Author uses Hollywood plot to critique culture

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Chuck Palahniuk’s 10th book, “Tell All,” is a three-act play dedicated to the glory of Old  Hollywood. Palahniuk’s book does not disappoint, as this story grips the reader from its beginning and takes the reader through the inner ego of a Hollywood elite. The book itself is vulgar, funny and naughty, yet it’s a brilliant critique of our culture, making for some of the world’s most addictive literature. 

Palahniuk is quite possibly, in my opinion, this generation’s finest fiction writer, and “Tell All” displays intense intelligence and a Hollywood background that helps to make the story leap forth from the pages and into the reader’s mind with utmost ease.

It’s almost impossible not to envision the fantastic settings and characters that shuffle through this dark tale with Palahniuk’s keen illustrative abilities.

Palahniuk’s characters are a motley of fascinating yet tragic fame-obsessed individuals. The main character dynamic occurs between two opposites: the beautiful movie star Katherine Kenton and the manipulative personal assistant Hazie Coogan. The two are brought together by their co-dependence. Unable to successfully manifest an independent identity, they exist together as one magnificent woman, combining Kenton’s ideal body and Hazie’s sharp mind.

The story is told by a narrator with a case of name-dropping and Tourette’s syndrome, who illustrates the tale through expansive references to celebrities that could outwit a film nerd faster than Quentin Tarantino.     As in keeping with his previous works, Palahniuk is using his narrative to critique our imperfect culture, and no other area quite deserves Palahniuk’s attention as the nation’s tabloid culture.  In “Tell All,” Palahniuk takes on the effect of the spotlight on those lives that play out in front of the public eye, day after day during the 24-hour news cycles.

Palahniuk’s gift with imagery is apparent from the book’s opening, as the author jumps to a description of the fully realized protagonist, the renowned yet aged Hollywood goddess, the fabulous Katherine Kenton, in the  climax of her tragic last performance as the great World War II heroine Lillian Hellman.

Palahniuk describes the actor, Kenton, in stunning detail as she rescues “helpless Jewish, Gypsy and homosexual babies” from a concentration camp as “Nazi Gestapo bullets spit past her in the darkness, shredding the forest foliage, the smell of gunpowder and pine needles.”

“Bullets and hand grenades just whiz past Miss Hellman’s perfectly coiffed Hattie Carnegie chignon, so close the ammunition shatters her Cartier chandelier earrings into rainbow explosions of priceless diamonds,” Palahniuk writes. “Ruby and emerald shrapnel blasts into the flawless skin of her perfect, pale cheeks.”

Palahniuk’s writing ability mirrors the brilliance of the fine cinematographer as he brilliantly moves his spell-binding tale through time and space to span the entirety of his leading lady’s career to her ultimately tragic and gripping demise.

The “Tell All” tragedy is fame’s ultimate emptiness and insignificance, painting those that pursue Hollywood’s glory as naive children starved for attention and willing to sleep, steal or extort their way to the top.

It is a great tale for injecting oneself with top-of-the-line Hollywood melodrama and it will thrill you at every twist and turn of the story. I highly recommend picking up Chuck Palahniuk’s 10th book, “Tell All,” and I hope you enjoy its dark humor and cynical wit.

– Lisle Alderton is a junior in industrial engineering. Send comments to edge@spub.ksu.edu.

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