So first, you need to know that it's pronounced "Chuck Paula - Nick," and yes, the last name is an amalgamation of his grandparents' names, and as far as I can tell it's not a pen name. At least, he lists his parents as having the same last name on his official bio, and claims to be of French and Russian descent. This is, of course, the guy who made up Tyler Durden--perhaps all bets are off.
Next, you need to know that he did a lot of real-world research for Fight Club--he has sat in on support groups, he has been a blue collar worker. He was a mechanic who serviced diesel engines for Freightliner. He is a member of the Portland chapter of the national cacaphony society--a real-world Project Mayhem. And he knows how to make explosives with soap.
He was born in 1962 or thereabouts, and so several cultural milestones come to mind. He grew up with space monkeys in the news. He probably watched the first moon landing. And he was turning 18 just as MTV hit the airwaves. His angst-ridden early twenties were spent in the thick of 80's capitalist conspicuous consumption. Just as he was getting to the age where frequent and promiscuous sex was considered kosher, America found out about AIDS and HIV. Those of you his age already have his historical perspective; the rest of us can only imagine how it shaped him. If you've read his books, that part isn't hard.
First, he wrote Invisible Monsters. The publishers didn't want it, so he wrote Fight Club as a big "fuck you" to mass-media publishing. His editor loved it, and it was his first published novel. I am Jack's throbbing sense of irony. Next up was Survivor, released, unfortunately, with awful timing. The TV show gained the cultural currency for the name that his book deserved: it roasted religion, pop culture, sentimentality, and followers. The pages were numbered backwards; America, not wanting to be bothered with that icky frontal lobe thing, decided to sit in front of the boob tube instead. Invisible Monsters was published when critics finally recognized his writing for its easy style and thorough lack of respect for tradition for tradition's sake. Choke was published--sex addicts, support groups, the Heimlich Maneuver, and a colonial village of stoners--and snapped up by eager fans. Anyone who appreciates what he has done is waiting for Lullaby to come out. One of the drones I work with said "Fight Club was the worst movie I'd ever seen, right down there with The Usual Suspects." He'll probably just go watch Survivor.
You can count on his books to ring of pop culture because he grew up in it. Immune to advertising, and sick of it all the same, I imagine he sees himself as a character in a novel one of his friends is writing. Look at all of his books: the narrator is the main character, but the most interesting character is the spectator who turns that role around. While Chuck Palahniuk writes about Tyler Durden or Fertility Hollis, they reach back out of the page and change the narrator's character--they force life to happen! Because of this self-referential attitude, and because he refuses to take anything seriously, even in his own work, he's been labelled "postmodern." Because he is Tyler Durden in many ways, he's been subjected to the abuse of the sheep whom he abuses in print. And because he doesn't take them seriously, either, I'll keep reading his books.
addendum: I've read Lullaby now and enjoyed it, but he tried too hard to make it 'important'. Whenever he needed a way to say something was important, he simply repeated a line from the first two chapters on its own line.