Book Review: Chuck Palahniuk, Tell-All
Author Chuck Plahniuk’s newest novel attempts to tell all about the downfalls of being a celebrity.
In his book Tell-All, Palahniuk makes references to just about everything famous: actors, dancers, famous literary characters, and even famous liquor. You name it, and there’s a fair chance it will be referenced in here. Not only that, but these pop-culture nuggets heavily seasoned throughout the book are accentuated in bold print.
Overall, Palahniuk manages to fit intriguing characters, a surprising plot, and thoughtful social commentary into a modest 179 pages, making for a fairly quick, yet extremely enjoyable, read.
The author makes a commentary about celebrity worship by creating an old-Hollywood caricature.
The speaker of the story — as well as everyone contained in its pages — suffers from “name-dropping Tourette’s syndrome.”
Tell-All is centered on Katherine Kenton, a celebrity who is slightly past her youthful prime. The lives of all the other characters in the story revolve around Kenton as well. The speaker throughout the novel is Hazie Coogan, who is probably most accurately described as life manager for the incapable Kenton. Hazie’s relationship to “Miss Kathie” is one she frequently, yet unsuccessfully, tries to describe to the reader.
Hazie’s life-management skills get kicked into overdrive when Webster Carlton Westward III comes a-callin’ for Kathie. Hazie believes he is just looking to be the first to write a biography of the star when she dies. She tries everything she can to keep the pair apart but is unsuccessful.
Palahniuk’s narration of the story is incredible. Throughout *Tell-All*, the reader sympathizes with Hazie, because she takes care of everyone else. In many ways she’s the most relatable — the one normal person among stars. At the same time, one gets the feeling that something is very off about the speaker and her relationship with Miss Kathie. Descriptions in the novel are written as though for a screenplay or theater production. Phrases such as “the next scene depicts” and “dissolve back to present” makes it seem as though Hazie is directing how we uncover the story.
The result leaves the reader feeling as though he or she is completely helpless and that the story is heading in an unnerving direction. Through this form of storytelling that more closely resembles making movies, we know who is directing the show — and it’s not Miss Kathie.
But perhaps the most exciting thing about Tell-All is that it’s different.
It contains suspense — but is it a horror story? There are some hilarious lines — but is it a comedy? Bing Crosby and Alfred Hitchcock are mentioned — but let’s hope this story contains more historical fiction than fact.
This novel isn’t easily put into a genre. Part of the reason it’s so interesting is because the end is not easily predicted (far from it, actually).
Within this crossbreeding of genres, Palahniuk is asking readers to identify what it means to be a celebrity. Or to even be associated with one. Where does the power lie in circles where prestige is important? How do people use the power of others to further themselves?
Fans of Palahniuk will not be disappointed. The ending of Tell-All has a twist worthy of Palahniuk’s first book, Fight Club (the book-turned-movie starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton). But now I’m just dropping names.
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