Cannonball Read 5, Book 99: Tell-All by Chuck Palahniuk


When Fight Club was published, I read it and was absolutely knocked off my feet. It was a properly astonishing book, all the more incredible for being a debut. Here was a new author who I couldn’t wait to read more of. The books that followed were equally, if not more astounding. But then, around the time of Lullaby, things started to go awry and it’s been a long time since Palahniuk was on my “must read” radar. I found a copy of this in my housemate’s collection and thought I’d give him another whirl. And now that I’ve done that, I’m not sure I’ll ever read another book of his again.

Our narrator is Hazie Coogan, the paid companion of fading star Katherine Kenton, shepherding her through yet another comeback. If you believe Hazie, she’s responsible for every well known tic of every star that’s ever graced the silver screen. But if you believe Hazie, well, you’ve never read a Chuck Palahniuk novel before.

He seems to be aiming for a satire, a vicious send up of the old glamour of Hollywood and its stars. Names are dropped so often as to become meaningless and his lampooning of Lillian Hellman is so over the top it comes down the other side. For some reason, the novel is narrated as if it’s a film script, there’s lots of “we fade in on” and the like. The effect isn’t remotely cinematic, it just feels like you’re reading a particularly unimaginative novelisation of a blockbuster.

Katherine Kenton has a new beau, Webster Carlton Westward III,  and he seems intent on writing a tell-all biography of Miss Kathie. Only this one ends with Kenton’s death, engineered by Westward to look like an accident, to ensure massive sales of said book. Hazie keeps finding each draft of the final chapter and thwarting Westward’s attempts on Kenton’s life. Each one is more ridiculous than the last, of course. The problem isn’t their craziness, though. The problem is the tiresome repetition of how massive Westward’s cock is and Kenton’s waxing lyrical about it in her dying moments. The joke wears thin almost instantly, but it goes on and on and on.

All the jokes wear thin and are repeated ad infinitum. Coupled with the fact none of it’s interesting, the writing is mostly incoherent, and the ending is obvious from a mile away, and you have a strong contender for my worst book of the year. The best thing I can say about it is at 179 pages, it’s a very short and quick read.