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Choke
Cover of Choke
Choke
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Victor Mancini, a medical-school dropout, is an antihero for our deranged times. Needing to pay elder care for his mother, Victor has devised an ingenious scam: he pretends to choke on pieces of food while dining in upscale restaurants. He then allows himself to be "saved" by fellow patrons who, feeling responsible for Victor's life, go on to send checks to support him. When he's not pulling this stunt, Victor cruises sexual addiction recovery workshops for action, visits his addled mom, and spends his days working at a colonial theme park. His creator, Chuck Palahniuk, is the visionary we need and the satirist we deserve.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Victor Mancini, a medical-school dropout, is an antihero for our deranged times. Needing to pay elder care for his mother, Victor has devised an ingenious scam: he pretends to choke on pieces of food while dining in upscale restaurants. He then allows himself to be "saved" by fellow patrons who, feeling responsible for Victor's life, go on to send checks to support him. When he's not pulling this stunt, Victor cruises sexual addiction recovery workshops for action, visits his addled mom, and spends his days working at a colonial theme park. His creator, Chuck Palahniuk, is the visionary we need and the satirist we deserve.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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Excerpts-
  • From the book

    In the summer of 1642 in Plymouth, Massachusetts, a teenage boy was accused of buggering a mare, a cow, two goats, five sheep, two calves, and a turkey. This is real history on the books. In accordance with the Biblical laws of Leviticus, after the boy confessed he was forced to watch each animal being slaughtered. Then he was killed and his body heaped with the dead animals and buried in an unmarked pit.

    This was before there were sexaholic talk therapy meetings.

    This teenager, writing his fourth step must've been a whole barnyard tell-all.

    I ask, "Any questions?"

    The fourth-graders just look at me. A girl in the second row says, "What's buggering?"

    I say, ask your teacher.

    Every half hour, I'm supposed to teach another herd of fourth-graders some shit nobody wants to learn, like how to start a fire. How to carve an apple-head doll. How to make ink out of black walnuts. As if this is going to get any of them into a good college.

    Besides deforming the poor chickens, these fourth-graders, they all walk in here carrying some germ. It's no mystery why Denny's always wiping his nose and coughing. Head lice, pinworms, chlamydia, ringworm?for serious, these field trip kids are the pint-sized horsemen of the apocalypse.

    Instead of useful Pilgrim crap, I tell them how their playground game ring-around-a-rosy is based on the bubonic plague of 1665. The Black Death gave people hard, swollen, black spots they called "plague roses," or buboes, surrounded by a pale ring. Hence "bubonic." Infected people were locked inside their houses to die. In six months, a hundred thousand people were buried in the huge mass graves.

    The "pocket full of posies" was what people of London carried so they wouldn't smell the corpses.
    To build a fire, all you do is pile up some sticks and dry grass. You strike a spark with a flint. You work the bellows. Don't think for a second this fire-starting routine makes their little eyes sparkle. Nobody's impressed by a spark. Kids crouch in the front row, huddling over their little video games. Kids yawn right in your face. All of them giggle and pinch, rolling their eyes at me in my breeches and dirty shirt.

    Instead, I tell them how in 1672, the Black Plague hit Naples, Italy, killing some four hundred thousand people.
    In 1711, in the Holy Roman Empire, the Black Plague killed five hundred thousand people. In 1781, millions died worldwide from the flu. In 1792, another plague killed eight hundred thousand people in Egypt. In 1793, mosquitoes spread yellow fever to Philadelphia, where it killed thousands.

    One kid in the back whispers, "This is worse than the spinning wheel."

    Other kids open their box lunches and look inside their sandwiches.

    Outside the window, Denny's bent over in the stocks. This time just out of habit. The town council has announced he'll be banished right after lunch. The stocks are just where he feels most safe from himself.

    Nothing's locked or even closed, but he's bent over with his hands and neck where they've been for months.
    On their way here from the weaver's, one kid was poking a stick in Denny's nose and then trying to poke the stick in his mouth. Other kids rub his shaved head for luck.

    Starting the fire only kills about fifteen minutes, so after that I'm supposed to show each herd of kids the big cooking pots and twig brooms and bed warmers and shit.

    Children always look bigger in a room with a six-foot ceiling. A kid in the back says, "They gave us fucking egg salad again."

    Here in the eighteenth century, I'm sitting beside the hearth of the big open fireplace equipped with the regular...
About the Author-
  • Chuck Palahniuk's three novels are the bestselling Fight Club, which was made into a film by director David Fincher, Survivor, and Invisible Monsters. Portions of Choke have appeared in Playboy, and his nonfiction work has been published by Gear, Black Book, The Stranger, and the Los Angeles Times. He lives in Portland, Oregon.
Reviews-
  • AudioFile Magazine A novel about a man who fakes choking in restaurants to get money from strangers. Money from strangers pays for medical care for sick mother. Weird. Very weird. At times very funny. Also sick and perverted. Author and reader Chuck Palahniuk droll. Story very unusual. Is Palahniuk trying to be a New Age author or Philip Roth? Narration's almost monosyllabic style very unusual. Style works. Style doesn't work. Story works. Story doesn't work. One thing for sure, this is not for everyone. Readers will love it. Readers will hate it and be offended by it. Must listen to figure out what you think. D.J.S. (c) AudioFile 2004, Portland, Maine
  • AudioFile Magazine A novel about a man who fakes choking in restaurants to get money from strangers. Money from strangers pays for medical care for sick mother. Weird. Very weird. At times very funny. Also sick and perverted. Author and reader Chuck Palahniuk droll. Story very unusual. Is Palahniuk trying to be a New Age author or Philip Roth? Narration's almost monosyllabic style very unusual. Style works. Style doesn't work. Story works. Story doesn't work. One thing for sure, this is not for everyone. Readers will love it. Readers will hate it and be offended by it. Must listen to figure out what you think. D.J.S. (c) AudioFile 2003, Portland, Maine
  • Publisher's Weekly

    April 2, 2001
    Palahniuk (Fight Club; Invisible Monsters) once again demonstrates his faith in the credo that before things get better, they must get much, much worse. Like previous Palahniuk protagonists, Victor Mancini is young and prematurely cynical, a med school dropout whose eerily detached narration of the banal horrors of everyday existence gives way to a numbed account of nihilistic carnage. Cruising sex-addict meetings for action, Victor enjoys bathroom trysts with nymphomaniacs on short prison furloughs, focused on maximizing his sexual highs. During the working day, he is trapped in a 1734 colonial theme park, where the entire self-medicated staff blearily endures abusive school tours while hiding out from the world. Victor supports his mother, who is in the hospital, stricken with Alzheimer's; she is wasting away, and despite the misery she put him through in childhood (revealed in an increasingly horrific series of flashbacks), he wants to be a good boy and take care of her. This becomes challenging when Victor is seduced by a strange hospital worker calling herself Dr. Marshall, who shows him his mother's diary; it describes her self-impregnation by a holy relic she believes to be the foreskin of Jesus. This has a profound effect on Victor, who is stunned by the possibility that there may be some good in him after all. Victor is even more pathetic than Palahniuk's previous antiheroes, in that the world he creates for himself (a carnivalesque mélange of theme park, geriatric ward and asylum) is actually more horrific than the one he seeks to escape. Still, the novel showcases the author's powers of description, character development and attention-getting dialogue handily enough to give this dark meditation on addiction a distinctive and humorous twist. Author tour.

  • Newsday "Palahniuk is one of the freshest, most intriguing voices to appear in a long time. He rearranges Vonnegut's sly humor, DeLillo's mordant social analysis, and Pynchon's antic surrealism (or is it R. Crumb's?) into a gleaming puzzle palace all his own."
  • San Francisco Examiner "Palahniuk displays a Swiftian gift for satire, as well as a knack for crafting mesmerizing sentences that loom with stark, prickly prose and repetitive rhythms."
  • L.A. Weekly "Palahniuk's language is urgent and tense, touched with psychopathic brilliance, his images dead-on accurate....[He] is an author who makes full use of the alchemical powers of fiction to synthesize a universe that mirrors our own fiction as a way of illuminating the world without obliterating its complexity."
  • Bret Easton Ellis "Maybe our generation has found its Don DeLillo."
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