My Rating: ★★★★ (4 of 5 stars)
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A reentry to Chuck Palahniuk’s universe after long stays in more run-of-the-mill (though not necessarily less entertaining) worlds in literature can send you a refreshing bolt of shock, reminding you of this author’s forte. He doesn’t hold back. He removes filters. He scrunches your eyes open as he exposes all the possible ugly truths in anything you may find beautiful. Sometimes, he makes you realize that ugly truths are the exact reasons why things are beautiful in the first place.
These realizations came back when I read Invisible Monsters Remix. I’ve been meaning to read Invisible Monsters for a long time, but I somehow got distracted by other genres—the lighter ones, those that spell the meaning of “escape” instead of those that enumerate why you really can’t get away from reality even through books.
In a recent book fair, I chanced upon a copy of Invisible Monsters’ “director’s cut” edition, Remix. The cover features a skinny blonde model whose disheveled hair was brushed to cover about three-fourths of her face, one dark eye staring out passively for dramatic effect. There was a bit of red paint over the picture to make for an illusion of carelessly smudged lipstick, a wonderful symbol for the book’s subjects if you ask me: the protagonist’s “post-accident” appearance, the fashion industry, the complexity of sexuality, plastic surgery, and violence (that paint could actually be blood and not lipstick at all…or maybe it’s both, who knows?). The texts’ jagged font looked as if a lipstick was used to write them. My point is, everything about the cover drew me in. It’s just too Palahniuk to resist, the bits I said about beauty and ugliness above present in it. Even if I haven’t read the edited version, I bought the book without second thoughts.
Invisible Monsters Remix revolves around the story of a fashion model whose career and charmed life came to a halt when an “accident” leaves her disfigured and unable to speak. She becomes friends with pill-popping Brandy Alexander, and together they travel—conning people, rummaging big houses for drugs, and in the end finding out who they really are and what significant roles they play in each other’s lives.
The chapters jump around literally; there are footnotes telling you to turn to this chapter or that, almost in a Choose Your Own Adventure style minus its alternate-endings effect. The first release of Invisible Monsters years ago wasn’t as topsy-turvy as this; however, Remix contains Palahniuk’s original vision of the novel so I was content to have read it first. The structure’s purpose is to make it so that it resembles a magazine to complement its subject matter. It doesn’t affect the story in a major way, and to be honest I think Palahniuk didn’t have to do that at all, since the contents of every chapter jump around in time and dimension anyway.
Typical of Palahniuk’s characters, everyone in this book is screwed up in one degree or another. I wanted to fully grasp the narrator’s way of thinking, but it just drifts farther and farther away from normal as the chapters go (but then again, I wouldn’t blame her after everything that has happened to her). She projects as a mad example for the society’s obsession with attention the same way Brandy Alexander is an icon for the society’s obsession with beauty and perfection.
Story-wise, I fell in love with it. The narrator spews out the tale in staccatos of flashbacks and vivid imagery that held the plot intact until the bittersweet end. This is one of the few books I’ve read that contain more than one major plot twist that didn’t come out as lame or forced—at every reveal, I find myself wanting to release a thread of curses. I love how in his best satirical approach, Palahniuk showed that grit and glam are the conjoined twins of the reality of everything and everyone that values beauty as a very important “commodity.”
For a very satisfying read, I’m giving Invisible Monsters Remix four stars.