Chuck Palahniuk

The author of Fight Club talks about his new book and the need to see culture not on a TV set but by talking to neighbors

Chuck Palahniuk found an audience for his writing and social commentary when Fight Club became a defining event for a generation. His books include Survivor, Invisible Monsters, Choke, and now Lullaby (Doubleday).

What made you want to be a writer?

Mr. Olsen in the fifth grade made me want to be a writer. He said, "Chuck, you do this really well. And this is much better than setting fires, so keep it up." That made me a writer.

How would you describe your writing?

On one level my stuff is about me going into the world and picking up what people are talking about and things that are common archetypal issues in the lives of all my friends. I then find some way to portray those and demonstrate them in a story.

On another level my stuff is really my stuff. Lullaby is me hashing out whether or not I recommended the death penalty for the man who was convicted of killing my father in 1999. Every one of the books is really me wrestling with [personal issues] but in a very fictional way. So in a way it's the world, and in a way it's me.

What impact have tragic events had in your life and your worldview?

There was a part in Fight Club where I talked about my grandmother. She had breast cancer. She went in for a partial mastectomy. Coming out of the hospital, my grandfather was carrying her suitcase and he said, "Darn, I feel lopsided." And she said, "You feel lopsided?"

It was such a wonderful, funny, dark joke about something so tragic as losing a breast to cancer. That is how my family deals with everything, by finding the really dark funny thing that is present in all tragedy.

When we were cleaning out my father's house, my siblings and I were alternately laughing and crying because there was always something very funny to remember. Personally, ...

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The Dick Staub Interview
Dick Staub was host of a eponymous daily radio show on Seattle's KGNW and is the author of Too Christian, Too Pagan and The Culturally Savvy Christian. He currently runs The Kindlings, an effort to rekindle the creative, intellectual, and spiritual legacy of Christians in culture. His interviews appeared weekly on our site from 2002 to 2004.
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