Chuck Palahniuk wrote Fight Club, which became the twitchy 1999 film starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton, and bestsellers Lullaby, Survivor, and Invisible Monsters. He's currently promoting Diary, a morbid tale about artistic inspiration. His upcoming book is a Poe-inspired collection of horror stories, including the gory, controversial Guts, which so far has made 52 people faint at public readings. He's proud of that.
New Times: I didn't believe people would have such a physical reaction from mere words. But when I read this story, I could see why. What do you think triggers that?
Chuck Palahniuk: I did a lot of research for Survivor, about cults. They get you chanting and singing for a long period of time before they preach their sermon. That gets you hyperventilated, they preach you fire and brimstone, and you panic and pass out. It's called blood alkalosis. People laugh so much and so hard at the beginning of Guts, once the grisly part occurs, it's too late. They're physiologically set up to faint. It's wonderful to watch.
Yeah. Wonderful to watch people keel over into each other's laps, the horror, the disgust on someone's face when a stranger touches them. They hate them until they realize that this person is unconscious, and then they love them and start caring for them. It's very sweet to watch a person go from how-dare-you-touch-me-you-pig to oh-my-God-are-you-okay? I love that.
Have you ever hurt someone whom you've drawn inspiration from?
The carrot guy from Guts will not speak to me. He just cuts me dead at parties. At the first reading he was so angry, I wanted to stop and say, "Wait! I'm not telling your name!" But you know, time gives us the ability to laugh at the most horrific things, and turn them into a story. The better we become at creating and manipulating stories, the better we will be at assimilating what happens to us in our lives.
Any views about the upcoming election?
Oh boy. We never seem to make any progress. That's something I tried to address in Diary: Why do people make the same mistakes, react the same ways, and fight the same battles literally and metaphorically over and over again? The artist's job is not to be a reaction to the crisis of the moment, but instead, to try to figure out different ways of doing things. But, I do think Jim Carrey would make a great president.