"Choke" by Chuck Palahniuk (2001)
"Just so you know, what you're reading is the complete and relentless story of an addict."
I'm pretty familiar with Chuck Palahniuk. I've read Fight Club, I've read Invisible Monsters, and now Choke. He's well known for his "transgressional fiction," and he's particularly well known in the Pacific Northwest, where I grew up.
The protagonist of Choke is both a sex addict and employee of a colonial theme park. As a way of paying for his mother's hospitalization, he goes to restaurants and pretends (?) to choke on food. After these episodes of choking he receives financial support from the people who've "saved" him.
Like Palahniuk's other novels Choke is very short, and if you find it particularly interesting you could probably finish it in an afternoon. It's written in Palahniuk's spare, minimalistic style, and little beyond the characters' inner thoughts are described. It's very much the direction J.G. Ballard was headed in around the time he wrote Crash, though I think Ballard is a much better writer.
Which is not to say that Choke is bad by any means. It's actually my favorite of the Palahniuk novels I've read so far, easily eclipsing both Fight Club and Invisible Monsters. It's also the most simultaneously depressing and funny thing I've read in a while.
I do think, however, that Fight Club has more to say about Western society, again in that J.G. Ballard/Tom DeLillo fashion that we don't see much of now. But Choke seemed more heartfelt to me, and ultimately more human. Sure, Fight Club is more quotable, but Choke has more emotion going for it.
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