When he graduated from the University of Oregon with a journalism degree in 1986, Chuck Palahniuk probably didn't think he would go on to be a bestselling author and one of the most popular novelists for a generation that isn't exactly known for its love of books.
And when Palahniuk, now 52, began taking fiction-writing classes while working for truck manufacturer Freightliner, he might not have thought it would lead to him writing over 15 (and counting) internationally renowned books translated into several languages.
But it did. Though the author hasn't let it affect him too much.
"The popularity doesn't really affect my life," Palahniuk says. "It affects the public events that I do. They've had to be retailored over and over for more and more people. I have to sign the books ahead of time now, so people don't have to wait in line for hours at the events."
Palahniuk's current string of public events, a tour for his upcoming novel Beautiful You out October 21, stops by Dobson High School Auditorium on Thursday, October 23. Don't expect a boring book reading, though, as Palahniuk's events are a little different.
"It's a big participatory spectacle. It's more of a party than a traditional book reading," Palahniuk says. "It will be the best author reading they've ever attended. Plus, it's a chance to wear your pajamas in public.
"I've got some horrific stories to tell, campfire-type stories. As children, people hear stories all the time that make them uncomfortable or leave them feeling troubled. We don't do that enough as adults. I've got some stories that will leave people feeling troubled," Palahniuk says.
The novel itself is very different from anything he's written before, according to Palahniuk.
"I started using the rules of minimalism for my first books, but Beautiful You breaks the laws of minimalism intentionally," Palahniuk says. "It's definitely my most satirical book and my most writerly book. It owes so much to the chick lit of the last 10 years, my last title for it was Fifty Shades of the Twilight Cave Bear Wears Prada.
"I wanted to do kind of a dark comedy about what's being called 'arousal addiction,' which is basically sidetracking an entire generation of young men and stunting their maturity with things like video games and online pornography," Palahniuk says. "I wanted to address the social issue without doing it directly, so I chose to explore it through a female point of view in Beautiful You."
In Palahniuk's previous works, nothing is ever as straightforward as it seems. Whether he's writing about transgender models who steal prescription drugs from open houses (Invisible Monsters) or a 13-year-old stuck in hell's version of The Breakfast Club (Damned), it's a safe bet that Palahniuk includes something you wouldn't want to tell your grandmother about in each of his books.
"If writing a book isn't constantly exciting and troubling for me, then I'm not going to want to write more of it. I enjoy writing things that make me feel excited and troubled, which make other people feel the same things.
"You might not like them the first time you read them, but they'll stay in your memory. Fight Club sold less than 5,000 copies when it first released. It's taken 20 years for it to build an audience. They're books that will stay with you," Palahniuk says.
Overall, Palahniuk says, he's enjoyed writing every one of his novels, and fiction writing in general has one major benefit over journalism in his eyes.
"The nice thing about fiction is that no one is going to contest your version of the truth," Palahniuk says. "With journalism, there will always be someone to question the accuracy of what you write. In fiction, that never happens.
"I don't know which was my favorite to write, but Beautiful You made me laugh alone in my room a lot more than anything else, and the language in Pygmy was a blast."
For those who are planning to go to Arizona's stop on Palahniuk's Beautiful You tour, the author has a few words of advice.
"Bring a Sharpie and be ready to blow up as many beach balls as you can. I'll be giving out limited-edition leatherbound copies of Fight Club, but the only way you can get one is to write your name on a beach ball."
Palahniuk brings Beautiful You to Dobson High Auditorium at 7 p.m. Thursday, October 23. Tickets are $25.95 and good for one seat at the event and one signed copy of Beautiful You. Additional tickets can be purchased for $5 each, but they do not include an additional copy of the book. All books will be signed before the event. The author will not sign books brought from home. Find tickets and more info on the Changing Hands website, or call 480-730-0205.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.