How I feel about Chuck Palahniuk is that he probably has a garden in his backyard filled with the remains of dead virgins. I’m just saying: the guy is terrifying. But as long as he keeps releasing novels like his latest, “Damned,” then I am willing to sacrifice some virgins.
“Damned” tells the gruesome story of Madison Spencer, a 13-year-old girl who finds herself sent to Hell after an untimely death. The novel begins with Madison describing simple rules to surviving in Hell, such as wearing sensible shoes and carrying around full-size candy bars (which, apparently, one can take with them).
Hell, to Madison, was better than the living world or anyone in it had ever been to her. Madison gathers friends, which she never had at her preparatory school.
Madison continues her story as she explores the depths of Hell and witnesses an orgy of demonic festivities around the underworld. Eventually, she and her allies become celebrities among the damned and demonic citizens of Hell by participating in a series of violent acts against some of history’s greatest villains. Madison’s celebrity status leads her to Satan, who finds her to be a star among the fire.
Several sections of “Damned” made me retch, mutter a soft “What the f…” and sit in silence while I tried to grasp the perversion that I had just read. It was a rather sinful and wonderful reading experience.
Palahniuk, author of “Fight Club” and “Choke,” makes a modern interpretation of biblical Hell. Candy is currency and the dead are able to make contact with the living through telemarketing. Palahniuk elaborately describes the terrain of the underworld, including hot semen lakes and rivers of feces.
Palahniuk wrote “Tell-All,” a prelude to “Damned,” about the scandalous gossip around modern-day Los Angeles. According to Palahniuk, “Damned” and “Tell-All” were inspired by the novels of Judy Blume, particularly “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.” Both novels have the sarcastic and satirical tone commonly found in Blume’s writing.
“By any definition of the word ‘decency’ it’s been a long time since Chuck Palahniuk wrote a decent book,” wrote the New York Times’ Janet Maslin. “But he shows new signs of life in ‘Damned,’ a book full of tastelessly hilarious gallows humor about a teenage girl in Hell.”
Chuck Palahniuk excretes his own demented imagination and spills it onto the pages of “Damned.”