Chuck Palahniuk at Miami Book Fair: Fainting, Projectiles, and Guts
|Photo by Sean Grant|
Chuck Palahniuk walked on stage to a thunderous cheer. Wearing tight brown leather pants, he took in the adulation with a humble demeanor. "The world is filled with wonderful tales," he explained, "tonight will not be that."
Looking like a post-modern, skinny Jack Kerouac, Palahniuk explained how the night would transpire: first, a game, then a story, then a Q&A, and in conclusion another game.
How do you describe Nicole Swift (a Florida Center for the Literary Arts staffer) walking on stage in a deviled egg costume, throwing into the crowd 50-plus inflatable brain floaties, signed by the author, while Palahniuk himself was throwing out Three Musketeers candy bars?! "Blow your brains out!!! Go ahead blow your brains out!!" yelled Palahniuk.
And then he started throwing out more candy bars with Rollie Fingers velocity while the audience raced to fill up the floaties to win a prize.
Zzziiip -- a candy bar flew by my ear, a subtle way to keep the attention span of an audience. Fun?? Well, it sounds crazier and more sensational than the reality--was it fun or Palahniuk's way of taking away our breath?
Palahniuk Is A Romantic At Heart
After a playful start, Palahniuk settled into a short story "Romance" (published in Playboy this year). The lights dimmed and he read for about 20 minutes. The climax of the story involved a girl slapping a dude in the face with a bloody tampon littered with baby pulp. "Puppet show, magic trick " yelled the author, mimicking his character. It was totally a love story.
After reading "Romance," Palahniuk begged the patience of the crowd and its Book Fair organizers so that he could read yet another short story. No one objected and he proceeded to read "Guts" for 25 minutes, which is one of his most popular and perverted stories involving a series of masturbatory accidents, carrots up the butt, rods in a penis, intestines sucked out of a body by a swimming pool jet, you know--the usual fun stuff.
The story made a group of 60-something Book Fair donors leave the room, not-surprisingly. It also made -- and this is where things turned weird -- two people either faint or have seizures.
The first occurred about 15 minutes into the story. In the back of the room, there was a crash of chairs. Someone yelled "paramedic," which stopped the reading and sucked the breathe out of the room, yet no one moved for an awkward period of time.