Portland part deux: Chuck Palahniuk – savior of literature?

I have been musing today amidst breaks in conference calls about the place that Chuck “Fight Club” Palahniuk holds in the pantheon of modern literature. Having posted the last FMD on Elliott Smith, I was drawn back to his Portland literary compadre. Bryan Curtis had written an interesting review of Palahniuk’s work and his latest offering “Haunted” on Slate.com – here – with his turn to the macabre and, strange as it sounds, to the holy. Brannon H., a regular blogger on this site, has pointed to the eucharistic readings of “Fight Club” in some of his work and there seems to be some buy-in to this from ol’ Chuck P. himself. His wrecking crew of followers known as the “Cult” seem intent on anointing Chuck as a high priest of…well…who knows… ?

Maybe this is just a typical extension of what occurred in the Victorian period – the poet transplanting the priest as cultural vehicle for confession, absolution and salvation. I just struggle with the showboating of such so-called ernest intent. What makes his ‘Haunted” t-shirts any different from some truth-stranger-than-fiction ‘witness wear’ garb?

What do we lose (or better yet – what do we gain?) when our artists take on the role of priest? Is this a necessary move? Do we need the distinction of faith and art in order for there to BE faith and art – in other words, the distinctives are needed to enhance the necessary tension for both to exist? Would “Fight Club” makes sense without the Church to use as the prime example of what must be overcome? (“We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off. “)

Hmmm… I think I need to see the movie again…

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  1. Watched Fight Club again recently and thought it not insignificant that all the support groups at the start appear to take place in church buildings. Also the minister who the mechanic starts a fight with in the ‘homework assignment’ montage later joins Fight Club and appears to enjoy it immensely.

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