Thursday, December 5, 2013

Chuck Palahniuk’s Zombies: A Review

Zombie: A New Original Short Story by Chuck PalahniukChuck Palahniuk’s latest literary creation (beyond Doomed) comes in the form of a short story called “Zombies,” available free here (you may not want to open the link at work, the story has been published by Playboy, the link is clean though). As Palahniuk often does, the story focuses the social complexities of modern life calling foul where need be as he is painfully honest to those who wish to deny the truth of life, all with his unique brand of humor.

The topic this time is the life and times of high school students. The piece does not focus on drama, but rather digs into the scholastic and parental expectations of our era.  Specifically, Palahniuk explores the pressures placed on teenagers as they are pushed to excel socially, academically, athletically, and artistically in an effort to get into the right college, a college that will theoretically push them into the right job, a job that subsequently slots them appropriately on the ladder of life, yielding lifelong success. In theory this success would extend to their offspring and so on. Of course this idea is not uniquely American, but it is a common story, a common situation. The narrator of “Zombies” notes rather quickly how the idea heaps stress on the teens, and they respond by either plowing through adversity or buckling.

Yet the teens in the narrative almost uniformly opt to leave the game and become Zombies of a sort. Do not expect the undead here, expect characters that instead have become fully alive through elective lobotomy by way of a defibrillator to the head. These teens shock away their problems, forgetting the stress and yielding to the temptation to give up. Instead of focusing on grades, they elect to go the way of reality celebrities: they want to be mindless slugs focused only on the pleasures of life without taking a moment to endure the troubles that come along with it. They figure if Honey Boo Boo and Kim Kardashian can be rich, famous, and mostly carefree, why can’t they too have a ticket to easy street? It is in this vein that the protagonist confronts his personal decision on whether to end it all and become a member of the mindless or endure a life based on reality. While I won’t reveal the situation or detail each step of the trip the reader takes to get there, I will note that Palahniuk does not disappoint as he pulls the reader through the narrative.

 Below is a rough recording of Chuck Palahniuk reading the story on a promotional tour. I did not record this, I only found it on the web:

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