Invisible Monsters is Chuck Palahniuk's third book. It's mostly about this fashion model who gets her jaw blown off in a freeway "incident", and while in the hospital, she runs into Brandy Alexander, Queen Supreme, who is one strategic operation and lots of female hormones away from being a real woman.

The two join forces and drive cross country in an effort to exact revenge upon the main character's former best friend and ex-boyfriend.

Plot summary done, this book is absolutely hysterical. Bizarre, intriguing, and twisted, it is totally Palahniuk. The original version of this book predates Fight Club. This book is funny beyond words. I highly recommend it.

Some funny quotes:
Evie'd wear shades of lipstick you'd expect to see around the base of a penis.
I can get us back into the States, but I'm going to need a condom and a breath mint.

WARNING! I'm going to compare this book to his other work. I know everyone hates that, that's why I put a warning up here.

Highly underrated book by Chuck Palahniuk. I very much enjoyed Fight Club, and I personally thought the movie was every bit as good as the book. I even liked the slight modifications near the end. Many people say this is his weakest novel, but I think I could almost say it's his strongest. It's not quite as entertaining and captivating as Fight Club (Many will disagree with me on this next part), but I thought it was far better than the mediocore, interesting but ultimately unsatisfying Survivor. I thought that book was interesting, but it almost felt like a chore to read through it - that's another node, though.

Invisible Monsters is, simply put, rad. The characters are outstanding - yes, the protagonist and Brandy Alexander have Jack the narrator / Tyler Durden similarities, but it's not so bad (at times I felt Fertility in Survivor was disturbingly derivative of Marla in Fight Club.) The characters in this book, as "out-there" as they may be, are very quirky and fascinating. You end up liking all of them a bit, something that Palahniuk's other books didn't seem to achieve as well. The story is very oddly structured, but it's actually surprisingly well put together and is finally tied together skillfully.

Another thing this book is, is funny. Like Fight Club, some of its jabs are very clever and will incite a snicker or two, but it also has a quality that's different from Fight Club and especially Survivor: it's not quite so cynical. With Fight Club, cynicism was used carefully and to good effect; with Survivior it often felt heavy-handed and overwhelming - not very funny. This book will make you laugh. It is often very dark humor, but it still comes across as happier and more enjoyable a lot of the time. Also, as stated above, there are some excellent one-liners. I think this book definitely has some of Palahinuk's best.

To close, this is a great read and highly recommended. Similar yet beautifully different from the breakthrouh Fight Club, and far superior to the lacking Survivor, Invisible Monsters is a super book by a very interesting author.

A final note: I did not know that this book predates Fight Club, that's something I find very interesting . . .
In Fight Club, the primary character interaction is Tyler Durden helping Jack/the narrator to hit rock bottom. The implication here is that once one has hit rock bottom, one can be reborn better and stronger than before. By hitting rock bottom, we reject everything which society asks of us, and rethink what we ask of society.

This is a theme which Chuck Palahniuk explores thoroughly in Invisible Monsters, using different themes and different characters. It could be argued that Fight Club is how Palahniuk thinks men should go about trying to hit rock bottom, and that Invisible Monsters is about how women and children go about it. Each of the four primary characters in the book (the narrator, Brandy Alexander, Ellis Island, and Evie) have been disfigured in some way, and have a hand in their own disfigurement.

This is not clear at the beginning of the story, however. The point A to point B of Invisible Monsters is about showing the reader how these characters have been disfigured, and showing each character's complicity in his/her own disfigurement.

This is not different from what we discover about narrator over the course of Fight Club. Nor is it different from what we discover about Marla Singer during that tale. Both books are about characters who have rejected the way that they fit into society (not society itself), and are trying to hit rock bottom so that they can change the way they fit.

It is interesting that in Palahniuk's stories, the only resolution we get is that characters learn more about themselves. Nothing is resolved, and nobody has a happy ending. The only thing any character gets out of Chuck's stories (except maybe the shaft) is understanding, and maybe a little bit of acceptance of their situation.

when did the future switch from being a promise to being a threat? - - - - -

The future ended in 1962 at the Seattle World's Fair. This was everything we should have inherited: the whole man on the moon within the decade—asbestos is our miracle friend—nuclear-powered and fossil-fueled world of the Space Age where you could go up to visit the Jetsons' flying saucer apartment building and then ride the monorail downtown for fun pillbox-hat fashions at the Bon Marché.

Let's call this intervention, this novel, this satire, by this guy called Chuck Palahniuk. This whole project too, these four books he's written so far—they all really serve as a long, forced look at what it is we've become. And what we've become is tired and indignant, with very few goals that make any sense at all, and no idea how it ever got to be that way.

The problem with this world, our world, our American world, Palahniuk seems to be saying, is we've become too safe. Too closed. Too afraid. We forget too easily that the basis of most of what we learn is our mistakes. We amble through life in a world of child-proofed medicine cabinets and 3.2 beer, and we wonder why the word "apathy" seems a much more appropriate handle for our last few generations than the one we thought we'd always own: "pioneer."

there isn't any real you in you. - - - - -

Invisible Monsters is about the disfigured, transsexual, gay, ugly, or otherwise unpresentable "monsters" in this society, the outcasts and mutants who have made mistakes and are glad of it. It's also about the artificial life, the pristine correctness of beauty and the nuclear family, fashion, real estate, prescription drugs, and television commercials. It shares with Palahniuk's other novels the theme of self-destruction, of hitting bottom, and of rebuilding on top of whatever's left.

"Now," those Plumbago lips say, "You are going to tell me your story like you just did. Write it all down. Tell that story over and over. Tell me your sad-assed story all night. . . ."
  "When you understand," Brandy says, "that what you're telling is just a story. It isn't happening anymore. When you realize the story you're telling is just words, when you can just crumple it up and throw your past in the trashcan," Brandy says, "then we'll figure out who you're going to be."

Shannon Macfarland is a model with only half a face. Well, she was a model, but losing half her face was what those in professional sports-casting might call a "career-ending injury." She hates her best friend, resents her dead gay brother and her formerly-homophobic parents (who have become militaristic PFLAG members in his absence), and is in love with a detective who she realizes is, at the very least, bisexual. She finds that people ignore her, that she's become basically invisible because she doesn't fit into their comforting view of the world. She can, if she wants to, walk into a grocery store, take a large, frozen turkey, and walk back out without anyone trying to stop her. She can walk for hours without anyone making eye contact. What she can't do is convince her doctors, or anyone else, to show her the police photos taken of her just following her accident. All she really wants, she says, is for someone to ask her what happened to her face.

it's just the biggest mistake I could think to make. - - - - -

Then she meets Brandy Alexander, the "Queen Supreme" (just one short surgery away from being fully female), and blah blah road trip blah blah life affirmation blah blah... Or that's what it could have been, considering the plot. But it isn't structured that way, not at all. "Don't expect this to be the kind of story that goes: and then, and then, and then. What happens here will have more of that fashion magazine feel, a Vogue or a Glamour magazine chaos with page numbers on every second or fifth or third page." It's filled with paragraphs and sections starting with the words "Jump to," with flashbacks and flash-forwards in a sort of confusing-yet-rational way reminiscent of a book like Catch-22. This is a good deal less, well, unorthodox than his original intent, which Palahniuk describes in an interview for turtleneck.net:

I wanted to do a linear novel, but to break it up, so that it would say to jump from chapter one to chapter seventeen, to chapter thirteen, and you would physically have to jump back and forth throughout the book. It's been done before. Hopscotch. But what I really wanted to do was to write a half-dozen incredibly exciting, linguistically bizarre and beautiful chapters that the plot would never pass through. As you physically had to leap through the book to find the plot, you would pass through scenes: Brandy on a submarine, Brandy on the Titanic, or whatever. Just some outrageous scenes that you would assume that eventually the plot would pass through, but by the time you got to the end of the book you'd realize, 'You know, I never did see that Brandy on Mars chapter. Did I miss something?' It would be like those fashion magazines - no matter how many times you read that fat magazine, every once in a while it will fall open to something that you never saw, and you'll realize that this chaotic, beautiful thing is ultimately unknowable, like a person.

we are all self-composting. - - - - -

When a friend of his suggested that all that paging-through was just too much, Palahniuk relented and ordered the novel more-or-less chronologically. He now regrets that move. "I pulled up short. I shouldn't have," he says.

Invisible Monsters was the first novel Chuck Palahniuk wrote that he felt was fit to be published. He submitted the novel, and publishers enjoyed it, he was told, but it was "too dark" to be printed. His response was to write the darker, angrier Fight Club (as a "fuck you" to the publishers, as the story goes) which they, then, accepted almost immediately. And after the success of the film adaptation of Fight Club, Monsters was accepted by his publishers.

Palahniuk now sees the novel as, in part, a failure. It does not, he thinks, go far enough in the direction he'd wished to push it. He might be right: maybe it could have been improved upon, maybe it would have been a little better were it more confrontational and sensational. I don't know. As it is now, his writing is crisp, stacatto, and very pointed. It breaks taboos (for example, discussing rimming, fisting, and felching at the Christmas dinner table) and yet contains ideas more memorable than its more extreme scenes. Invisible Monsters is, by a good margin, the best novel written by this man, who may just be the most interesting young writer in America.


Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk
287 pages, Copyright © 1999 by Chuck Palahniuk
W. W. Norton & Company
ISBN: 0-393-31929-6 (paperback)

Essay written for my Psychology class. Haven't received a grade on it, but I know my teacher thinks I plagiarized it, so it mustn't be that bad.

The Psychological Basis Placed Upon Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk

Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk is a novel that delves into the deepest corners of the human psyche and performs an intricate three sixty to emerge once more at its point of origin. On a wheel of cynicism the novel unfurls. With various satirical sideshows of the faux pas of society itself, along the way, Invisible Monsters allows the reader a thorough look of the book’s characters’ entrenched and twisted psychological thoughts and emotions, leaving the reader with a more profound understanding of it through its sardonic nature of people’s minds and the world which molds them.

Though the novel doesn't emit much intellectualism through its text, the author's style and ideology of society and its inhabitants shine brightly through the words and allows the reader to gain a new outlook through the character's eyes and become captivated by the character’s philosophies on life. Through the characters' progression in the novel, the emergence of their societal downward spiral becomes more apparent, especially in the situation of the protagonist, who remains unnamed through most of the novel but who at the end of the novel finally introduces herself as Shannon McFarland.

As the novel begins, the protagonist has everything that any person looking in could possibly desire: beauty, a well paying modeling job, and a handsome boyfriend, but this vision does not successfully do justice to the life is leading; it is merely the lifestyle which she expels to others.

In all actuality, she despises almost every aspect of her life and has replaced any hopeful ideas she might have once possessed to those of nihilistic thoughts. “Nothing of me is original. I am the combined effort of everybody I’ve ever known.” (104) The bases of these thoughts are not so much events that the protagonist has had any involvement in; rather it is the people and their ideas that have aided in forming these conceptions of the world. These people, mainly her parents, boyfriend, and best friend did not make her actualize the thoughts in their nascence, but once the ideas were initialized her in her mind, they aided the ideas themselves, to outwardly affect her actions and behavior.

The key factor in her cynicism of the world seems to be her parents and their attitudes toward her. Since the time of one specific significant incident and its aftermath, the protagonist has never been able to live up to the expectations of her parents. Since the death of the protagonist’s brother, Shane, she has never been able to live up to her parent’s “dead gay son” and thus now finds it nearly intolerable to be in any situation where close proximity of them will occur, because she knows that the topic of her “dead gay brother” is bound to arise. The irony in all this began with one incident where her brother was slightly disfigured due to a hairspray bottle in a trash can exploding. The ridicule emitting from her parents, seems to begin several months after the hairspray incident on the night that the protagonist’s parents discovered their son’s sexual orientation and as a result disowned him in an extremely hastily manner, fearful of the Gonorrhea he contracted during one of his “homosexual escapades”; that he had in truth contracted from a Special Contract Vice Operative.

Her parents overshadowing of her, angers the protagonist for the sheer absurdity of the situation; her brother has become more a part of the life of her parents than she is in life; she feels completely and utter ignored while in their presence; all she ever hears is relative to her brother and his death and how her parents can now honor his life through honoring his sexual orientation.

Her boyfriend, Manus has also contributed to her attentiveness to the dysfunction of society. The prime characteristic of Manus’s life that has seemed to unnerved her the most to life is his occupation. In professional terms, he can be labeled as that of an undercover officer, but in truth he is nothing more than a means to capture homosexual men in public restrooms to be apprehended and later charged with public lewdness. On basis of his occupation, simply put, gave the protagonist reasonable doubt on his sexual orientation, but what gave her further suspicion was when he would ask her how attractive he would be to the same sex, showing himself off, and asking her how he would look to a homosexual man. Because of Manus’ behavioral patterns and actions the protagonist is yet again pushed into her own world of only seeing things sardonically and without any happiness in the current situation which she lives.

Manus also influences the protagonist’s viewpoint through his past and how he has been connected to her and those around her. Later in the novel, she finally realizes that Manus did not enter her life on her first meeting with him; instead he was the cause of all that had ensued in her family pertaining to her and her brother. After the hairspray incident, he was the Special Contract Vice Operative; he was the one that had transmitted the Gonorrhea to the protagonist’s brother; he was the cause of her brother being disowned; he was the cause of her brother running away. Because of these events, she devises a plan to feed him hormone pills to make him a woman unknowingly, through Manus actions and her reiterating ones she propels her nihilistic approach of life.

The final person that seems to have made an impact on the protagonist before her accident is her best friend, Evie. Because of Evie, the protagonist is able to realize what exactly she hates anon in the novel and why she secretly hated her best friend. “…what I realize is mostly what I hate about Evie is the fact that she’s so vain and stupid and needy. But what I hate most is how she’s just like me.”(266) Through Evie she is able to realize that it was herself that she hated; it was her own compromisingly self of being “a product in a world of products” that contributed to the vast amount of disdain she felt towards people and society.

Though all these people influence the protagonist, they do not influence her wholly. Rather they only give a slight impact to her perception of life; instead the protagonist expels her own nihilistic idea solely by herself through one quality, beauty. She is a fashion model, thus it is safe to say, that she yields such an attribute, but this attribute is something that she brought her a constant inner conflict. She yearns to no longer have it; she wishes to have the “everyday reassurance of being mutilated.”(286), as she puts it.

Her dream indubitably comes true when her face becomes grotesquely disfigured in an unexpected accident and thus becomes what she has yearned for, an “invisible monster”. Once, this disfigurement occurs to her, she is not sure how to cope with it however; she does not fully comprehend that what has happened is the thing that she has coveted for the most. Because of this, she goes on a journey of both self- hatred and self- realization. Through this journey, she is finally able to grasp all the events of the past and what they have meant to her and how they have helped to shape her thoughts and who she is presently.

All the prior people influenced the protagonist’s ideas about the world she lives in, but it was one; the one who was more or less the guide of her journey, who finally allowed her to free herself and do as she wished in search of a new present, future and even past; a transsexual by the name of Brandy Alexander. The two characters meet after the protagonist’s accident and she is in the hospital. Brandy and her accompanied by a kidnapped but later willing Manus drive around the country and to parts of Canada devising plans to steal every hormone and prescription drugs they can scheme out of wealthy people. Through their journey, they learn that the truth about each other and the answers to all their questions. In the end, the protagonist finds what she had yearned for was not all that which she had hoped but on the way she gained something more; a better understanding of not only her thoughts but of those around her. “The truth is, being ugly isn’t the thrill you’d think, but it can be an opportunity for something better than I ever imagined.”(288)

Right up until the final climatic scenes of the book with a final confrontation of the protagonist, a blood- soaked Brandy Alexander lying on the floor, and a rifle- toting Evie, all of which are being engulfed in a mansion of flames, their psychologies help shape who they are. Though the protagonist was able to realize before her disfigurement that she was in fact “a product in a world of products”, she still continued to be spoon-fed the dictations of which she hated; through her chosen career she showed this. It was not until her accidental disfigurement did she allow herself to no longer be another conforming piece of the contemporary Americanized societal puzzle and allow herself to mindfully adapt an alternate way of thinking. “… And if you can find any way out of our culture, then that’s a trap, too. Just wanting to get out of the trap reinforces the trap.” (220) Regardless of its unhealthy nature, her way of thinking allowed to her grasp onto something new and something that was her own.

Excluding all the deviant incidents that her way of thinking begot, her or those around her with like thinking, finally showed her escape from the American cultural purgatory that she felt was afflicting her so greatly. Because of this, her ideas shone through all the cynicism and ultimately those ideas of cynicism remained, but instead of being a negation to her as a being, she was able to accept it and persevere, no longer being shrouded with the disdain that her beauty and her acceptance of commercialism had imposed on her.

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