Chuck Palahniuk is well known due to the success of the movie rendition of his first novel, ‘Fight Club’, as well as his prolific output in the decade and a half since the publication of that book, but until this week I had never actually read any of his work.
Pygmy is an unusual book, both in style and content. Written in Cold War movie villain dialect Engrish (“Fellow operatives already pass immigration control, exit through secure doors and to embrace own other host family people”), it is the tale of a young boy known as “Pygmy” who travels to live as an exchange student in America. In America he is to carry out acts of terrorism, such as constructing a nefarious science fair project and spreading his “seed” into the seed vesicles of the mid west, all while attending religious services with his adoptive family, using his martial arts skills to become a local hero, and quoting the totalitarian leaders of the 20th century. The leftist slogans and other quirks, such as the recitation of elements from the periodic table reminded me of Douglas Coupland, even if the events described are further from reality than what you’d find in a Coupland novel.
Although Pygmy is indubitably creative, the distinctive language used holds the book back and despite its originality, the plot itself isn’t very deep. In the end the book never rises above the level of “pretty good”. Nonetheless, it is a worthwhile read, if only to see the unique mind of Palahniuk.