the real world. Read An Excerpt. Paperback —. There are classes to attend, lectures about technique and marketing. Fellow writers. So many of them with a manuscript under one arm. You pay the extra money, the seven-minute money, to buy the ear of an industry player. An experiential lottery ticket. A chance to turn lemons—a miscarriage, a drunk driver, a grizzly bear—into lemonade.
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Straw, but spun into gold. Here in the big storytelling casino.
Spilling their guts about how they aborted a child. How they smuggled drugs stuffed up their ass all the way from Pakistan. Prevent similar disasters. These people are here to find redemption. To them, each curtained booth becomes a confessional. Each movie producer, a priest. Maybe a book contract is the new halo.
Our new reward for surviving with strength and character. Instead of heaven, we get money and media attention. Maybe a movie starring Julia Roberts, bigger than life and pretty as an angel, is the only afterlife we get.
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In another way, this is so much like the crowd here last month, when a television game show was auditioning contestants. To answer brain teasers. Or the month before, when producers for a daytime talk show were here, looking for troubled people who wanted to air their problems on national television. Or mothers suing for child support. Or anyone getting a sex change. The philosopher Martin Heidegger pointed out how human beings tend to look at the world as a standing stock of material, ready for us to use.
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As inventory to be processed into something more valuable. Trees into wood. Animals into meat. He called this world of raw natural resources: bestand. More and more, the bestand of our era is our own intellectual property. Our ideas. Our life stories. Our experience. What people used to endure or enjoy—all those plot-point events of potty training and honeymoons and lung cancer—now they can be shaped to best effect and sold. The trick is to pay attention. Take notes. The problem with seeing the world as bestand , Heidegger said, was it leads you to use things, enslave and exploit things and people, for your own benefit.
With this in mind, is it possible to enslave yourself? Martin Heidegger also points out that an event is shaped by the presence of the observer. A tree falling in the forest is somehow different if someone is there, noting and accenting the details in order to turn it into a Julia Roberts vehicle. If only by distorting events, tweaking them for more dramatic impact, exaggerating them to the point you forget your actual history—you forget who you are —is it possible to exploit your own life for the sake of a marketable story?
But then, sorry, but your seven minutes is up. From eating, they moved on to cooking. Led by how-to experts like Julia Child and Graham Kerr, we exploded the market for Viking ranges and copper cookware. In the s, with the freedom of VCRs and CD players, entertainment moved in to become our new obsession. Entertainment became the next place to invest our extra time and money. Instead of the vintage and bouquet and legs of a wine, we talked about the effective use of voice-over and back story and character development.
In the s, we turned to books. And instead of Roger Ebert it was Oprah Winfrey. Still, the really big difference was, you could cook at home. But, you could write a book. Or a screenplay. And those do become movies. The screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker once said that no one in Los Angeles is ever more than fifty feet from a screenplay. In desk drawers at work. In laptop computers.
Always ready to be pitched. A winning lottery ticket looking for its jackpot. An uncashed paycheck. For the first time in history, five factors have aligned to bring about this explosion in storytelling.
In no particular order the factors are: Free time. And disgust.
The first seems simple. More people have more free time. People are retiring and living longer. Our standard of living and social safety net allows people to work fewer hours. Plus, as more people recognize the value of storytelling—but strictly as book and movie material—more people see writing, reading, and research as something more than just a highbrow recreation.
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Or good writing should. Still, it would be damn near impossible to get your work seen if not for the second factor: Technology. For a small investment, you can be published on the Internet, accessible to millions of people worldwide. Printers and small presses can provide any number of on-demand hard-copy books for anybody with the money to self-publish.
Or subsidy publish. Or vanity publish. Or whatever you want to call it. Anybody who can use a photocopy machine and a stapler can publish a book. Never in history have so many books hit the market each year. All of them filled with the third factor: Material. As more people grow old, with the experience of a lifetime to remember, the more they worry about losing it.
Stranger Than Fiction by Chuck Palahniuk, First Edition
All those memories. Their best formulas, stories, routines for making a dinner table burst into laughter. Their legacy. Their life. Besides, all our best adventures seem to be behind us. So it feels good to relive them, to share them on paper. Organizing and making all that flotsam and jetsam make sense.