“Most of the people who have attended a Chuck Palahniuk reading never forget it. At one of the two readings I went to, Palahniuk read “Guts,” which, for my money, is the most disturbing short story ever written. One critic described Palahniuk as “more twisted than a bag of pretzels,” a label he wears with pride and continues to earn with each successive writing.
Make Something Up, Palahniuk’s 2015 short story collection, assembles 23 worthy, twisted, and unforgettable tales. Palahniuk’s short stories pack sordid social commentary into twenty or thirty page increments. His novels are similarly grungy, but offer an overarching character development and often a knock-out surprise ending. Palahniuk’s work is like a long dirty joke that, in a literary sense, is very well written.
The collection’s opener, “Knock, Knock,” busted my sides. I laughed out loud for most of the story. Three stories link together in a tangential way–each involves characters with animal names like Monkey, Coyote, and Aardvark. “Zombies,” “Loser,” and “The Toad Prince” are classic Palahniuk. The most interesting story of the bunch, “Expedition,” is an imaginative and covert prequel of sorts to Fight Club, Palahniuk’s first novel.
“Torture” and “Inclinations” are longer pieces that are probably almost novellas more than short stories. With these two pieces, and with many of the others, Palahniuk allows us to fill in the blanks. He doesn’t wrap up the narrative in a neat bow, but rather leaves some threads hanging. By inference, we can figure out what happens, but often it’s nice to not know for sure. “Smoke” and “Eleanor” seem like experimental pieces, a snapshot and a lengthy pun, respectively.
The audiobook of Make Something Up featured a handful of readings from Palahniuk himself, along with excellent performances by Scott Sowers, Rich Orlow, T. Ryder Smith, Luis Moreno, and Ken Marks. After having listened to a host of audiobooks over the past year, I’d say that Make Something Up is one of the best. Listener beware. You can’t un-hear this.” – Mike Garrigan, garrigan.com