Damned isn’t my first brush with Palahniuk: I tried to read Haunted a few years ago, and I read Lullaby and blogged about it in 2011. He’s most famous for Fight Club, but that’s Not My Kind of Thing. I’ve seen snippets of the movie. I didn’t remember much about Lullaby, except that I generally liked it, but on rereading my so-long-ago review, I see a huge trend.
Damned is about thirteen-year-old Madison Spencer, who ends up dead and in Hell. She’s the child of movie people, and she’s grown up in a phony (shoutout to Holden!), hippie, liberal household – the sort I’d expect Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s kids are experiencing at this very moment. Palahniuk goes back and forth between the present (Hell) and the past (how she got there). She ends up meeting some other dead teenagers who take her on a tour involving seas of toenail clippings and partial-birth abortions: things you might imagine finding in Hell. She meets famous people who we’d imagine might be there. Yes, this is sounding a bit like Dante. She also works in a phone bank, which is responsible for all of the dinnertime spam phone calls around the world. She says she’s addicted to hope and tries to overcome said addiction until she finally gives up and takes action. Then More Things Happen.
So here’s what Damned has in common with Lullaby: it’s fun, highlarious in parts, but preachy. It seems more like an inspirational YA novel than an adult one. It’s like Palahniuk was trying to write said YA novel but couldn’t help and put some…X-rated…stuff in. Lots of parents would complain. Lots. I’d let my older teenager read it, but hey, I’d be proud of having a literate child at all.
Anyway, the message is Take Charge of Your Destiny because You Can Be Whoever You Want to Be, and You Shouldn’t Wait until You’re Dead. And such. Teenagers.
That said, just like Lullaby, I enjoyed Damned except for the preachy bits, at which I rolled my eyes. Most of the time I was giggling, sometimes laughing aloud. It’s really funny, and it’s well-written. I wouldn’t expect someone like Palahniuk to write preachy novels, but I’d imagine Fight Club is equally messagy. Otherwise, it’s a great book.
I think I checked Damned out of the library when it was first published, but I didn’t read it. The blurb sounded interesting, but I eventually forgot about it until recently, when I somehow won a copy of Doomed, the second in what I’ve learned is a series, in a drawing on Riffle’s Sci-Fi Tumblr. Doomed sounds exciting, but I figured that I should read Damned first. I’ll read Doomed soon, as I really enjoyed Damned despite its sometimes-annoying preachiness.
Oh! There’s a super-gross (but funny!) part about a quarter into the novel, so I tweeted this comment:
Dear @chuckpalahniuk: Damned, pp. 76-77. Gross. That is all.
— Lindsay Attaway (@lindsay) October 17, 2013
And whoever runs Chuck Palahniuk’s account retweeted me! Which means that my phone blew up for a while with favorites and retweets from more ardent fans. Exciting!