The First Rule of a Chuck Palahniuk Reading is…

“So, this book is about a gangbang.”

The interviewer paused, and stared pointedly at the woman who had brought not one, not two, but three young children to last night’s reading.

“A G-A-N-G-B-A-N-G. A gangbang.”

Even though Chuck had gone to the trouble of passing out earplugs to the audience, the woman huffed, grabbed her children, and left.

Then, friends, it was time for the contest. In order to reward those with the greatest lung capacity, blow-up dolls were tossed out into the audience.

To me, there’s something special about watching a people desperately, frantically blowing up sex dolls, as if their very lives were dependent upon it.

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When the reading began, the audience was now studded with blow-up dolls, dead plastic eyes facing forward. The fact that this reading was taking place in what used to be a church made the whole event extra sacrelicious.


Instead of reading to us from the book he was on tour to promote (Snuff), Chuck read everyone an unpublished short story that changes slightly in every city he stops at; intending for no one to hear this story exactly the way we have, to thank us for supporting him, for coming to see him on a Thursday night. I settled in and let his words wash over me. Chuck is a gifted storyteller; I could have listened to him for hours. Though I don’t have a recording of last night’s reading, I do have a recording of a reading he did in 2003 in New York, promoting ‘Diary’ by reading a story rejected by Playboy, entitled Guts. You can listen to it here, but be forewarned: On this tour, over 60 people passed out listening to this story. It’s graphic, shocking, and the first time I heard it, it even made ME a little woozy. For all that, it’s awesome.

Last night’s story was about a college-age kid, going on a game show (clearly styled after The Price is Right, but not mentioned by name) while on an acid trip which started with consuming a strawberry-flavored Hello Kitty stamp that was made by a guy who works as a janitor in the chemistry lab.




When the reading came to an end, Chuck was interviewed onstage about Snuff, his writing process, how much fun he and his friends had coming up with porn titles to work into ‘Snuff’, and his plans for future books, but before that could happen, both interviewer and interviewee belted down some gin. Quote of the moment: “Well, there go MY three hours of sobriety. It looks like we’re playing ‘bad cop….despicable cop’.” One of the interesting things he talked about is how the protagnist(s) of Fight Club embody the three main archetypes of modern story characters all in one: the callous destructor, the sad shy self-destructor, and the detached survivor. An example: In Gone With The Wind, you don’t want to be Scarlett. She’s mean, she pushes people around, and in the end, she’s friendless, loveless, her child is dead, and she’s alone. You want to be Rhett, who just doesn’t give a damn. Detached. He’s able to walk away from anything that could hurt him.

After the interview, we watched a trailer for ‘Choke’, which is hitting theaters in September–though if you live in Seattle, you can see it on June 5th or June 7th at the Seattle International Film Festival.

More blowup dolls and autographed schwag were tossed out into the audience, and then Chuck resumed signing books for people with signing tickets; only the first 150 people to buy ‘Snuff’ from the university book store got signing tickets. I was counted among that number, but barely: I was number 143.


When it was my turn, I mentioned my friends and I have played the porn title game as well, whiling away the hours at work while coming up with pirate porn names for Arrdor, Inc.  He snorted and then groaned when he realized what an awful, hilarious name ‘Arrdor’ is.

So, that’s how I ended up with this signed into my book:


That’s me. Pirate porn star. He then sprayed my book with Stetson cologne, so now it smells like a cowboy.


If you want an explanation for this one, you’ll have to listen to Guts.

And then, I got my picture taken with Palahniuk. And a blow-up doll.


37 Comments The First Rule of a Chuck Palahniuk Reading is…

  1. zophos May 30, 2008 at 5:16 pm

    I love “Guts”. It makes me envious that I am not so filthy.

    1. admin May 30, 2008 at 5:27 pm

      I wish I could write captivating filth. Whenever I try, it comes out sounding stilted.

  2. pete23 May 30, 2008 at 5:23 pm

    you lucky lucky girl.

  3. pretzelcoatl May 30, 2008 at 5:29 pm

    I have not actually read any of his books. Got one you recommend first?

    1. admin May 30, 2008 at 5:52 pm

      You’ll probably want to listen to Guts first, to see if you dig his style. If you enjoy it, you should probably start with ‘Choke’ or even ‘Fight Club’. ‘Haunted’ is one of my favorites, but I have a feeling it’s one you should work up to. 🙂

      1. leighhyphenanne May 30, 2008 at 6:04 pm

        I read choke and survivor first, I think. 🙂

        1. admin May 30, 2008 at 6:19 pm

          What’s your favorite book of his?

          1. leighhyphenanne May 30, 2008 at 6:41 pm

            I reallllly liked Invisible Monsters and Choke and Survivor. Also Diary. I loved Fight Club, but I saw the movie first and it sort of ruined it, even though both were amazing.

            I really enjoy all his books, even though a lot of people think it’s just “sloppy” since the first three or four lapsed.

          2. admin May 30, 2008 at 7:07 pm

            While I don’t think that all of his works are masterpieces, I felt Salon’s review of Diary was unnecessarily scathing and insulted not only Palahniuk, but his readers, likening them all to obese, suv-driving, obnoxious assholes.

  4. leighhyphenanne May 30, 2008 at 6:03 pm

    i read snuff on my flight back from FL.

    I have met him at least a dozen times.

    All I have to say was this book was a SHOCKER!!!
    (*holding up the shocker with my right hand*)

    I wish I’d gone last night. <3

    1. admin May 30, 2008 at 6:20 pm

      I’m really enjoying Snuff so far, but I’m trying not to power through it like I have the last few.

      You should’ve come. There was plenty of room in my pew. 🙁

      1. leighhyphenanne May 30, 2008 at 6:43 pm

        hahah. I wish I had, but I was busy making my hair a normal color… I bleached the brown out of it, and it turned fucking day-glo orange. I looked like lars fredericksen. OR that girl from the fifth element as my boss noted.

        I read snuff in three hours on the plane… I had nothing left to do after except knit. (Can I just note: AT LEAST a DOZEN people remarked on how “interesting” it was that they “Let me on with my knitting needles”…bamboo knitting needles)

        1. admin May 30, 2008 at 7:08 pm

          Just a vague “that’s what I was counting on” with a crazy look in your eye might be enough to get them to leave you alone. Or get you on the ‘banned from flying for life’ list. You know. Either or.

          1. Anonymous May 30, 2008 at 8:56 pm

            It probably didn’t much help my cause of “Not looking like a psychopath” reading a Book called Snuff… Especially when the back of it talks explicitly about sex and snuff films… Oh, and the inner cover looks like shadowbox kama sutra.

          2. admin May 30, 2008 at 9:50 pm

            That’s why you need to carry around a fake dustjacket with you. Something like…zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance.

      2. leighhyphenanne May 30, 2008 at 6:44 pm

        Also, we should prrrrrobably do something awesome likegoghosthunting soon….

        You can come see my husbands band play tonight at the high dive in fremont. I will be there. So will beer. Beer will be in high attendance.

        1. admin May 30, 2008 at 7:10 pm

          Ghost hunting! Ghost hunting!

          I’d love to see your husband’s band, but I’ve already got plans for tonight.

          Do you like John Waters? If so, you should come see Cecil B Demented with me on June 3rd!

          1. leighhyphenanne May 30, 2008 at 8:52 pm

            Oh FUCK YES!!!

            I know he has another show at studio seven lined up for next week sometime, but depending on my dad’s heart situation, I will possibly be MIA.

            whoooo knowwwwssss.

          2. admin May 30, 2008 at 9:51 pm

            Ok, well let me know. I will cross my fingers for your dad, and not just for selfish reasons!

          3. leighhyphenanne May 30, 2008 at 9:53 pm

            Por Supuesto!!

            I actually have a lot of relief about the operation now, because of a lot of personal accounts of friends and relatives of friends. It’s invasive and major, but routine. They only keep you for a MAXIMUM of five days after in most cases! I have faith that he’ll be fine…it’s just that nobody in my immediate circle has had such major surgery in my life until now. Now I know at least 15 people who have. weird.

  5. rimrunner May 30, 2008 at 8:45 pm

    I really wish I liked his work more, because it’s really inventive.

    But what I really commented to say (gosh, how many times can I use the word “really” here? I mean, really) is that he’s teaching at Clarion West this summer, and the teachers always do readings, so…he’ll be back. Round the end of July, I think.

    1. admin May 30, 2008 at 9:52 pm

      So about all of those word count posts: are you padding your counts with ‘really’? Really?

      Thanks for letting me know! That’s really, really awes–oh crap, now I’m doing it, too.

  6. storm_dancer May 30, 2008 at 10:24 pm

    Guts was published by Playboy in 2004; I have the issue somewhere. That story was my first introduction to his writing, and I’m not embarrassed to admit that it was too much for me.

    1. admin May 30, 2008 at 10:25 pm

      Yeah, the reading was from 2003, at which point Playboy hadn’t wanted it. 🙂

  7. redrumpirate May 31, 2008 at 12:09 am

    wow, sounds like a mind altering experience for sure.

    haha he drew a ‘stach on the body of the book.

  8. cordelia_rose May 31, 2008 at 2:01 am


    I’ve only read Rant and Survivor so far, though I’ll probably read choke pretty soon, now that dad’s done with it.

    btw, how do you actually pronounce ‘Palahniuk’ anyway?

    1. admin June 2, 2008 at 4:54 am

      I’ve heard it pronounced so many ways that I’m not sure. At the reading, the interviewer pronounced it Pala (as in palomino horse) hniuk (as in ‘nyuk nyuk nyuk’), so that’s what I’m going with.

  9. bellachiara6 May 30, 2008 at 9:05 pm

    :: pant, pant::

    zomg, Chuck knows about Arrrdor Inc. zomg.

    ::dies with awesomeness, resurrects self, dies again::

    1. admin May 30, 2008 at 9:53 pm

      I like that it’s the joke that won’t die. 😀

  10. bellachiara6 May 30, 2008 at 9:06 pm

    Although but really… do you want to be the “star”? Probably not. I thought we were getting girls with low self esteem and daddy complexes for that.

    1. admin May 30, 2008 at 9:54 pm

      Yeah, I’m choosing to interpret ‘star’ as ‘babetacular CEO’.

      1. bellachiara6 May 30, 2008 at 9:59 pm


        Yeah and why do you get to be CEO? I am pretty sure that this is OUR baby and unless you want me to declare myself USDFLANOIHTM (that would be ULTIMATE SUPREME DICTATOR FOR LIFE AND NO ONE IS HIGHER THAN ME) you had best come up with a better title THAT WE CAN SHARE.

        1. admin May 30, 2008 at 10:08 pm


          Sharey-Mc-Sharer-Shareperson doesn’t sound very powerful. 🙁

  11. robot_mel May 31, 2008 at 9:59 am

    That is HILARIOUS!!!! Best post I’ve seen in ages! 🙂

    1. admin June 2, 2008 at 4:55 am

      :note to self: write more posts about gangbangs.

      Your birthday card is still sitting on my desk at work. When it finally arrives, you’ll be REALLY surprised.

      1. robot_mel June 2, 2008 at 7:03 am

        lols, not as surprised as if you hadn’t mentioned it. I totally forgot about that! Now you’ll have a good excuse to wait longer so I can be surprised again. 🙂

        I think you convinced me to go back and read more of Chuck’s books.

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