Hi everyone, it’s June! Even though I am starting my summer classes (sidenote: where did the “break” go?), I think I will still have somewhat of a break and have lots more time to read, which is wonderful. I have no idea how many books I’m going to end up reading this year in 2013, but it’ll definitely be more than what I read last year, which was a mere 15. We shall see as always!
This week, my Book Experience will be on Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk. WARNING: There will be spoilers, more likely than not.
So, another one of my penpals, Kevin, recommended me this book a while back, and I finally got around to reading and finishing it. Prior to this book, the only other piece of work that I’ve read by Chuck Palahniuk was a short story called “Guts,” and I expected… something like that. That kind of shock value. I’m not one for intense/graphic gore in any sort of way (having a weak stomach and all), so I just steeled myself and see how it went.
In general, I think I got really lost the first half of the book. I knew what was happening in a basic sense, but with how the narrator jumped around to different events and the changing of the names, and trying to keep everything straight in my head just lead to a lot of confusion on my part. However, I think it’s good in a way because I think it will set up nicely should I decide to reread it again. It’s like getting lost when you play a game for the first time, and the more you go through it, the easier it gets (I’m specifically reminded of myself getting lost in the Frostburn Canyon in Borderlands 2 the first time I went through it; now, I know my way around). The second half of the book, it all came together, and despite the overall confusion, I was rather shocked at what was revealed in the end and went absolutely, “Wha– No way!”
I probably had a hard time imagining someone who… doesn’t have a jaw. I suppose that is shocking in its own right, but you sort of get numb to it after hearing all kinds of dismemberment and such from the news and how people can hurt people in that way physically, and the mental and emotional strength to survive it is like… so beyond anything anyone can comprehend unless you’ve actually lived through it, I would imagine. Anyway, it was very interesting to read how she was one this incredibly beautiful person and how a single event in her life completely shatters it, and how she would go about handling that drastic change in her life. Like going from rich to completely poor in just one instance. How can anyone manage? The part that stood out to me the most regarding her without a jaw (and why the title of the book was so meaningful) was when she was shopping at the grocery store, and everyone just ignored her. She was a “monster,” as pointed out untactfully by a young kid, and she is invisible because no one would even look at her or pay her any attention. How often do we do that? When there is someone who is so different that we end up not looking at them? And why? To be polite? To save yourself the embarrassment in case you are staring? What is the best approach to it?
There were also some pretty thought-provoking things, at least to me, that were sort of here and there, seemingly insignificant conversations, but they certainly made me think: how televisions allows us to see into the lives of people (of course, this can be applied to books, movies, video games, etc.), being already a product of something that has already been established (language, law, religion, etc.), how… the biggest mistake can ultimately save you from a constant… life that you’ve been living that was inescapable until then. And how much courage it can take to escape from it. Pretty profound, I’d say.
There’s a lot of issues revolving around identity in this story, which could easily be a(n academic) paper in and of itself. I’m sure people have written about it because holy moly. Just going through my mind, how much identity matters and pops up with every single character, how they each deal with identity in their own way. What was interesting to me was that there were transsexuals in the story, which adds in another level(s) of identity: sexual/gender identity, which is complex already. Because from what I understand (in my limited knowledge of human sexuality), being a homosexual and a transsexual is completely different in a way that… even though they might be attracted to the same kind of person, it’s different on the inside. So a homosexual male would be attracted to other males and feel quite comfortable being a male, but a transsexual male, he feels as if he is in the wrong body, and the body is supposed to be female. And I would assume that he/she might feel the same kind of attraction to males as the homosexual male do. Anyway, limited understanding, so I don’t want to pretend to be an authority on it. However, it reminds me of a video I saw that sort of attempts to explain the complexity of human sexuality, and it was pretty thorough and can explain things much better than I can:
“Human Sexuality is Complicated…” – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xXAoG8vAyzI
ANYWAY! Back to the story. The ending that made me go, “Wha– No way!” was finding out that the narrator was the one who shot her own face. And the explanation was like the most… beautiful and yet heartbreaking explanation ever because it’s so understandable and yet, it’s quite sad that you need something that drastic, and sometimes tragic to create enough change that will prevent you from ever going back to a normal life. It’s just… SO good. To break out of something so hard, and you basically don’t allow yourself to go back ever. So good. That takes a lot of courage, I’d say. Admiration!
Oh, and the shock value? Trying to reconstruct the jaw with living parts of yourself, and I thought… “Ookay, that’s a little much. Thank you.”
Alright, so that’s my Book Experience on Invisible Monsters. If you have your own Book Experience or thoughts on this, I’d love to hear about it!
Thanks for reading. Until next time, take care!