c/o Doubleday Book Company
New York, New York
I'm a huge fan. I've read every word you've published in book form. Lots of your magazine articles, too. Your website. Your fan site. Chuck, your writing gave me hope my own fantasy of being a well-paid author could be made a reality.
You may have noticed I've never written before. That's because, generally, I don't write to authors. You live your life. I live mine. I've had no need to disturb you just because I thought "Fight Club" was a work of inspired genius. You have a cadre of mindless idolizing bozos to do that and I have no desire to join that club.
Though, I think "Diary" and "Choke" were both fabulous except you kind of forced the endings. And your travel diary of the city of Portland, absolutely the stuff of the gods. I hope to be visiting your fair city in the next month or two, and I will bring the book along as a guide. I plan to take your walking tour.
You've probably figured out that I'm not writing just to massage your ego, but as a fan, and someone I hope you'll consider to be emotionally invested in your work, we need to talk about your latest book, "Haunted". And I have the feeling you already know why.
Chuck, it sucks. I mean, like, a whole lot. I mean, it's not as good as my stuff.
Now I realize your knee-jerk reaction will be to say, "asshole," and toss this correspondence, but if you'll hear me out -- as someone who has spent many hours reading your work -- please give me five minutes of your time. It's good karma, Chuck. And you must need some now.
I think you must have tried to show off your versatility. I can tell from the poetry. The attempt to write sixteen short stories, each in a different voice. Well, unfortunately, they're all you. And I know you may intend with a twist, that they really are all bits of your alter ego, but they're just not different enough. They all sound like you. They sound like you varying your sentence lengths. They sound like you altering your vocabulary. They all have as subjects the same kind of unique brutality your characters usually show to each other only this time, the unredeemable characters have no heart. And it makes me sad, Chuck, because all your characters, at the end of the day, with everything they inflict and endure, are people with heart. These people have no worthwhile qualities. They're not worth reading about.
You had in mind to write an "edgy" story, probably at the behest of your book company. I can say this with complete confidence: it's all edge, and no content.
The poetry, isn't. I'm no poet, Chuck, but really, you need to stop before someone gets hurt.
I could not finish reading "Haunted" before I got distracted by other things. The newspaper, for instance. And my dog needed to be walked. And my daughter wanted to have me watch Donnie Darko, which is really a great movie if you haven't already seen it. I recommend it.
Anyway, I want to say I understand how you feel. You put a lot of effort into the book. You tried to do something different. But you know, your editor should have told you to give it up. Or maybe you were under contract to spit out another brilliant novel really fast, and this is all you could come up with.
My advice is to take a break. Go experience something different. Hell, if you're interested in Antarctica, I'll be happy to introduce you to the folks at the National Science Foundation who can get you into the Artist and Writer's Program and you can be on the ice next season. Frankly, I think a Chuck Palaniuk novel set on the ice would be the stuff of legends and I'd be honored to pave the way if you so desire.
But first you have to shake off whatever it is that made you write "Haunted". Really. And don't worry. Hemingway had his "True at First Light". Lots of great authors have their downturns. You'll snap out of it like the champion I know you are.
your great fan,
The book Big Dead Place has come out and I want to tell you about it after having read seven pages.
If you've been amused by my ramblings about the ice, you may find this volume to your liking. The writers are employees of Raytheon Polar Services Company, and they tell their stories from the perspective of employees who are treated to the enigmatic, oxymoronic, catch-22ish world of government work in an ecology similar in many respects to the Soviet Gulag system. The sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll, of Antarctic life is fully exposed in all of its morally impoverished brilliance.
It's much tougher on the ice for those guys than it is for me. As a "grantee" or "beaker", I'm under many fewer restrictions than they are. My movements are not monitored as closely. My work is far more interesting, and I get to go all over the continent, while they are generally sequestered like prisoners in a place where their job and their every day life are completely inseparable. Imagine if your boss suddenly told you that you could be fired for not expressing a positive outlook on things and having a cheery personality (bad attitudes are bad for morale, and bad morale leads to death and illness on the ice) and that edict extended to every one of your waking hours, including time you spend on the toilet before breakfast.
Imagine you had a fight with your girlfriend/boyfriend in a club on Saturday night, and you wound up getting fired as a result. Imagine you can get docked for having a messy bed, or getting fingernail clippings on the floor. Then you understand a bit about what makes these folks the way they are.
"Big Dead Place" is also a website (www.bigdeadplace.com), and much of the book is taken from there. Though the stuff on the website is very amateurish in spots, and the book has been professionally edited, so is much more palatable. Don't expect brilliance. Do expect some reasonably amusing tales written by people who think it's cool to be busing tables in a cafeteria on the graveyard shift in a place where a broken leg can be fatal.
"Big Dead Place" is published by "Feral House" books.
I urge you to support poor Antarcticans and take a look at the book. Even if you don't like it, rest assured the folks who wrote it can use the cash. And I'll personally guarantee at least one laugh.