Make Something Up:
Stories You Can't Unread
by: Chuck Palahniuk
Review by: Jen Rollison and Mark Palm
If Fight Club is the only thing that pops into your head when you hear the name Chuck Palahniuk, then you have some reading to do. I can understand if that is the first thing that pops into your head, because that was a great work that had the luck to be in the right place at the write time, but Mr. Palahniuk has written a fistfull of novels since then, and some non-fiction, and now he has written Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread, a collection of short fiction.
Most collections have some hits, some misses and some filler, and this collection, made up of stories both published and unpublished, is about the same. Mr. Palahniuk’s unique style and voice, however, make them all unmistakably his. As usual, Mr. Palahniuk creates gritty, mundane characters that you invest in immediately. These are people whom we would overlook if we saw them on the street, or shy away from up close, but Mr. Palahniuk shows us their humanity up close, in all of its terrible reality.
In Knock Knock we meet a man who for his entire life has been the butt of his “old man’s” jokes, and as a result doesn't understand when not to joke. Red Sultan’s Big Boy is an innocent horse with the reputation of a sinner. The Jew That Saved Christmas is a vision of everyone’s worst Secret Santa nightmare exchange. The novella Excursion is a precursor to Fight Club, and shows a side to Tyler Durden that is both incisive and new. One thing that ties these disparate tales together is Mr. Palahniuk’s ability to make the strange ordinary, and the ordinary more interesting than anything we see in our everyday lives. He could make every tedious moment of a grocery store clerk’s eight hour shift fascinating.
Make Something Up contains over a decade’s worth of work, so the quality is sometimes uneven, but the one thing that is consistent is Mr. Palahniuk’s insistence on pushing his fiction to the edge. Are these stories funny, sarcastic and poignant? Yes. Are they graphic, disturbing and grotesque? Yes. Should you read them for yourself to find out which is which? Once again, yes. Just don’t be surprised to find that most are a bit of both.