Monday, May 21, 2007

Rant: An Oral Biography Of Buster Casey

So today I finished reading the home stretch of Chuck Palahniuk's latest novel, Rant: An Oral Biography Of Buster Casey. Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while now or know me personally know that I have a very deep reverence for Palahniuk's work and that I probably spend a tad too much time championing his work. He is my favorite author. Naturally, I was expecting to really love Rant.

It's very safe to say that I was not disappointed.

The novel is the story of a man by the name of Buster Casey and it's told in a series of interviews with the characters who knew the man and interacted with him. The fact that the story is told in this manner is something that I was having trouble coping with early on as I had to train myself to pay attention to which character was saying what, but that was a minor obstacle to overcome. It's also interesting to read a book that unfolds its story in such a way. It shows that Palahniuk is willing to take risks with his style. His prior novel, Haunted: A Novel was a series of short stories told within the framework of a larger encompassing story much like Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, which is a style that you don't see very much at all in contemporary literature. At least not in popular literature. I don't think that the oral biography is a style that will suddenly become a trend, but it's refreshing to see something stylistically different.

The story itself revolves around Buster Casey, as I already said. The character of Buster Casey reminded me a lot of Tyler Durden from Palahniuk's most famous novel Fight Club in the sense that he is an outside-the-box thinker and, at times, a bit of a revolutionary, but he's not nearly as outspoken and his perpensity to preach is minimal. Palahniuk does seem to draw a little bit from biblical references to draw parallels to Buster's life and it becomes more and more apparent as the story draws closer to its end.

Buster becomes the leader of an underground demolition derby circuit known as Party Crashing and knowingly spreads rabies to just about everybody, making him a quite effective serial killer. He's an interesting character who exists only in the interviews of the book and for most of the book I found myself very intrigued by his wealth, his rapport with the other characters, and just how a man of his particular background really becomes a legend. He seems to have a really disgusting background, growing up with his limbs stuck down holes in the ground a lot of the time, baiting unseen animals for a bite, hence the source of his deadly strain of rabies, but he's given color in a habit of chewing road tar instead of bubble gum and having extremely heightened senses of taste and smell, which some people may read about and be offended by, but I won't spoil it too much for you. It is a bit on the colorful side. Palahniuk has a great eye for the vulgar and he handles it well in his writing. A lot of detractors say that he goes too far, but I think in this book at least, it's a baseless argument given that the story shifts quite dramatically as it evolves from a story about underground demolition derbies to a story about time travel, legends, and immortality.

And if there is one thing that Rant suffers from it's a plot line that becomes difficult to follow near the end. I think that with me, personally, I had trouble understanding the ins-and-outs of the notion of time-travel as it pertains to the character of Buster Casey. I could tell what was happening, but I had trouble understanding why it was happening or how it was happening. The story gets a bit esoteric when it comes to time travel and it left me, at times, trying to deal with concepts like the Grandfather Paradox and the notion of Holy Trinity of Buster's Father Chet, the history Green Taylor Simms, and Buster himself. I think I would have liked a bit more space devoted to explaining the phenomena, but as it was it did keep the plot going.

Truthfully, I really wish I could tell you more about the latter parts of the book, but I really think that it's best for you to read it and find out what I'm talking about for youself. It's a great book. If and when you get around to reading it talk to me about. Tell me what you think. I really liked the book, but it's fodder for thought and discussion. I need to discuss this.

Anyway, I just thought I would let you know that you need to read this book so that I have something to talk about with you.


Adam Sniderh said...

You know, until about a week ago, I didn't even know this book existed. I'm not sure how it escape my radar, but I'll have to pick a copy up sometime soon (just as soon as I catch up on the backlog of books I've let pile up over the past couple of months).

Anonymous said...

adam sniderh sounds german to me...