'Damned' by Chuck Palahniuk

Monday 7 August 2017

“Are you there Satan? It’s me Madison.” 

With ‘Damned’ Chuck has literally put his characters through hell as he throws thirteen year old Madison into the underworld. A teenager who is so emotionally desperate that she even seeks attention from the devil with the beginning of every chapter.

'Damned' by Chuck Palahniuk

Palanhuink is known for his unusual characters that you somehow still end up caring about or loving but I just could not connect with Madison in this novel. Madison’s narration forms a constant stream of jokes and witty remarks in between teenage fretting of body image, intelligence and even how dead she is. This paired with The Breakfast Club esque group of friends she makes in Hell sets up for a a much more light hearted theme than then name and setting suggests.

Palanhuink’s Hell is built on traditional elements, eternal demons and bizarre landmarks with a strange familiarness. It’s a place built on bureaucracy and endless waiting that reminded me of Beetlejuice but with those damned to Hell working in telemarketing to the living. Madison uses this channel to spread the word that Hell isn’t so bad and how easy it is to end up there.


What is lost is the Palanhuink twist, when I look at my dogeared copies of his other work I remember those moments, the shocking, transgressive kind when you stop and look up from your book to see if anyone else has witnessed the same shock as you. Maybe it comes in the second book? Palahniuk has definitely taken me to darker places than Hell before.

The second half of ‘Damned’ seemed to blitz through a speedy personality change and growth of confidence for Madison, a burst of changes that confused and overwhelmed things late in the story. All the development of the friendship group throughout seems to be quickly dropped as Madison escalates her power through Hell. As it escalates ‘Damned’ begins to get messy with repeated moments in candy bar currency and descriptions of places in half hearted torment.

  'Damned' by Chuck Palahniuk

I feel like this has been pessimistic but someone may connect much more with ‘Damned’ and Madison than I could. I will always be curious about Chuck Palahniuk’s work, I just won’t be buying this one for everyone’s birthday as ‘the best book i’ve read this year’.

 Give it a try yourself, buy it here: Damned

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