Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.


Review: Choke

Filed under: Art,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Review,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:01 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

This past week, I read Choke by Chuck Palahnuik.

If you can’t quite place the author, think Fight Club, either the book or the movie. Or, you may have seen the ads for the film that is being made about this book. As I recall, it’ll be out by the end of the year and will star Sam Rockwell.
Frankly, I doubt the movie will compare to the book, mainly, because if it did, they’d get an NC-17 rating, at least. The book follows Victor Mancini, a failed medical student and mediocre historical reenactor, who is struggling with having his mother in a full-service nursing home. She needs to be there, though, not just because she’s old and infirm, but also quite deranged. Most times, when Victor comes to visit her, she doesn’t even recognize him.

The book opens with Victor having sex in the bathroom of a church, the ladies room, actually, instead of attending a 12 step meeting. Naturally, he’s having sex with a woman out on a three-hour release from, one assumes, prison or a psych ward, and he signs her release form, claiming to be her sponsor. The meeting they’re skipping is for sex addicts. This becomes a running theme throughout the book: addiction. Habits. Sex. All big themes. All making this a very adult book.
But, beyond his problem with sex and women, Victor needs money. It’s not cheap keeping his mother in that full-service nursing home and every procedure costs extra. That’s why Victor dropped out of medical school and moved back home. It’s also why he works at the early Colonial reenactment town, trying to get enough money to scrape by. Somewhere along the way, Victor hits on the idea of choking in restaurants as a way to avoid the bill and he discovers that when people save him it makes them feel like heroes. It also makes some of them feel responsible for him and, out of a perverse need to take care of him, they send him money. Money, and a birthday card on the anniversary of having saved his life. It’s this subplot, really, that gives the book it’s name. If Palahnuik had named the book for what it was about, really, it would have been titled “Sex Addict Living In Denial”.

I have to admit, in many ways, though, I felt a certain resonance with Victor. He found himself in the grips of compulsions that he simply didn’t have the means to control. He lost himself, quite literally, it turns out, in yet another subplot, wherein he finds out the identity of his real father. And, for that matter, his mother, too. He’s just a poor sap, who’s had everything turn to crap before his very eyes and, now, is trying to make the best of it with a very limited skill-set and some truly messed up thinking.
His mother is an interesting character, too. She’s some kind of revolutionary activist who gets thrown in jail repeatedly and then escapes to find Victor and lead him on yet another crazy adventure meant to raise society’s conscious, or some such nonsense. It never really works out the way she plans, and neither does poor Victor.

Well, again, I won’t ruin the book by telling you anything more significant of the plot, but it is a very wild ride. I’m sure the movie will be interesting, but not half as good as the book.
So, if you’re over sixteen, well, maybe over eighteen, then read the book

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